Residents on Zyle Road and the surrounding area spoke out against the variance requests that will move the preliminary plan for the proposed subdivision of Live Oak Springs forward at Tuesday’s Travis County Commissioner Court meeting. Concerns involved safety hazards of increased traffic, water quality and character as reasons of concern.
The proposed plan is located on a 165.03-acre tract in southwest Travis County within the city’s 2-mile extraterritorial jurisdiction, or ETJ. The proposed residential subdivision includes 85 single-family lots and seven new public streets.
The request is for two transportation variances that would extend a dead-end street more than the allotted 2,000 feet requirement and eliminate the requirement that a new subdivision must have at least two access streets and each be connected to a different external street.
According to court documents, the property is located within the Slaughter Creek Watershed, which is classified as the Barton Spring Drinking Water Protection Zone, and is within the contributing zone of the Edwards Aquifer. Slaughter Creek traverses the property. Construction of a road traversing Slaughter Creek would require the construction of a bridge that is elevated above the floodplain and would also require approval of environmental variances to develop in the critical water quality zone, or CWQZ, and water quality transition zone, or WQTZ, per the city of Austin’s Title 30. The variances would allow for the construction of the subdivision without making the connection across Slaughter Creek.
There are several proposed stub-outs to adjacent properties to provide connections for the roadway network if the adjacent property is developed. However, a large tract to the west of the property is encumbered with a conservation easement agreement with the city of Austin and is restricted with respect to development and impervious cover at this time.
Developer Paul Linehan said the site will take access to Morning Glory Hill Road from the south and Derecho Drive from the north. The majority of the site will access the roadway network via a connection to FM 1826 via Morning Glory Hill Road and Zyle Road.
The proposed Morning Glory Hill Drive and Flat Rock Springs Drive within the development are exceeding 2,000 feet in length. A cross roadway connection between the two would be difficult, due to the crossing of the CWQZ of Slaughter Creek. Pursuant to Section 30-2-152(B) a platting board variance is required for a dead-end street more than 2,000 feet long.
“Enforcement of the requirement to limit dead-end street lengths to 2,000 feet would deprive the applicant of reasonable development of his property because it is not possible to provide cross-connections between Morninghill Drive and Flatrock Springs Drive without crossing the critical water quality zone of an intermediate waterway, which is not permitted in the Barton Springs Zone,” Linehan stated in a letter to the county. “It is not possible to provide a roadway connection between Morninghill Drive and Derecho Drive without crossing the critical water quality zone of Slaughter Creek, which is not allowed except for an arterial roadway that is identified in the city of Austin’s Transportation Plan. The existing roadways, both Morninghill Drive and Derecho Drive, are local roadways and not arterials.”
He added the requested variance does not create any significant probability of harmful environmental consequences or degrade water quality because it will not create any encroachment on critical water quality zones, a 100-year floodplain, or critical environmental features. A traffic impact analysis, or TIA, showed the Zyle Road and FM 1826 intersection is capable of handling an increase of traffic volume with the new development. County staff and the fire marshal reviewed the analysis and found it to be reasonable and appropriate.
Linehan stated in another letter to the county that the proposed extension of Derecho Drive provides access to the portion of the property north of Slaughter Creek, while the proposed extension of Morning Glory Hill Drive provides access to the portion of the property south of Slaughter Creek.
The Travis County Fire Marshal’s Office reviewed the proposed design and believes there are adequate turnarounds provided for firetrucks at several locations along the streets and gave condition of approval that all homes must be built with an approved NFPA 13D system.
One benefit to all residents in the area pointed out by Linehan was the projected increase in water pressure.
Malone/Wheeler Inc. designed an extension to the West Travis County Public Utility Agency’s, or WTCPUA, domestic water system to serve 85 single-family lots in the proposed Live Oak Springs subdivision. The system was designed to provide the necessary pressure and flow rate to each of the subdivision’s proposed fire hydrants. The expansion will also allow WTCPUA to complete a capital improvement project to convert the Zyle Road service area to a higher pressure plane, resulting in increased fire flow to existing hydrants in the Sunrise Canyon subdivision.
“We are trying to do the very best possible, and it’s very difficult to develop this area of the county,” Linehan said.
Residents in the area, however, still voiced concerns with the development despite there being approval from county officials.
Shannon Owen, who shares a partial piece of a family ranch with her brother on Zyle Road, listed a number of concerns, including road safety.
“Zyle Road is a dead-end, old county road and it’s hard to pass by a school bus without having to pull over,” Owen said. “We do not have sidewalks, lights or curbs on the streets. This much traffic would be a lot, and I would say that I believe some of the things Mr. Linehan said in his letter to residents is not exactly right.”
Owen also said she was concerned with the water quality of Slaughter Creek.
“With this many houses, it is bound to affect it in a adverse situation,” Owen said. “I’m not trying to stop progress. With all the givens, I don’t believe these variances should be passed. A 30-house subdivision is much more realistic.”
Elizabeth Cubberley added a similar sentiment focusing on the personality and character of the neighborhood.
“This changes the personality of our neighborhood,” Cubberley said. “Everyone has large acre lots and it’s inconsistent if they put in sidewalks and we don’t have it. It allows for safer passage for people in that neighborhood, where it increases safety risk for our residents. We are also animal-friendly. Lots of people have horses, donkeys and dogs that would be affected by the level of traffic.”
She added the narrow roads also increase safety hazards especially for children waiting for the bus or people who are walking their dogs or riding their bikes. With a single ingress and egress point, the development would also create a safety hazard for residents in the event of an emergency evacuation for a fire or weather-related conditions, such as flooding.
A number of other residents spoke to the same issues of safety hazards in the area as well as the effects on water quality and flow of the creek in the floodplain.
“We are not going to take action on this today,” Judge Sarah Eckhardt said. “We want to get a better understanding of the space between the developer and the residents and see if we can bridge it off the dais and come back.”
Precinct 3 Commissioner Gerald Daugherty will work with residents and the developer to try and come up with a solution to the issues and concerns voiced during the meeting.