Thursday, May 28, 2020 by Nina Hernandez

Planning Commission declines to rescind Simon-Caskey Tract plan

After a lengthy discussion at Tuesday night’s meeting, the Planning Commission ultimately voted to uphold its April 28 vote on the Simon-Caskey Tract Preliminary Plan in City Council District 8.

The preliminary plan, approved April 28, calls for the development of a 16.6-acre tract in Southwest Austin, which would create 26 lots altogether: 21 single-family lots and two multifamily lots.

Staff recommended approval of the plan.

At issue is the extension of Little Deer Crossing Road, which the neighborhood is suggesting has an alternative. The neighborhood is also questioning whether or not an emergency gate could be installed at part of the extension.

Part of the reason commissioners James Shieh and Patricia Seeger called for the reconsideration is that technical issues at the April 28 meeting kept speakers from maintaining their connection to the videoconference. The glitch “prevented the commissioners from receiving responses from one of the speakers who had information about an alternative to the proposed alignment of Little Deer Crossing set forth in the preliminary plan.”

Also, commissioners asked city staffers and the assistant city attorney whether the connection of the new street was a requirement of city code, and “were told that it was and that any plan that did not show the connection would require a variance request from the applicant. We believe this information was inaccurate.”

Commissioners Shieh and Seeger, who motioned to approve and seconded the motion respectively, explained that they wanted to hear from the Law Department on whether or not the commission was right to approve in the first place.

But Chair Conor Kenny noted that city legal would not be able to advise the commission on the case unless it rescinded the approval.

“We might end up in the same situation, but at least we’d have the opportunity for everyone to get everything out,” said Shieh.

Seeger agreed with the need to discuss the situation with the Law Department regarding the procedure. “I would like legal to speak to us online, not in written format, because many of us interpret things differently,” she said. “There are instances, and this is one of them, where (the code) is subject to some interpretation.”

Commissioner Greg Anderson offered a substitute motion to deny the request to rescind.

“I know these times are tough, and working on the internet doesn’t help,” said Anderson. “But I just can’t in good conscience intentionally segregate this neighborhood.

“In a nutshell, I just ask, can you show me the plan that you were hoping for? What is the plan that you hope to see in this development? And the response that I received was, you can unequivocally say that we agree that all options are better than the connection of Oak Forest, Harvest Trail and Little Deer as through streets,” he continued.

He said he felt it would be a “big fail” on the commission’s part if it allowed the development to go ahead with its only access being Highway 71. “I don’t think that’s good planning, and I don’t think it’s good for the community, and I hope that we do not rescind this,” he said.

Map courtesy of the city of Austin.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

City of Austin Planning Commission: This commission addresses issues of land use as assigned to it by Austin's City Code. These include the abilities "[t]o make and amend a master plan, recommend approval or disapproval of proposed zoning changes and control land subdivision within neighborhood planning areas and submit, annually, a list of recommended capital improvements." It has sovereign authority, or the right to make final decisions on certain cases.

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