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Parmer Lane property zoning changing despite valid petition

Monday, May 15, 2000 by

Yett property at 3601 W. Parmer Lane subject long criticized

The City Council designated five additional roadways as scenic roadways last Thursday and a commercial strip on one of them has been the subject of an ongoing battle, with neighbors arguing that cleaning up the place is long overdue. The property at 3601 W. Parmer Lane is owned by James Yett Jr., an elderly man who's hard of hearing but fighting to gain zoning that would allow several business tenants to remain on the property.

The property is currently zoned LO (Limited Office) and all nine uses on the property are prohibited with LO zoning, and eight of the nine uses are prohibited uses and failed to obtain a certificate of occupancy. A tackle shop on the premises is a legal nonconforming use. The businesses are Janson Fishing Tackle, Olympic Extreme Sports, Don's Classic Cars, The Poop Shop, Bell Auto, Classic Car, Vick's Exper-Tune, Revolution Rehearsal Studio, Ace Fishing Tackle, and Galaxy Transmission. The zoning application was triggered when an anonymous complaint was lodged in May 1999 and a notice of violation was subsequently issued.

A valid petition was lodged against changing the zoning to anything other than LO, filed by OTR, an Ohio general partnership affiliated with the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, owners of Waters Park Apartments, a community of about 1,000 residents at 3401 W. Parmer Lane. The petitioners own 44.9 percent of the area within 200 feet of the Yett tract. OTR is represented locally by Freestone Management Group, E. Keith Rogers president. In view of the petition, approval of the zoning change would require the affirmative vote of six council members.

Yett was represented by attorney Thomas J. O'Meara Jr., who told the council the owner had a bait shop on the property for 40 years before the city moved into the area, and part of the tract was taken by the state for construction of Parmer Lane. He pointed out the valid petition was submitted not by homeowners but by an investor. Although the tract had been the subject of a lawsuit against the city and the court had found against the property owner in 1984, O'Meara said the final court order was never issued and the dispute was therefore never resolved.

William J. Thomas, board member of the Milwood Neighborhood Association, said that Yett had done nothing to rectify the zoning in spite of the 1984 court ruling and only initiated it after the city issued its notice of violation. "We don't think it's compatible," Thomas said of the property.

Keith Rogers of Freestone Management said, "Besides the obvious esthetics our primary concern is the environmental impact on us." He said Freestone has had to clean up tires, abandoned oil, and accumulating trash. "We're concerned with the type of management on this property for years has not tried to control tenants, the way they handle waste." He said a creek runs through the property and is part of a greenbelt that buffers the apartments from Parmer Lane. "We'd like LO zoning and to get enforcement on the site, because it's been noncompliant for years," he said.

Roy Walley, president of Northwood Neighborhood Association of 630 families, noted that Parmer Lane west of MoPac was being designated a scenic highway "to help Parmer from becoming an eyesore like Burnet Road and Ben White Boulevard." Walley said he had been a board member of the association for nine years and he gets calls all the time from residents complaining about the subject property.

A woman who said she had been a Realtor in Austin since 1983 with an office at MoPac Expressway and Parmer Lane took the opposite tack, saying she had received mail from her property owners association and was "outraged by the orchestrated effort against Yett." Regarding the beautification of Parmer Lane, she said, "it's nothing a fence and landscaping can't fix." She said her own property value had gone up 40 percent in the last two years and she wasn't worried about the Yett property affecting her property value. "I think something's going on and being manipulated for the benefit of a few," she said.

Yett said the dispute with the apartment owners stems from them wanting to sell 10 acres of land and not being able to get access except through Yett's land. Yett said his tenants were only able to stay on the property because of the low rental rates he charges. Yett claimed that the apartments were the subject of the largest-ever crack cocaine seizure in Austin. "And (Rogers) talks about somebody having a bad situation," Yett said. "He has the worst."

Janece Keetch, president of the Milwood Neighborhood Association, said she represented 1,500 households in the area. "The neighbors believe that LO zoning is best for the neighborhood," she said.

O'Meara rebutted, saying Yett had offered to clean up the property and remediate any problems but had not been able to reach agreement with opponents. "Yett would be willing to do anything to meet legitimate concerns and requests that zoning be changed to GR (Community Commercial)," O'Meara said.

In response to questions from Council Member Bill Spelman, Alice Glasco, director of Development Review and Inspection Department, said that if zoning remained LO, the businesses on the property now would have to be relocated. "GR would allow all uses on the site," she said.

Spelman moved to approve LR (Neighborhood Commercial) zoning on the site as recommended by the Planning Commission, for first reading only, with instructions for staff to come back with recommended uses that would be appropriate.

Council Member Beverly Griffith added a friendly amendment to limit vehicular traffic to 2,000 trips per day and the council voted 7-0 to approve the zoning change on first reading.

Five roadways added to list of scenic roadways limiting signs

Change limits height, size and illumination of signs

The City Council offered a public hearing but got no takers and then voted 7-0 to amend City Code Section 25-10-6 last Thursday to add additional roadways to the list of scenic roadways identified in sign regulations.

The vote added Cameron Road, north of U.S. Highway 183; Parmer Lane, excluding the area between MoPac Expressway and I-35; Stassney Lane, east of South I-35; Slaughter Lane; and Old Spicewood Springs Road, west of Loop 360 to Old Lampasas Trail. The amendment applies both within the city limits and the city's extraterritorial jurisdiction.

A scenic roadway sign is limited to a maximum height of 12 feet for a freestanding (pole) sign, limited to a maximum sign area of 64 square feet for a freestanding (pole) sign, and prohibited from using internal lighting of the sign, except for the internal lighting of individual letters. The amendment was proposed by the Planning Commission's Standing Committee on Codes and Ordinances as a result of a rezoning application filed on a property on Slaughter Lane, in which a neighborhood association raised a concern over the size and type of signs permitted along Slaughter Lane.

City Council loosens restrictions on small lots for single-family residences

Net effect should make building small-lot subdivisions easier

As its last item of business last Thursday before adjourning at 10:45 p.m., the City Council voted 7-0 to approve five changes to City Code Title 25 relating to use and site development regulations and subdivision regulations for SF-4A zoning (Single Family Residence Small Lot).

The Planning Commission recommended three changes to: reduce the minimum off-street parking requirement from three spaces to two spaces; reduce the minimum front-yard setback requirement from 20 feet to 15 feet; and reduce the requirement in a small lot subdivision for a wall of a structure built adjacent to a zero lot line or within three feet of a common side lot line be solid and opaque, and may not contain an opening.

The Planning Commission did not recommend alteration to requirements that SF-4A lots must be a minimum of 3,600 square feet, have a minimum width of 40 feet, a minimum corner lot requirement of 50 feet, a maximum height limitation of 35 feet, a maximum building coverage limitation of 40 percent and a maximum impervious cover limitation of 50 percent.

Greg Guernsey, principal planner in the Development Review and Inspection Department, said city staff initially recommended the changes be made citywide but the Planning Commission instead recommended the changes be made available for neighborhood planning.

Developer Bill Howell was the only person to address the council on the matter. He said limiting impervious cover and building coverage as specified in the code would make building small-lot subdivisions not feasible economically. At Howell's urging, the council voted 7-0 not only to approve the three changes recommended by the Planning Commission but also to allow up to 65 percent impervious cover and 55 percent building coverage.

Chamber launches light-rail study…On Friday the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce announced it will conduct a comprehensive study of light rail that will result in a decision to support or oppose the November 7 ballot proposition on light rail. A blue-ribbon task force will be headed by Dewey Biscotto, vice president of external affairs for Southwestern Bell, and Ben Bentzin, director of public on-line marketing for Dell Computer Corp. and chair of ARTS Center Stage. Other members are attorney Henry Gilmore, Rick Grundman of Southern Union Gas, Chamber President and CEO Mark Hazelwood, Christine Heagerty of e-realty.com, Charles Heimsath of Capital Market Research, David McDonald of the Athens Group, and consultant Hermalinda Zamarripa. Transportation consultant for the effort will be Chandra Bhat of UT's Center for Transportation Research. Ginger Daniels of the Texas Transportation Institute of Texas A&M will be a special advisor. Thais Austin, the Chamber's vice president for infrastructure and public policy, will staff the effort. For more info call Saralee Tiede at 322-5649… Big day for bridge building…Construction begins today on the Lamar Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge to span Town Lake 150-250 feet east of the existing Lamar Bridge. The project is expected to take a year to complete but the hike-and-bike trail will remain open except during short periods when materials are being delivered. The work will be done by Jay-Reese Contractors Inc. under a $6.6 million contract. In addition, Friends of Crosstown Greenway and Austin Metro Trails and Greenways will be watching today from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. or until the 150-foot prefabricated bridge is lowered into place to camouflage the six-foot-diameter water pipeline suspended over Shoal Creek at 3rd Street. The pipeline connects the Ullrich Water Treatment Plant in West Lake Hills to downtown Austin. The bridge represents the first link the Crosstown Greenway that someday will allow safe bicycle transportation from Deep Eddy Pool, west of MoPac Expressway, all the way to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. For more info, call Eric Anderson at 476-7304 or e-mail bikeeric@earthlink.net.

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