Update: Harris Avenue Stealth Dorm
Cutsinger Custom Homes has started construction of a 6-bedroom, 4-bath duplex building at 718 Harris Avenue, across from Lee Elementary School. The approved plan calls for 6 parking spaces on-site accessed from a dead-end alley (on Waller Creek) that pours into streets crowded with children as they go to and from school.
The lot is owned by Kevin Cutsinger and Ross Cole. Cole will be the leasing agent through his company, Austin Centric Realty. Both Cutsinger and Cole have a history of leasing dorm-style properties to students. The architect is Heidi Goebel, and the lender is R Bank Round Rock, co-founded by Nolan Ryan. Find out more about Ryan’s relationship to the bank in this Austin Business Journal article.
Cutsinger and Cole have ignored repeated requests to do the right thing. Instead, they are relying on single-family zoning designation to maximize profits by planning to build on 3 lots what is effectively an apartment project containing 18 bedrooms. They continue to refuse to meet with the Hancock Neighborhood zoning committee in accordance with its procedures, accusing it of using “bullying” tactics.
Over 500 petition signatures from Central Austin neighborhoods reflect opposition to dorm duplexes and stealth dorms, and the Central Austin Neighborhood Planning Advisory Committee passed a resolution to reduce duplex occupancy limits from 6 to 4 unrelated individuals. The North University, Heritage, West University and Northfield neighborhood associations have passed resolutions to reduce occupancy and enforce existing stealth dorm and rental property codes. More than 90 members of the Hancock neighborhood signed a petition against the Harris Avenue duplexes and dorm duplexes.
Construction at 718 Harris Avenue was delayed for several weeks pending the outcome of an appeal to the Board of Adjustment, which was denied. The issuance of building permits for the other two lots (720 and 722 Harris) is conditioned on the approval by the City of a site plan for paving the alley behind them. This site plan is being reviewed by the Land Use Review Department, as opposed to the Residential Review group, which was recently embarrassed by a newspaper investigation about one of its reviewers having been fired for taking bribes to issue permits. There is more to this story that needs to see the light of day.
Because part of the alley is in the 100-year flood plain, it is uncertain whether the City will permit the construction of anything but a single-family home on the creek side lot. Two lawsuits are pending to restrict the number of parking spaces accessed from the alley. See Resources for copies of the pleadings.
The Central/North Central Austin Neighborhoods’ coalition to stop stealth dorms and reduce duplex occupancy limits continues to rally and urge the City Council to reduce duplex occupancy and forcefully enforce residential codes in our neighborhoods.(See comments neighborhood residents at the Sign Petition site).