Photo by city of Austin
Wednesday, February 10, 2021 by Jonathan Lee

By opposing North Austin rezoning, Kelly sets tone for future zoning cases

At last week’s City Council meeting, new member Mackenzie Kelly offered a first glimpse of her approach to zoning cases: respect for neighborhood opposition.

Kelly cast the lone dissenting vote in a request to allow multifamily housing on a North Austin tract, siding with neighbors opposed to the proposal.

“I read through the public remarks,” Kelly said, “and the points were very persuasive.”

Several neighbors objected on the grounds that the development would alter the neighborhood’s low-density character, lower property values and increase traffic, rendering adjacent streets unsafe for walkers and joggers.

Vineyard Christian Fellowship, whose church sits on 8 acres at 13208 Morris Road, requested the rezoning in order to develop the rest of the property. The property is in Kelly’s District 6, and Kelly said she grew up nearby.

City staffers recommended Multifamily Residence-Low Density (MF-2) district zoning on the north part of the property and Limited Office-Mixed Use (LO-MU) combining district zoning on the south part, which would allow 80-90 multifamily units and an expansion of the church’s day care center. The Zoning and Platting Commission unanimously recommended staffers’ proposal.

Kelly pointed to “existing traffic and safety concerns” and implied that the increase in car trips would make nearby roads, such as Anderson Mill Road, less safe. “We’ve had speeding in school zones up and down Anderson Mill for years,” she said. “I grew up there; I went to the schools there; and kids from all ages walk to and from school and have to cross Anderson Mill and Morris Road to get to their schools every day.”

Kelly asked if a traffic impact analysis is planned. Jerry Rusthoven, assistant director of the Planning and Zoning Department, said that the development will likely be too small to need a traffic study. Rusthoven also said that the city owns enough right-of-way for Morris Road to be widened, if needed.

Kelly also mentioned the difference in value between the neighboring properties and the proposed units. “To change the zoning to accommodate a large, 89-unit condominium project with prices that will range from $425,000 to $550,000 is astonishing to me,” Kelly said. “Directly across the street from the proposed condo complex are duplexes and homes with families struggling to get by.”

“Due to the large amount of condos proposed there, I can’t support this,” Kelly said. “Perhaps we could do a real happy compromise with less units?” The other Council members did not comment, and voted to approve the rezoning.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.

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