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12th and Springdale rezoning gets final Council approval

Tuesday, September 7, 2021 by Jonathan Lee

In a move that will bring more housing to East Austin, City Council approved the rezoning of 1200, 1202 and 1208 Springdale Road at its Aug. 26 regular meeting. 

Mayor Pro Tem Natasha Harper-Madison made the case at the meeting for capturing the benefits of new development instead of opposing growth altogether. While acknowledging that “East Austin has experienced a lot of change in recent years,” she said that “the question isn’t how can we stop growth; it’s how can we make sure that we harness it and use it to create the best possible outcomes.”

The Vertical Mixed-Use zoning, which Council approved 10-0-1 (with Council Member Alison Alter abstaining), will allow a 126-unit multifamily project to proceed. Ten percent of the units in the project will be set aside for people making 60 percent or less of the median family income. 

“This is one of those cases where we can use growth to leverage more below-market housing, better flood mitigation and more potential customers for our transit system,” Harper-Madison said.

The case has slowly made its way through City Council amidst neighborhood opposition and concern that the subsequent development could disturb potential unmarked graves outside adjacent Bethany Cemetery’s boundary. A study commissioned by the applicant found no evidence of unmarked graves.

Nearby property owners also filed a petition to force a supermajority vote at Council, but fell short of a valid petition on a technicality: The city’s legal department did not recognize the signature of Sue Spears, the caretaker of Bethany Cemetery, because she is not the property owner. Valid petitions need the signatures of property owners representing at least 20 percent of the 200-foot buffer area around the property up for rezoning. 

The Martin Luther King Neighborhood Association disputed the legal department’s decision and requested to postpone the case for another month in order to resolve the dispute. Council had already granted the neighborhood’s two-month postponement request in June.

However, Harper-Madison opposed the postponement request, saying, “Denying the zoning request will not stop this property from redeveloping. Postponing this case, which has been trying to move through Council since April, for another month will not change that fact.”

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