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Planning Commission approves South Austin condo rezoning

Friday, September 25, 2020 by Daniel Salazar

The Planning Commission unanimously approved a rezoning request that paves the way for more condominiums in South Austin at its Tuesday night meeting.

Staff recommended the rezoning of a 1.45-acre tract at 219 Lessin Lane, near Ben White Boulevard and South Congress Avenue, from a Family Residence base zone (SF-3) to a Townhouse & Condominium Residence base zone (SF-6).

Alice Glasco, representing the applicant, said the rezoning would allow the project’s 17 units to be oriented around a driveway through the tract connecting Krebs and Lessin lanes.

Case manager Kate Clark said the SF-6 zoning would provide more flexibility toward the site’s design due to its proximity to East Bouldin Creek.

Members of the development team said they initially designed the project under the existing SF-3 zoning, but wanted to move away from plans that would have resulted in larger duplexes with multiple driveways.

“Because of site constraints including the floodplain and heritage trees, we would sort of be squeezing some of these big buildings in less than ideal positions,” said Christopher Affinito of Urban ATX Development, a luxury homebuilder and developer who owns the property. “This would be a much better development if we were able to develop it under condo residential use.”

The site’s compatibility standards would provide a 25-foot buffer between the units and the property line, according to city documents.

“The scale of this development is much smaller, much more in scale with the surrounding neighborhood,” said Davey McEathron, an architect working with Urban ATX Development. “It pushes everything away from the other neighbors toward the center so it gives a lot more privacy to the neighbors.”

Still, several neighbors criticized the project. Carmen Hernandez, on behalf of condominium owners adjacent to the property, said the project would result in an “obnoxious amount of houses” and worsen traffic in the area.

“Lessin and Krebs are already very congested so doubling the population will not provide any relief to the neighborhood,” she said.

Dawson Neighborhood Association President Julie Woods said they were able to discuss their concerns with the development team.

“I’ve been impressed with how responsive they have been to our conversations,” Woods said. “(But) as you can imagine, the neighbors are concerned about this many units into such an odd little space.”

Woods suggested mechanisms like a conditional overlay or restrictive covenant to hold future property owners to the current plan. “We would like the city to stand with us in making sure that a subsequent owner or some other entity that may buy this property in the future doesn’t come along and build something entirely incompatible with what we want to see,” she said.

Commissioner James Shieh motioned for approval of the staff recommendation, and encouraged the development team to consider a pathway near the creek.

“With the same density of SF-3, it’s going to be a better development for the neighborhood and for the neighbors and to help regulate the amount of traffic versus existing zoning,” he said.

Other commissioners said they appreciated the single driveway through the property, preventing a more subdivided tract.

“This is one of those really cool opportunities where we get to cook in that connectivity,” Commissioner Greg Anderson said.

City Council is expected to take up the rezoning request at its Oct. 15 meeting.

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