Duplexes may be rezoned to single-family housing

Although West Lake Hills decided not to rezone a multifamily residential area to single-family residential on Reveille Road on Feb. 8, the duplex owners who spoke against the change still face the possibility of rezoning. West Lake Hills City Council formed a subcommittee Feb. 22 to review the city's entire R-1 single-family and R-2 multifamily residential areas, with the possibility of changing all of the city's residential areas to single- family.

Reveille Road

The council needed a super-majority vote to rezone the properties on Reveille Road, meaning four of the five members would have had to vote for the change. The vote fell one short.

Councilman Stan Graham said he voted against rezoning, not because he disagrees with what would be done, but because of the process being used to accomplish the council's goal.

"Zoning is the wrong way to go about this. Why not [rezone] the whole city, instead of just singling out [one area]?" Graham said.

Councilman Andrew Schwartz agreed.

"I, too, am against downzoning on Reveille [Road]. But I do believe all of the city should become single-family homes at some point."

The subcommittee consists of Graham, Councilman Earl Broussard, Zoning and Planning Commission member David Moore, City Administrator Robert Wood and City Planner Davin Fillpot.

In addition to rezoning, the subcommittee will be reviewing the city's ordinances, codes and the zoning portion of the city's master plan to see if it can accomplish its goal another way.

Graham said he plans on contacting all multifamily residential homeowners in the city to involve them in the discussion.

Recent events

For about 30 years, there have been residential lots on Reveille Road listed as multifamily lots on the city's planning and zoning map.

A recent request was submitted by 310 Reveille Road property owner Ben Bailey to the city to rezone four properties along Reveille Road and Westlake Drive to allow building eight single-family homes on approximately 1.6 acres.

At a Zoning and Planning Commission meeting, the commission recommended the rezoning request be denied by City Council, but the process never got to council as Bailey withdrew his application before it got that far.

Because of the rezoning request, nearby residents were informed of the action by letter from the City of West Lake Hills. Some of those residents then asked City Council to rezone the multifamily lots to single-family lots.

"The recent development threat has energized this neighborhood like nothing I've ever seen," Reveille Road resident Mike Dewey said. "We're not mad. We just think that building new multifamily projects on Reveille Road is a terrible idea. We're united against it. The immediate threat seems to be evaded, but the larger threat still remains that if we don't do something now consistent with the master plan, we'll see this [happen] again. How many times is the neighborhood going to have to be asking you all to protect us? How many times will we have to ask what the overall vision of the city is?"

West Lake Hills' ordinances allow just one home and one family per lot for its single-family residences but allows up to four families per lot on multifamily residences.

Several residents living in single-family homes said they were sympathetic to duplex owners, who, if the rezoning is approved, would have grandfather status. This means their property could remain as it is, but they would be unable to rebuild or renovate as multifamily if anything, such as a natural disaster, damaged their duplex greater than 50 percent.

"It seems to me there is some language that could be developed that would address that issue, to make sure the economic issues associated with this zoning change could be put in place to give current duplex owners comfort that if something were to happen to their house that they would be able to replace it," Dewey said.

However, under the new status, multifamily residence owners would also not be allowed to expand their homes or build additional homes on their existing properties.

Opposition to changes in zoning

Several duplex owners spoke at the West Lake Hills City Council meeting Feb. 8, citing that they had bought the properties under a certain zoning for a reason and that they believed the change would hurt them financially.

Pat Smith is a duplex owner who lives in one side of the home and rents out the other side as part of his retirement income strategy.

"You guys need to get perspective on this. I love this location, and I love my neighbors. There are R-1s making money on their properties, too. What's going to happen to my taxes? My property value?" Smith said.

Why change zoning now?

While the city's zoning map shows about 3 percent of West Lake Hills as multifamily residential, the city's comprehensive master plan, which was approved around the same time, shows only one residential category, which is defined in the master plan as limited to single-family detached residences with a minimum lot size of 1 acre.

"You have commercial and residential categories on the [master plan] map, and it's kind of like, 'What do we want our city to look like when it grows up, or what do we want to look like 20 years down the road?'" Wood said. "They did this in the '80s here in West Lake Hills, and they designated areas as residential and designated areas as nonresidential, with the areas currently R-2 as single-family residential."

Wood said the master plan is supposed to guide the city in its zoning maps, but since the two maps differ, the staff advised council to resolve the differences.

The council plans to have the issue back on its agenda for the March 28 meeting. Meanwhile, the council approved a temporary moratorium on building permits for areas zoned as multifamily residential.