By CASSIE MCKEE, Four Points News
River Place residents living on Milky Way Drive are organizing their opposition to a developer’s request for a zoning change for a 40-acre tract at the end of Milky Way Drive that would allow for the development of 110 single-family homes.
Milestone Community Builders is under contract to buy the land from longtime landowner Berta Bradley. Milestone is requesting an SF2 zoning to build 110 homes, with a density of three homes per acre. According to the zoning application which was submitted to the City of Austin on June 23, the homes would be large, with three to four bedrooms, and range in value from $700,000 to $900,000. The developer plans to designate 14.9 acres as drainage and green space.
The homes along Milky Way Drive are zoned SF1 with a conditional overlay that limits the lot sizes to one home per acre. Homes are valued at around $1.5 million.
Local residents speak out
Ted Gaunt has lived in River Place for about eight years, and on Milky Way for three years. He is strongly opposed to the zoning request because of the traffic burden the high number of homes will put on Milky Way Drive and the surrounding neighborhood. He said the proposed development will also negatively affect property values.
“Milestone is compromising the design, safety and enjoyment of our neighborhood,” Gaunt said. “We want to support development that continues the character, value and low-density of the street, as is.”
Because Milky Way Drive would serve as the development’s only access road to the River Place neighborhood, the new homes would increase traffic on the street by 1,200 trips per day, according to the zoning application.
Homeowner Brenda Langford said she and her husband decided to purchase a home on Milky Way Drive a year and a half ago because it was a quiet street that would be safer for their children. While she knew the land at the end of the street could be developed, she was told the development would be consistent with the neighborhood.
“We’re not opposed to development,” Langford said. “We just think it needs to be equivalent to what is right there to lessen the traffic for residents in River Place and Steiner.”
Langford said the traffic will also put an increased burden on the intersection at RM 2222 and River Place Boulevard, affecting the greater Four Points community.
“The City of Austin may think this is a minor project with minimal impact, but that simply isn’t the case,” Langford said. “Their decision in choosing the zoning for this property affects the entire Four Points area – not just Milky Way residents, not just River Place residents, but anyone who travels through the 2222/ River Place intersection. The time has come for our community to stand together and demand responsible zoning for the Four Points area.”
RP HOA’s letter of opposition
The River Place Homeowners Association recently passed a resolution opposing the proposed zoning change and sent a letter of opposition to the City of Austin on July 10. In the letter, HOA President Scott Crosby said the HOA opposes the requested zoning change unless the Austin City Council approves plans and funding for a new police station in Four Points, additional schools, and traffic improvements.
“COA traffic engineers admit the traffic light at 2222 and River Place Boulevard has the longest cycle time in the state,” Crosby writes in the letter. “Traffic coming from the proposed site onto 2222 can often wait five to 10 minutes at this intersection because the northbound and southbound River Place traffic signals cycle on and off separately. The only legal exit from River Place onto westbound 2222 is the three lane exit on River Place Boulevard, which is inadequate to handle our existing 1,146 homes, eight office buildings, a 100 room-plus hotel and various retail establishments.”
One alternative, according to the letter and homeowners, would be to require an alternative exit onto 2222 including potentially access to Sitio Del Rio. Another would be for Milestone to request an SF1 zoning like that on Milky Way Drive.
Residents say they do not feel that Milestone is working to address their concerns.
“They basically told us that these (higher density) metrics are the only ones that work for (them), anything less dense is not feasible,” Langford said.
Residents have created a website at www.riverplacezoning.org which will have information and updates and also a link to a Change.org petition. The petition is called “Stop unfair Milestone re-zoning in River Place.”
Gaunt said 200 households signed an earlier paper version of the petition.
“We’re using the website and the petition to help everyone understand what is going on, and what it all means,” Gaunt said. “There are a lot of complicated angles on this, and there are still pockets of residents that haven’t heard a proper explanation of what is happening.”
The developer’s zoning application is currently on hold with the city and is pending a traffic study. Once the study is received, city staff will make a recommendation to the city’s zoning and platting commission and schedule the case for a public hearing. After the public hearing, the commission will make a recommendation for or against and the case will be scheduled for a public hearing with the Austin City Council.