By LYNETTE HAALAND
Four Points News
Next week, the city of Austin Zoning and Platting Commission is holding a public hearing on the two zoning cases that affect River Place residents and the community.
One zoning request is by landowner Berta Bradley to have Milestone Community Builders build-out 110 homes on 42 acres next to River Place at the end of Milky Way Drive. The other request is to support the plans of the Autism Trust on an adjacent, 40-acre site near Austin Christian Fellowship and River Place Elementary.
The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 17 at 6 p.m. at Austin City Hall, council chamber.
“It is up to the residents to voice their concerns over this matter, and for commissioners to decide at the public hearing,” said Ted Gaunt, who lives on Milky Way and has lived in River Place for nearly a decade.
On June 23, 2015, Milestone Community Builders — who is assumed to be under contract to buy the land from longtime landowner Bradley — requested an SF2 zoning to build 110 homes, with a density of three homes per acre. The developer planned to designate 14.9 acres as drainage and green space.
But the homes along Milky Way Drive are zoned SF1 with a conditional overlay that limits the lot sizes to one home per acre and homes are valued closer to $1.5 million.
“Milestone has originally asked for 110 homes on SF-2 zoning, which is completely unacceptable to the River Place neighborhood as it is incompatible density with the current design,” Gaunt said.
On Oct. 7, an email was submitted to Austin zoning officials that the developer was proposing a conditional overlay to limit the property to a maximum of 82 residential dwelling units.
Sherri Sirwaitis, the case manager for this project at the city, and her team issued a staff report with recommendations in November.
The “staff recommendation” for the Bradley tract near Milky Way Drive pushes back on zoning and the number of homes that Milestone wants to build.
Staff recommendation recognizes that the homes on Milky Way Drive are zoned at SF-1, which is much less dense, with a conditional overlay that sets a minimum lot size of 30,000-square-feet, which is about .7 acre.
“This might allow Milestone to build about 45 to 55 homes, given that the property is 42 acres, and accounting for roads, drainage, green-space, and topographical concerns. That is more in line with current density, but still far from ideal,” Gaunt said.
“I hope that the commissioners will accept the staff recommendation, or possibly even go further still to limit the development to lower density,” he added.
Another issue stated in the staff recommendations report is that the originally requested density would “only add to the traffic problems” that are associated with the intersection of RM 2222 and River Place Boulevard.
To further show support of the city of Austin staff recommendations, on Dec. 14, Scott Crosby, president of the River Place Homeowners Association, sent a letter of support. It stated that on July 10, 2015 the HOA, representing the 1,146 homes, submitted a letter in opposition to the proposed rezoning and development of the project until the city of Austin provided approved plans and immediate funding for several infrastructure improvements.
Crosby stated in the letter sent last month:
“We are in receipt of the zoning case report for this project and are in support of the staff recommendations to grant SF-1- Conditional Overlay, Single-Family Residence-Large Lot-Conditional Overlay Combining District zoning which will limit the size of each lot to a minimum of 30,000-square-feet and limit the entire site to less than 2,000 vehicle trips per day.”
“While this recommendation does not provide immediate funding for the infrastructure improvements in our July 15, 2015 letter, the proposed zoning, conditional overlay and limitation on vehicle trips per day provide an acceptable compromise for this proposed development,” Crosby further stated in the letter.
Concerning the Autism Trust project the adjacent 40 acres, the River Place HOA also reviewed and is in support of the zoning case report. The HOA specifically supports the conditional overlay prohibiting or making conditional certain uses outlined in the report, limiting vehicle trips per day and prohibiting access to Milky Way drive.
Next week, residents will have a chance to weigh in at the Jan. 17 meeting. For more information about the commission hearings, go to https://www.austintexas.gov/zpc
Next week’s ZAP Commission hearing is the culmination of a long process for some River Place residents. There has been a petition called “Stop unfair Milestone re-zoning in River Place” that started in August 2015 and now has 968 signers.
“River Place has been so well designed and loved as a neighborhood, it would be nice if Milestone respects that design by keeping this project small and symbiotic with our community,” Gaunt said.