Site Plans

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The Site Plan process is an arduous, time-consuming and costly endeavor. Placing smaller residential developments within Austin has to be made simpler, and smaller developments can be permitted as easily as the current single-family or duplex permitting process.

The Problem

A Site Plan for 3-12 units should not be the same level of site plan for a Walmart. Site Plan requirements dramatically increase the costs of adding a third unit to a lot, which will disincentivize moderate-density projects that use space efficiently in favor of extra-large single-family homes or at most duplexes.

Recommendations

  • Subdivision –
    • If the property is currently platted and legal, accept the impervious cover that is already allowed on the platted lot as being accommodated in the drainage system. If a 10,000 s.f. property is zoned SF-“x”, and is allowed 45% impervious cover, then the property should be able to be divided into smaller lots without any additional impacts to drainage or water quality when the combined lots will never be allowed more than 45% impervious cover.
  • Site Plan
    • Detention - If a property is allowed 45% impervious cover and additional units are added that creates more than 2 on a lot that does not increase the impervious cover beyond 45%, then this should not require a site plan.
    • Detention - If a property is allowed more than 45% impervious cover and seeks to have development at more than 2 units, then standards should be in place so as to meet goals of the city while eliminating site plan review. Those standards could include a rain garden, green roof, rainwater storage tanks, and can be standard designs for residential developments that are implemented through the building permit process and inspected in the field.
    • Parking - already handled through building permits for up to 2 units. Adding more units would require more spaces that can also be checked at building permit.
    • Water Quality – Require a rain garden and perhaps a maintenance agreement based on an already designed template in the Environmental Criteria Manual.
    • Landscaping – Require a tree for every unit + mitigations for trees removed above 19”.
    • Driveways – What does it matter if circulation for vehicles is provided on site and all units are within 150’ of the public street? If a drive aisle is adequate at 20’ for one car each direction, then a 20’ wide driveway should be adequate unless it is a fire lane.
    • Erosion controls – require erosion control plan with the building permit. Inspectors will ensure the continued operational use of the E/S controls during construction.
    • Fire – All units within 150’ of street does not require a fire lane internal to site. If units are beyond 150’ then driveway needs to be striped as fire lane so as to prevent cars from parking in that area and also to ensure construction of the driveway as a fire lane.
    • Sprinklers – require sprinkled buildings.
    • Grading – add a grading plan to building permit review.
    • Accessible route – Architect to provide a letter from TAS accepting the route as accessible.

Code Comments

  • Everything up to a medium multiplex be exempt from site plans. The costs of doing a site plan will make missing-middle projects financially infeasible otherwise. No reason single-family (most expensive housing type) should get a free pass while the types with the potential to be more affordable get slammed with an extremely expensive requirement. Residential projects <6 units and less than 10,000 sq. ft. should be exempt, while projects 7-30 units should have a "site plan lite" process that is less cumbersome and expensive than full site plan. (23-6, Page 10)
  • It's unclear what the benefits of a small site plan are... they seem to be just as cumbersome as a full site plan. Site plans should be waived entirely for small projects. Small projects can and should be regulated and reviewed at permitting rather than via expensive, time-consuming, duplicative, complex site plans (23-6, Page 17)
  • This should not be subjective. Missing-middle projects should be exempt from site plans. This section needs to be clarified or rolled into the Exemptions section. (23-6, Page 18)