Lakeway approves zoning for higher density housing despite setback

Lakeway City Council approved two new residential zoning designations on Monday evening, including one for condos and another for higher density housing at 20 units per acre, despite some setback from the community. The two new designations are requested in the overall city plan, which was approved in 2020.

Deputy City Manager Joseph Molis said 20 units per acre matched other small towns in the area. The new zoning limits this level of density to buildings that are three stories and 40 feet high.

The vote came after the city rejected in November a proposal to develop workforce housing on Nightingale Lane that would have been 32 units per acre. Council members at the time expressed concerns about density and location, but pledged to move forward on the workforce housing issue after business owners spoke of their struggles in terms of personnel.

Mayor Tom Kilgore said Lakeway is the only town in western Travis County that does not have housing at the county average, which is around 19 or 20 units per acre. He said having this zoning, called R-9 in the code, brings the city into compliance with state and federal legal requirements.

Council members made it clear that the existence of a new higher density zoning category does not automatically give the green light to high density projects throughout the city. New projects have yet to go through the approval process and the board can deny anything they feel is not suitable for the region. Molis also pointed out that projects of similar or higher density have been approved as part of planned unit developments, often for assisted living residences.

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Community members who spoke at the meeting questioned the need for a higher density zoning category and workforce housing. A resident suggested that if people want to move to Lakeway, they should work harder and save money so they can afford to do so. Others have voiced concerns about increased traffic and too many people ruining the city’s community feel.

Several board members responded directly to these comments, including Laurie Higginbotham, who has stated in her mind that affordable housing is clearly a need in the community.

“This is something that is universally recognized by the people who have paid attention to be absolutely necessary and important to support this community as you know and love it,” Higginbotham said. “I’m really shocked by the claim that people just need to work harder. I think our police are working very hard. I think our teachers are working very hard. I think our firefighters work very hard and I don’t think they have to work harder to live here, I think they deserve to live here.

Council member Laurie Higginbotham spoke at Monday's meeting during a discussion of expanding zoning to include a higher density option.

Council member Gretchen Vance said the cost of housing in Lakeway has increased dramatically in recent years – citing her own home, which she said she bought as a repairman five years ago and is now worth more than three times what she paid for it. .

Vance also expressed frustration with the hypocrisy of people talking about supporting law enforcement or teachers but then objecting to zoning which could lead to housing where people in those jobs can afford to. to live.

“Make a decision. Are you going to support our teachers and our firefighters and our police? Or won’t you support them? You cannot support them by buying pencils for teachers, but not supporting their way of life and their ability to serve them and their children in our community, “said Vance.” Stop asking the board to come up through the ranks for every single person who wants to move into this community. “

Lakeway City Council member Gretchen Vance was among those speaking during Monday's debate on adding a higher density zoning option to the city code.

The council also addressed non-housing issues, including a two-year extension of the city’s contract for garbage and other solid waste collection with Waste Connections, Inc. The city also asked Waste Connections to explore the ” added a compost option to the city’s garbage collection to divert more material from landfills. District manager John Harris said the company would conduct an audit and come back to council with a recommendation on the compost option that suits the city’s needs.

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The council also voted to approve an update to the Fireworks Ordinance which specifies the authorization process required to stage a non-residential fireworks display and reiterates that it is illegal to shoot fireworks. fireworks from your house.

Permit applications should be submitted 10 days prior to an event and include a section for fire department approval. The maximum fine for using fireworks without a license has been raised to $ 500 from $ 100, but Police Chief Glen Koen has said officers responding to calls about the fireworks can demonstrate discretion as to the appropriate response.

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