The understanding of many neighborhoods that adopted small lot amnesty was not to allow for for desegregation of what appeared to be a larger lot, but to allow for use of (usually unused) lots that were smaller than the legal lot size.
In 2006, PRDR actually wrote a rule about desegegrating lots, but it didn’t mentioned small lot amnesty so this “loophole” has existed. Staff hasn’t written any other clarification since this has not been attempted since then, and it was generally accepted that the earlier clarification sufficed. Why this is occurring now is that someone figured out that there are some lots that seem to be aggregated, but are not deeded that was, as is customary. Only small pockets of these types of lots exist in Austin, of which a large portion lie in the Northfield Neighborhood and some in Hyde Park. Northfield adopted the small lot amnesty, but Hyde Park did not for this reason.
If smaller lots are appropriate that is a separate discussion that can be had, but development should not be a result of this “end-around” that has resulted in a defacto smaller legal lot size for those neighborhoods that had their platting done in the early 1900s and where the deeding did not aggregate the previous platted lots.
Another result is the the small lot amnesty also awards an additional density entitlement of 0.65 FAR over the existing 0.4 FAR limit.
If the argument is affordability, the result is that a $250,000-$300,000 home is taken off the market and somewhere between $1M or $1.5 of home is the replacement (each of these row houses is selling for around $500K).
Most of the “original” owners are being duped by selling at the much lower prices and all the dollars are going into the developer’s pocket.
The developers can’t be blamed for this as their function is to maximize the return on investment for their owners.
However, we should be part of the “enabling” of this type of development.
Existing neighbors are also seeing higher valuations resulting in higher taxes and lowered affordability. This also affects renters as these taxes are passed on in higher rents.
Many would be much more open to the discussion of smaller lots and similar ideas if we were seeing the replacement developments in the $200-300K range.
I certainly see a place in our neighborhood for ideas such as rowhouses and urban apartments, but the neighborhood should have a chance to plan for their appropriate place in the neighborhood.