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Greenacres resident won’t have to build road for subdivisions

Greenacres neighbors who rallied around a senior resident who felt the city was unfairly obligating her to build a road through her undeveloped land claimed a victory at City Hall Tuesday night.

Citing a lack of public notice about changes to road plans, the City Council voted to overturn part of a hearing examiner decision that would have connected two small subdivisions via a public road that eventually would be built through Jan Austin’s land.

At issue is the approval of the Valley Coach Estates subdivision, which had changed its street layout at the request of the city planning department so that a small portion of Maxwell Avenue could eventually connect to a stretch of Maxwell in a subdivision to the west.

That project, called Flora Estates, was changed at the direction of city planners to make the road public and change its name to Maxwell.

Austin’s land is between them. If and when it is developed, the builder would have been obligated to build Maxwell through the middle of it.

“It places a cloud over the property,” neighborhood activist Mary Pollard argued at an earlier meeting.

Hearing Examiner Mike Dempsey approved Valley Coach Estates based on layout changes recommended by city staff. Austin appealed, arguing, among other things, that neighboring property owners didn’t have enough chance to review changes to the road plans before the project went to the hearing examiner.

“No substantial changes can be made without a public hearing,” Pollard said.

She contended that the information about Maxwell becoming a through street wasn’t available to the public until shortly before the hearing and after signs were posted on the property showing the old layout.

Although it wasn’t part of the appeal, Pollard also argues the city illegally changed the streets in Flora Estates after the public process required to approve the final design of the project.

One of the developers of the project also testified in support of Austin’s appeal, saying that street connectivity is good, but the resulting through street would cause traffic problems because of its proximity to Mission.

As for the rest of the subdivision, no one voice opposition to the Valley Coach project itself, including the council.

“It just seems to me that adequate notice was not given” concerning the road, said Councilman Bill Gothmann.

Others on the council said they were sympathetic to the neighbors’ concerns, but questioned each other and their lawyer about whether the hearing examiner had acted improperly and whether the council had the authority to change the road.

Ultimately, they voted to uphold the hearing examiner’s decision with the exception of the small portion road that would extend Maxwell.

“That, in essence would make Maxwell dead-end road,” said Mayor Diana Wilhite.

The four council members present voted for the measure. Councilmen Steve Taylor and Gary Schimmels were absent, and councilman Rich Munson abstained because he was not present at an earlier part of the hearing.