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Planning Commission approves Crestview townhouse project

Monday, October 19, 2020 by Daniel Salazar

The Planning Commission on Tuesday evening approved future land use and zoning changes for a townhouse project in the Crestview neighborhood of North Austin.

Commissioners approved rezoning about three-quarters of an acre at 902 and 904 Morrow St. from Family Residence (SF-3-NP) to Multifamily Residence Limited Density (MF-1-NP). They also changed the future land use designation from single-family zoning to multifamily.

The rezoning and land use designation change would allow more residential units on the property, which is currently a lone single-family structure the applicant characterized as in “poor” condition. Mark Graham, the case manager for the rezoning case, said the changes were consistent with City Council goals since the property is about 450 feet off of the North Lamar core transit corridor and close to the Crestview rail station.

Thrower Design’s Victoria Haase, representing the property owner, said the property has solid transit access and a mix of uses within walking distance.

“Infill density is occurring and it’s a positive in this area and for the greater city of Austin,” she said. “The property will provide a greater level of compact and connected development, placing more people in proximity to key urban elements.”

“(The project) will easily bring more people closer to greater transit options and activities on the Imagine Austin corridor,” she added. Developers want to build 11 to 12 townhomes without the need to subdivide the land.

“I did not think that that is the best development that this property deserves,” Thrower Design’s Ron Thrower said of subdividing the property into different lots.

Several neighbors spoke against the project.

Crestview neighbor Chip Harris argued existing single-family residential areas should retain SF-3 zoning. Harris said the rezoning would misapply denser designations on Lamar to the interior of the neighborhood.

“The city is encouraging density on the corridors, but Morrow Street is not a corridor,” he said.

Harris also said increasing the amount of impervious cover could contribute to flooding problems.

“Changing the FLUM on the north side of Morrow to multifamily would be inconsistent with the recent development on the south side,” he added, referring to the future land use map.

Crestview Neighborhood Association President Mike Lavigne echoed these worries, adding that traffic in the area would get worse. “Morrow Street is a pretty high-traffic cut-through,” he said.

Haase said the development team recognized that some citizens remain wedded to elements of Crestview’s neighborhood plan, approved in 2004.

“Neighborhood plans in cities are not static,” she said. “They are allowed to change through a defined process. The area has changed here. The circumstances have changed that bring good cause for amendments even beyond this case.”

Haase also said retaining single-family zoning would lead to fewer, more expensive units being developed, thus contributing to gentrification.

“The more units we can get here, the lower cost those units will be,” she said.

Thrower added that the site plan process would include an analysis of the project’s effects on runoff and stormwater issues.

Commissioner Greg Anderson said he supported the project, suggesting the property could support even more housing.

“I can’t really put too much into a 16-and-a-half-year-old plan in a city that has almost doubled in population,” he said. “We have to allow for diversity of housing if we’re going to allow for diversity of income earners to live in these areas.”

Commissioner Carmen Llanes Pulido was the only commissioner to speak against the requested changes. She said the case demonstrated the need for good community planning and that the area has absorbed hundreds of units over the years.

“Some of the concerns are very legitimate,” she said.

The rezoning case is scheduled for City Council’s Nov. 12 agenda.

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