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ZAP finds a compromise to bring density and more affordable housing with a unit cap

Thursday, February 13, 2020 by Jessi Devenyns

In an effort to bring more density to the environmentally sensitive area of far Southwest Austin, developers came to the Zoning and Platting Commission on Feb. 4 with a plan to construct 15 condominiums within a small footprint on their 3-acre lot. To accomplish this plan, they requested a recommendation for a zoning change from Single-Family Residence Standard Lot (SF-2) to Townhouse and Condominium Residence (SF-6) for the lot at 4011 Convict Hill Road.

Planning and Zoning staff did not support this request, instead recommending a lower Urban Family Residence (SF-5) zoning for the property that caps the number of allowed units at 10. However, the commission supported the zoning change request to SF-6 with a cap of 15 units with an 8-1 vote. Commissioner David King voted against the motion.

Sergio Lozano, who was representing the applicant on the case, explained that reducing the unit count by five under SF-5 zoning will increase the price of each unit by approximately $150,000. “We can always build larger units, less doors, but that will probably put us out of the price range of having those units sell for $300,000. That’s the goal we have,” he said. He explained that the price point for each home will jump to $450,000 if the number of units allowed on the property is reduced.

Lozano told commissioners that each residence is designed to have two bedrooms and 1.5 baths with a first floor that begins one flight off the ground. The garage for each condo will be underneath the first floor in an effort to reduce the overall footprint of the development.

The addition of five 2,000-square-foot homes under SF-6 zoning will not exceed the impervious cover limitation of 15 percent for the property. As the lot is located over the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone, there is only a small area available for development and the conceptual site plan shows the rear half of the property remaining undeveloped.

Neighbor Debbie Hamilton came to tell commissioners that “what they’re saying tonight they’re going to build is different from what we heard.” She said at the neighborhood meeting hosted by the developer, neighbors saw plans for single-family homes with a list price of around $500,000 dotting the property.

Conceptual site plans the applicant submitted to the city show the 15 condos only on the front half of the three acres.

The project will also include the addition of city water and wastewater lines to the property. Additionally, Lozano said the developer will retrofit the site per Save Our Springs Ordinance redevelopment standards.

Commissioners generally approved of the plans, but expressed a desire to see more bedrooms in the units as well as other housing types.

“There may be some opportunities to do duplexes,” said Commissioner Hank Smith. “That would be a good thing.” He explained that duplexes can allow for a further reduction in impervious cover since the units share a driveway. He suggested that this reduction in impervious cover can be used to increase the number of bedrooms in some of the units.

Commissioner Jim Duncan agreed that more rooms in each unit is preferable. “I was hoping you would be more family-friendly with three bedrooms or more,” he said.

Even with concrete plans for only two-bedroom units, the commission voted to recommend the zoning change request to SF-6 but cap the units at 15. Commissioner King, who voted against the motion, said that although he was in support of the zoning change, “I feel like we didn’t have enough input from the affected neighborhoods.”

Map courtesy of Google Maps.

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