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Neighbors nervous about Shady Lane upzoning

Tuesday, September 29, 2020 by Jo Clifton

The owners of 914 Shady Lane in the East Austin neighborhood of Govalle have asked City Council to grant zoning for their four-acre property that will allow construction of townhomes and condominiums as well as some neighborhood commercial uses. The property is currently occupied by a single-family home and Rain Lily Farm, an urban farm.

Since much of the property – 57 percent, according to an engineer hired by the owners – is undevelopable because it contains a concrete drainage easement, which is part of Boggy Creek, the city classified the property simply as “water” on a land use map adopted in 2003. Alice Glasco, who represents property owners Kimberly Beal and Stephanie Scherzer, asked the city to correct the map as part of rezoning the property for residential and commercial uses.

Neighbors have objected to this change as well as zoning changes requested by a number of other area property owners. Neighbors filed a valid petition against the zoning change, so at least nine members of Council must vote in favor for it to move forward.

But after hearing that neighbors had reached an agreement with the property owners, Council approved the zoning change on second reading on Sept. 17, directing staff to bring it back to Council for third reading this Thursday. The vote was 10-0, with Council Member Greg Casar absent for the vote.

In addition to the conditions approved by the Planning Commission and by Council at the Sept. 17 meeting, the property owners have agreed to a private restrictive covenant to ensure conditions that were not eligible for inclusion in the zoning ordinance.

When neighbors filed their petition against the original zoning change request, they complained that the proposed zoning change would add more noise, light pollution and traffic to the neighborhood. They told Council they fear the proposed change would also lower their property values, cause flooding and negatively affect wildlife and native plants.

However, some neighbors worked with the property owners and city staff to come up with a compromise that might be satisfactory. Originally, the property owners had asked for General Commercial Services – Mixed Use – Neighborhood Plan (CS-MU-NP), but revised their request to make it less intensive at Townhouse & Condominium Residence (SF-6-NP) on part of the property and Neighborhood Commercial – Mixed Use – Conditional Overlay – Neighborhood Plan (LR-MU-CO-NP) on the rest. The Planning Commission recommended the zoning change with an agreed list of conditions, but advised the neighbors that some of the items should go into a public restrictive covenant rather than part of the zoning ordinance.

Jerry Rusthoven, assistant director of the Planning and Zoning Department, told the Austin Monitor Monday that the property owners and a representative from the neighborhood had signed the restrictive covenant. However, he did not know the status of the valid petition.

Neighbor Rachel Bockheim told Council, “I live in District 3 and I’m a petition signer and share a property line with (the subject property on) Shady Lane. The address is on Shady Lane, but the majority of the property is in the interior neighborhood, mostly along Boggy Creek and into the interior of the single-family neighborhood.”

Bockheim said she and her neighbors were most concerned about flooding caused by increased development, as well as increased traffic. “We haven’t even had the majority of residents move into all the developments” that have been built, she said, “and we’re getting hammered on all sides.”

On Monday, Bockheim told the Monitor that the neighbors only found out about the zoning case going before Council a few days before the second reading. She said they had received a copy of the restrictive covenant and were still looking for an attorney to advise them. “I think the neighbors are hoping it is as it was intended to be,” she said, but they have not removed their names from the valid petition because they are not yet sure that the restrictive covenant matches their verbal agreement with the property owners.

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