Outcome of Special Called Meeting

Feb

06
2016

Outcome of Special Called Meeting

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Thursday night, 2/4/16, AVANA held a special-called Board meeting to discuss a public hearing for a proposed resubdivision in Angus Valley. About 38 residents attended. Here is a link to a summary of the meeting for those who could not attend (PDF file). Meeting Summary

The board passed two motions at the meeting.

1) That that AVANA should inform the neighborhood of the public hearing for this resubdivision via yahoo email group and website, encouraging interested individuals to fill out the form FOR or AGAINST the proposed resubdivision and to attend the public hearing on February 16 where they may have the opportunity to express their views on the case. Click here to open a scanned PDF of the Public Hearing Notice for the Proposed Resubdivision. Notice and Input Form

2) A second motion was passed that AVANA object to the resubdivision of the lot for a range of reasons listed in the meeting summary.

Click here to open a PDF of a map of the proposed resubdivided lot. Plat Map

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Outcome of the 2/16/16 Public Hearing on this case (summarized by neighbor Dave Sanders)

Sent: Saturday, February 20, 2016 3:36 PM
Subject:  5201 Bull Run – BUT I Promise You a Rain Garden

Greetings,

Thank you to Stacey and all the neighbors that kept us in the loop and represented AVANA and Champions Forest (Whispering Valley) neighborhood. I was not able to attend, but was interested in the details as this may begin occurring more. Thanks for sharing the video links. I watched all 100+ minutes of the meeting and made some notes for anyone who is interested in the key points that were discussed. Please feel free to correct anything I got wrong. Also attached are the documents that have been previously shared and a couple of photos of the lot. I think this twist on the old song sums up the meeting. “I Beg Your Pardon, BUT I Promise You A Rain Garden…”

Dave Sanders

Pony Chase

  1. Fast forward to the end: The commission voted to approve subdividing 5201 Bull Run into three separate Single Family (SF1) lots.
  2. The City of Austin Staff says that the addition of three additional houses, where there was previously one,  will actually reduce the overall flooding situation,  because of the “Rain Garden / Detention Pond” the developer will build at the corner of Bull Run and Mustang Chase. There were no details presented about the Rain Garden.
  3. Neighbor George Mc. did a good job articulating AVANA’s opposition. I enjoyed his visual of asking all concerned neighbors (about a dozen were present) to stand.He then asked all those that supported the proposed subdivision to remain standing.  Everyone took a seat, no one remained standing. Clever!
  4. Joseph U, a certified Civil Engineer that lives on Bull Run spoke effectively about the flooding problems.
  5. City Council Member Don Zimmerman spoke in opposition to the proposal or at least delaying it.  He acknowledged COA’s failure to address the flooding issues.  Not enough money to fix city wide problems.
  6. Several AVANA neighbors who are long time residents spoke to the flooding issues. A representative from Champions Forest (Whispering Valley) made the case to deny until the downstream issues could be fixed. Don’t add to the problem until the Union Pacific drainage issue on Whispering Valley is resolved.
  7. Several commission members pushed to postpone the decision, to leverage more time and attention to the issue. If there is no action, “Statutory Approval”  might occur. This means if the commission takes no action by a the deadline, it receives automatic approval.
  8. Ministerial Duty – Bottom line: The Zoning and Planning Commission is bound to approve all plans that meet COA requirements. Technically, this plan meets all of the COA requirements.
  9. Deed Restrictions – Neighborhood Association deed restrictions are not enforced. (Including the setbacks) They are encouraged by AVANA, but do not have any legal bearing. Developers can choose to follow them or ignore them. Further action would require private litigation.
  10. The developer’s representative spoke. He said the property will tie into an existing storm sewer. He said, since the houses will be two story structures, they will have less impervious cover than the original house. Their design  will contain any water runoff increase on the property via the Rain Garden/Detention Pond. He stated that according to their attorney, they met deed restrictions by using some brick, some masonry and hardiboard. Their attorneys confirmed with COA that this met the requirement.
  11. The Commission made it clear that  neighborhood aesthetics are not in their domain. They sympathize, but said their hands are tied when it comes to denying projects for aesthetic reasons.
  12. If all COA requirements are met, the commission cannot deny the proposal.
  13. Initially there was a tie vote (5-5.) Then there was a second motion to approve that passed 6-4. The member that changed their vote said she felt the delay was pointless because there were no grounds to deny.

Summary:

The Zoning and Planning Commission approved the subdivision of 5201 Bull Run into three lots. City staff says that the plan will reduce the flooding problem because of the Rain Garden/Detention Pond that will be built. The subdivision proposal meets all COA requirements, so they cannot reject it. Several members sympathized with the neighbors that feel the deed restrictions have been ignored, but this lies beyond their “Ministerial Duty.”  Deed restrictions and neighborhood aesthetics are nice, but they cannot be enforced. The overall flooding issues that were raised, are concerns, but this specific lot subdivision, and subsequent increase in structures, does not have a negative impact. The city staff says that there will be a positive impact on neighborhood flooding because of this plan.

Watch the Video For Yourself:

City of Austin Zoning and Planning Commission Meeting

Part 1:  http://austintx.swagit.com/play/02162016-1076/#8

Part 2:  http://austintx.swagit.com/play/02162016-1076/#9

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Another perspective of 2/16/16 Public Hearing on this case (article published in the Austin Monitor)

Zoning Commission narrowly avoids threat of lawsuit

Tuesday, February 23, 2016 by Jack Craver

The Zoning and Platting Commission spent just over half of its four-hour meeting Tuesday debating the merits of a project that the panel does not actually have the authority to change or reject.

The commission ultimately voted to approve city staff’s recommendation that a property owner be allowed to add two houses to a 1.17-acre lot at 5201 Bull Run, in Northwest Austin, but only after a commissioner changed her vote amid concerns that delaying the project could expose the commission to a lawsuit.

Unlike in many other zoning cases that go before the city’s two land-use commissions, subdivisions cannot be blocked as long as they comply with city code. In this case, city staff found that the subdivision complies with code and that adding a rain garden and a detention pond on the property would more than make up for any flooding issues brought on by the additional impervious cover.

Some of the commissioners, including Chair Gabriel Rojas, felt that the recommendation from staff essentially ended the conversation, unless somebody could present evidence that staff had erred in its assessment of the project’s compliance with code. To the nearly two dozen neighbors who attended the meeting to oppose the project, Rojas repeatedly emphasized that the commission’s hands were tied and that their general complaints about flooding in the area were not enough to stop the project.

But for a number of commissioners aligned with neighborhood associations, the neighbors’ concerns – as well as the unexpected presence of City Council Member Don Zimmerman in support of the neighbors – justified a postponement of the project.

Some commissioners voiced unease with accepting staff’s contention that the project would not exacerbate flooding in the area, clearly swayed by testimony from some neighbors, including retired engineer Joseph Yura, who told the commission that “no amount of arithmetic suggests that is going to improve the flooding situation that we have.”

Vice Chair Jackie Goodman suggested that, even if the commission could not ultimately stop the project, a postponement would facilitate an opportunity to discuss ongoing flooding concerns in the area, including the city’s failure to improve drainage.

“Postponement would have (given) the council member, surrounding property owners and the applicant opportunity to join together and identify the causes and potentially feasible cures or improvements for very real, very serious flooding issues,” explained Goodman in an email to the Austin Monitor.

A veteran of city planning and a former Council member, Goodman also said that commissions and developers traditionally accommodate Council members who request postponements.

Zimmerman’s presence was unusual, not only because Council members rarely attend commission meetings but because, as the politician noted to the commission, he is not typically regarded as a skeptic of development. His concerns, he explained, were driven by the fact that the neighborhood had been promised that its annexation by the city in the 1970s would come with the addition of infrastructure improvements that he claimed were still nowhere to be seen.

“The people that pay the taxes do want you to consider these decades of promises that have not been kept,” he said.

Rojas, however, argued that complaints about flooding had been addressed by the city’s watershed expert and that it was not the commission’s role to dispute staff findings. He also said it was unfair to hold the project “hostage” because of flooding issues that he said were unrelated.

“I do worry about ZAP spending large amounts of what precious little time that we have on cases in which we have zero discretion,” Rojas told the Monitor by email. “It feels disingenuous to me even to postpone a subdivision case like the one we had Tuesday because it may give surrounding residents that oppose the subdivision a false sense of hope that if the commission can get more information about flood issues in the neighborhood we would somehow have the option available to use to deny the subdivision, which just isn’t at all true.”

Nash Gonzales, an agent for the property owner, Angus Valley Joint Venture, urged the commission to approve, saying that the “clock is already ticking” because of costs the owner was already incurring awaiting city approval.

An initial motion to approve deadlocked, 5-5. Rojas and commissioners Susan Harris, Thomas Weber and Dustin Breithaupt – along with Zimmerman’s own appointee to the commission, Commissioner Bruce Evans – voted to approve the project. Goodman and commissioners Ann Denkler, Jolene Kiolbassa, Betsy Greenberg and Yvette Flores voted against. The commission similarly deadlocked along the same lines on a motion to postpone the case.

The deadlocked votes prompted questions to staff about whether the commission would be liable in a lawsuit from the developer and whether such a suit could make it before a judge in the two weeks before the commission’s next meeting, a question that drew laughs and stumped assistant city attorney Robert Davis.

“I’m not familiar with the (courts’) caseload,” he said.

Finally, Flores signaled that she would change her vote to advance the project.

“I voted to postpone, but I do understand our ministerial duty to approve the case,” she said.

With Flores added to the five original votes in favor, the project was approved. Denkler, Kiolbassa and Greenberg voted again to oppose approval, while Goodman abstained.

Rojas said he was proud of the commission’s final action because “we showed that we could believe the science about reduced flooding from our engineering staff enough to wade through the intense feelings that people brought to the meeting.”

Zoning Commission narrowly avoids threat of lawsuit