520-unit multifamily project on the way to St. Elmo area
Friday, December 17, 2021 by Jonathan Lee
Eight acres of vacant land in South Austin may soon turn into 520 apartments and condos.
The Planning Commission Tuesday recommended a zoning change for the project at 4700 Weidemar Lane, but not before addressing neighbors’ concerns about the rerouting of a natural gas line as part of the development.
The applicant, Alice Glasco on behalf of developer Legacy Communities, requests Multifamily Residence-Highest Density (MF-6-CO-NP) zoning. The site is currently zoned General Commercial Services (CS-CO-NP).
Glasco has agreed to a 60-foot height limit (less than MF-6’s 90-foot cap) as well as a lower floor area ratio and impervious cover than what current zoning allows. “We are not getting additional density,” Glasco said. “We are downzoning.”
Plans include 150 units for sale and 370 for rent. Of the for-sale units, 5 percent will be priced for those making 80 percent of the median family income and another five percent will be priced at 100 percent MFI. Ten percent of the rental units will be priced at 60 percent MFI.
Neighbors feared the pipeline relocation could cause a gas leak or explosion. “We ask you not to take any chances with our lives,” said neighbor Dacey Long, who opposed the rezoning. No one at the meeting could say how likely a leak or explosion is.
The line, which cuts through the site, must be moved into the public right of way before construction can begin. Texas Gas Service has agreed to move the pipe and sees no problem putting it near future homes. “They take the utmost care and safety measures in relocating a gas line,” Glasco said.
Glasco pointed out that there are existing residential buildings close to the same gas line, and regardless of a zoning change, the line would likely need rerouting if the site is developed.
Neighbors also said the project is out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood, where there are mostly warehouses and single-family homes. “You don’t really see large buildings around,” said Mario Cantu, chair of the South Congress Combined Neighborhood Plan Contact Team.
Long said nearby small businesses, which include gyms and auto body shops, oppose the rezoning because of the increased car traffic it would bring. Commissioner Joao Paulo Connolly questioned that reasoning. “Doesn’t it seem like these are precisely the kinds of small, local businesses that would actually benefit from having more residents in the neighborhood?”
The Planning Commission voted 9-2, with Commissioners Carmen Llanes Pulido and Solveij Rosa Praxis against, to recommend MF-6 zoning. Commissioner Jennifer Mushtaler abstained from the vote.
“The idea of affordable for-rent and owner housing on this site is very enticing, as we hear multiple times a day about the need for more housing in the city,” Commissioner Claire Hempel said.
The commission also recommended a 25-foot front and side setback to create more distance between the homes and the gas line. In addition, Mushtaler alerted Council to the matter, asking the city to adopt safety regulations for transport gas lines.
The case is scheduled to go before City Council on Jan. 27.
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