A subdivision agreement allegedly made by West Lake Hills City Council in 1972 came under debate during a March 24 virtual council meeting.
Doyle and Colleen Moore, the owners of an 8.42-acre tract of land named as Moore Estates and located at 803 Westlake Drive, are proposing a subdivision of the property into eight lots for the construction of eight single-family residences.
The proposal entails a deviation from the city’s code regarding minimum lot size requirements, according to Anjali Naini, director of building and development services.
However, the zoning request is unusual in that a prior agreement was executed by the council in 1972 allowing the land to be subdivided into eight lots in the future, according to the proposal’s staff report.
The agreement made between the landowners and former council members was in exchange for a donation of land at the site that allowed for the widening of Westlake Drive, Naini said.
“It basically acknowledged that the owners of the property in exchange for the right of way would be able to, at any point in the future, subdivide their tracts of land into eight lots,” Naini said. “The tract wasn’t large enough when you take out a piece of property that was donated for the right of way to meet the minimum lot size requirements.”
This is the first time a formal subdivision plan has come before council since that 1972 agreement, according to West Lake Hills Mayor Linda Anthony.
The agreement for the right of way donation was recorded on file with Travis County with the understanding that the lot size variance was approved. However, Naini said city staff did not locate the actual variance.
“The opposition is saying, ‘Well we don’t see a written copy of the variance, so maybe there never was a variance,” said Terry Irion, an attorney representing the landowners. “Both the applicant agrees there was a variance, and the city agrees there was a variance.”
Irion said it is clear this subdivision plan could not be approved under the current city code. Still, he said the approved variance clearly states the landowner would have the ability to develop eight residential tracts for separate building sites at any point in the future.
The proposal came before the city’s zoning and planning commission March 17 and received a unanimous denial by a 4-0 vote due to noncompliance with the city code, according to city information.
Several community members also spoke out against the subdivision during the meeting’s open forum session. The city also received a number of written comments in opposition.
Thirty-year resident Randy Lee said he thoroughly objected to the subdivision and commended the commission's denial. Lee also drafted an online petition that had collected 40 signatures as of March 25.
“Our neighbors are concerned that approving this subdivision will have an immediate and negative effect on the value of our property,” Lee said.
Lee also added that the property has been for sale for roughly 16 years, which he attributed to the steep slope of the land. He said the ecological value of the property is too high for a development of this nature.
This sentiment was echoed by Bobby Levinski, an attorney with Save Our Springs Alliance—an organization that works to protect the Edwards Aquifer and Hill Country watersheds, according to its website. Levinski said this area of West Lake Hills has been on the organization’s radar for years.
“Its location, as well as unique environmental qualities, make it an important property for water equality and endangered species preservation,” Levinski said, adding this was in part due to the presence of natural caves on the land.
After hearing residents' concerns, council members entered into an executive session to privately discuss the subject with the city attorney. Upon return, council members unanimously agreed to postpone any action until the April 14 council meeting.