Thursday, June 11, 2020 by Nina Hernandez

ZAP deadlocked on Jollyville Apartments case

After three separate deadlocked votes, at its June 2 meeting the Zoning and Platting Commission moved on from the Jollyville Apartments case without making a recommendation to City Council.

The applicant is requesting a rezoning of the 0.79-acre parcel at Jollyville Road and Argonne Forest Trail, from Single-Family Residence – Standard Lot (SF-2) to Multifamily Residence – Medium Density (MF-3), which would create between 20 and 26 units. “This site is ideal for medium-density multifamily zoning and development,” applicant David Spatz of Jollyville Development LLC said.

MF-3 is a medium-density zoning district that allows for a maximum density of up to 36 units per acre.

The applicant justified the change by noting that there is commercial use directly north of the property, commercial retail and service businesses across the street and duplex homes zoned SF-2 directly to the south.

Staff recommended the MF-3 designation, saying “the tract of land meets the intent of the MF-3 district as it is located on an arterial roadway in an area with available commercial services.”

But neighbors have raised concerns about privacy considerations of building an apartment building in such close proximity to their existing residences, as well as increased traffic in the area.

“The introduction of MF-3 medium density with two- and three-story construction will create privacy concerns in backyards and windows facing this project,” said Rick Anderson, whose family owns nearby property. “This rezoning will increase traffic on and off Jollyville Road and negatively affect drivers and bicyclists.”

Asked by Commissioner Timothy Bray why he was applying for MF-3 rather than MF-2, Spatz said “the difference is affordability.”

Commissioner Hank Smith said that the commission could adopt MF-3 and simply limit the number of units allowed to 26 from the original 28. That avenue would allow the commission “to get the density we need,” he said, while also taking into account any concerns. Smith made a motion, which was seconded.

But Commissioner Jim Duncan countered, saying that the commission was “playing a numbers game” with the applicant.

“This is a place where family-sized units would be perfect,” Commissioner Jim Duncan said. “The lower the number of units, the bigger the units are going to be. I would like to make a substitute motion that we recommend MF-2, and bless him to build as quickly as possible. We need more housing in the northwest.”

However, both motions failed 5-5.

The commission then spent time discussing the differences between MF-2 and MF-3. For MF-2, the minimum site area for an efficiency dwelling unit is 1,600 feet, minimum site area for a one-bedroom dwelling will be 2,000 feet and minimum square feet for two or more bedrooms would be 2,400 square feet. For MF-3, the minimum site area for an efficiency is 1,200 square feet, a one-bedroom is 1,500 square feet and a two or more bedroom is 1,800 square feet.

Duncan and Commissioner David King expressed concern about the site areas in MF-3 not being big enough to accommodate families they’d like to settle in the area.

Chair Jolene Kiolbassa let the applicant speak briefly and the commission voted on two more compromise motions, but the commission was deadlocked each time.

“I don’t think we’re going to break our 5-5 vote, because we have five of us that want to push the density, and five of us concerned about how it fits into the community,” said Duncan. “So I think we ought to just move forward to the next project.”

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City of Austin Zoning and Platting Commission: The City of Austin's Zoning and Platting Commission addresses issues of land use as assigned to it by Austin's City Code. It has sovereign authority, or the right to make final decisions on certain cases.

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