At its Thursday, August 23 meeting, the Austin City Council voted 11-0 to pass our neighborhood plan as submitted by staff and approved by NSCNA except for one change recommended by the Planning Commission. This change means that ADUs (accessory dwelling units) now can be built in our neighborhood on lots zoned SF2 as well as SF3. Previously, ADUs could be built only on lots zoned SF3, which accounts for 35% of our residential zoning.
On balance, the Development Committee feels that the unanimous vote by City Council coupled with only one policy related amendment passing is a win for our neighborhood plan. The committee thanks all the neighbors and other stakeholders who worked on this process over the past two years and who participated in the planning process.
Here is a summary of the meeting:
District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool made the motion to approve the staff/neighborhood version of the plan, with recommendations by the Planning Commission to be voted on as separate amendments. These amendments called for
- Adding missing middle housing to Steck Avenue. NSCNA’s position was that this is a safety issue. Steck is a very busy street, and it’s already difficult for its residents back out of their driveways. This recommendation would make it even more difficult. Council agreed – there was no motion to approve when the mayor asked if there were one, so the motion failed.
- Expanding ADUs throughout the residential core. This issue consisted of 2 separate recommendations: the first made the policy statement; the second described ADUs and missing middle housing. Both were merged into one vote. NSCNA’s position was that this should be handled on a citywide basis via the upcoming code rewrite rather than be implemented via a neighborhood plan. Although Mayor Adler indicated he would vote no on this matter because the plan was not the place for such action, the motion passed 6-4-1. The Mayor along with Council Members Pool, Houston, and Kitchen voted no; Mayor ProTem Tovo abstained.
- Increasing roadway connectivity between the interior of the neighborhood and the surrounding corridors. NSCNA’s position was that building roads would not be cost effective. Because our plan focuses on increasing pedestrian and bicyclist connectivity between the interior of the neighborhood and the corridors, this recommendation was unnecessary. Council agreed; there being no motion to approve, it failed.
In addition to the Planning Commission recommendations, Council Member Flannigan of District 6 put forth two amendments. One cleaned up some inconsistent wording in the plan (e.g., changing the word “area” to “core” and consistently using the word “setback”). The other called for changing the residential core from “predominately single-family housing” to “residential house scale housing.” NSCNA objected to CM Flannigan’s “residential house scale housing” amendment, arguing that this sort of change should be made on a citywide basis, not in a neighborhood plan. In addition, if passed, this amendment would fundamentally change the premise of our plan, which is based on leaving the single-family core alone and adding density in the corridors. A majority of the council agreed, and this amendment failed. His amendment cleaning up inconsistent wording was approved without objection.
While the loss on ADUs was disappointing, the Development Committee members at the meeting felt the positive aspects of the plan outweighed the likely impact of additional ADUs on our neighborhood. These were the factors considered in making this decision:
- Some 150 North Shoal Creek lots are within the floodplain and are therefore restricted from expanding. They will not be eligible to add an ADU.
- The shape of the lots and houses in North Shoal Creek means that fewer lots in our neighborhood can meet the code requirements associated with building an ADU compared to some other Austin neighborhoods.
- Deed restrictions for the individual subdivisions that make up our neighborhood in some cases do not permit additional housing units on a single lot. Individuals and groups will have a legal option should they oppose a nearby ADU.
Once again, the Development Committee thanks all the stakeholders who participated in this project and helped make it successful. Great job, everyone!