The Live Oak Springs subdivision could be significantly smaller than originally proposed.
A new site plan, submitted to the city Dec. 4, 2018, proposes 30 single-family lots on 46.9 acres near Hwy. 290 and FM 1826 in South Austin. Plans also include two drainage lots, a detention pond and three new public roads. Lots will range from 1-1.7 acres in size.
Property owners David and Lisa Knapp said the entire project was scaled down—from a proposal for 82 homes on 169 acres—after an August 2018 decision by the Austin Zoning and Platting Commission. The commission denied an environmental variance necessary to build a bridge over Slaughter Creek.
The new proposal is on the portion of the Knapp’s land located south of Slaughter Creek, eliminating the need for a crossing over the protected watershed. The property owners are awaiting approval from the city, hoping their years-long effort to develop the land will proceed, David Knapp said.
“We want to work with the community,” he said. “We want to help everybody. We want to be viewed as good neighbors.”
Why the plan changed
Without the bridge—an element added at the behest of Travis County Commissioners to allow a second point of access to the development—the entire project needed to be condensed.
“The [city] staff was not able to recommend the variance,” Knapp said. “It’s because of the city’s [critical water quality zone street crossings variance criteria]. If there was one line added to the code that said [the change]improved health and human safety, they would have endorsed it.”
To receive an environmental variance, the only considerations are about the environment, Knapp said. The questions do not weigh factors like safety and fire response time.
“There is a structural issue in the code,” he said. “It’s because of the mindset in the 1990s [when the code was written]. This was pre-Steiner Ranch, pre-Bastrop fires.”
The bridge would have provided connectivity between Hwy. 290 and FM 1826. Jeffrey Wittig, Fire Chief of the Oak Hill Fire Department, issued a memo dated May 30, 2018, in support of the bridge.
“The bridge along with other roadway features and improvements being proposed with the Live Oak Springs subdivision will potentially provide our department with a much needed connection to the southern end of our jurisdiction during times of flooding along Slaughter Creek,” Wittig said in the memo, which was addressed to the Travis County Judge and Commissioners.
In June 2018, Wittig provided a second memo indicating emergency response times. The current, best route for emergency response is 6.4 miles, or around 11 minutes when crossing over Slaughter Creek is open.
In times of flooding along FM 1826, when crossing over Slaughter Creek is blocked, the route is closer to 9.6 miles, or an estimate 17 minutes.
Had the development proceeded as originally planned, estimated response would drop to 3.1 miles, or around 6 minutes, he said.
“We saw the bridge as a win-win,” Knapp said. “That’s why we went down this path.”