Monte Vista Terrace now has a Neighborhood Conservation District to help stave off new development seen by residents as potentially incompatible with their surroundings.
City Council on May 6 approved the new zoning overlay for the midtown neighborhood. Sharon Garcia of the Monte Vista Terrace Neighborhood Association served with a task force that made the case for an NCD.
“This new design overlay will help us to preserve the unique design and charm of our neighborhood while providing safeguards against new developments that don’t match the architecture or scale of existing homes,” Garcia said after the approval.
According to Garcia, residents’ calls for a conservation district stem from a developer’s previous controversial proposal to build a four-story condominium at 311 W. Norwood Court.
Garcia told the city’s Zoning Commission in April the four-story condo would have “looked out of place” in the neighborhood where some of the first homes were built in the 1920s.
According to the city, NCDs enforce design standards in neighborhoods and commercial districts so new construction matches an area’s appearance.
Neighborhoods that have previously sought a conservation district often faced opposition from property owners who perceived the designation as being unfriendly to new development.
While NCDs empower a neighborhood to define its character and features, they do not enforce deed restrictions, change underlying base zoning, order a property owner to rehabilitate existing structures to conform to standards or prevent demolition of existing buildings.
In early 2019, District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño filed a council consideration request to initiate the NCD process after receiving a neighbors’ petition seeking the district’s creation.
“Residents of this community feel that an NCD is the most appropriate design overlay for preservation and future development,” Treviño said.
San Antonio uses the NCD designation as a tool to help mainly older, inner-city neighborhoods accommodate compatible redevelopment.
Monte Vista Terrace is San Antonio’s 10th NCD, sharing that distinction with nearby neighborhoods such as Alta Vista, Beacon Hill and Mahncke Park.
The new Neighborhood Conservation District contains nearly 190 residential lots, roughly bound by Howard Street, Olmos Drive, and San Pedro, McCullough and West Hildebrand avenues along Vassar Street, Melrose Place, North Main Avenue and Norwood and Ridgewood courts.
Some of the guidelines include:
• 50-foot minimum lot width and 75-foot maximum lot width for any replatted parcel.
• A 2 1/2-story and 35-foot-height limit on residential structures.
• Multifamily building should be one structure.
• A 12-foot-width limit on driveways.
• Detached garages or carports are located to the property’s rear yard.
Garcia and resident Holly Frindell said NCD petitioners and the task force sought to be transparent with all residents and property owners about the effort.
Neighborhood representatives said the task force faced some challenging issues, as a few members voiced concerns about developmental limits that could be placed by an NCD.
The Monte Vista Historic District lies immediately south of Monte Vista Terrace. A historic district is governed by more stringent development regulations. Olmos Park borders the area on the east.
“Our guiding star was how do we put design standards in place that effectively preserve the character of the neighborhood while keeping it as least restrictive as possible,” Frindell said.
An Austin developer reportedly has bought the vacant lot at 311 West Norwood.
Some people say Monte Vista Terrace is now better equipped to deal with future projects.
“I feel (NCD) preserves the characteristics of the neighborhood, but it’s also not too restrictive,” resident Amanda Murray said.