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Northeast neighborhoods

Monday, April 16, 2001 by

Want to banish alcohol

Parcel presents hard choices for Planning Commission

A coalition of North Austin neighborhoods wants to stop more alcohol sales in their neighborhood and the Planning Commission wants to help them. But just how far the city’s zoning commission can and should go is still a matter for discussion.

The North Austin neighborhoods— Coronado Hills, Old Town Homeowners, Save Our Neighborhood and NorthEast Action Group—have asked the city to roll back zoning from LR to GO on a piece of land at Cameron Road and McKie Drive. Former Council Member Gus Garcia also wrote a letter to the board supporting the neighborhood for its diligent effort to curtail alcohol sales. Alcohol, Garcia wrote, is tearing apart the fabric of the community.

The area has already received a federal grant from the Weed and Seed Program to cut down on crime in the area. Terrell Hunter, vice president of the Coronado Hills Neighborhood Association, told the Planning Commission his community is not opposed to new businesses.

“What we are opposed to is the poison that appears to have caused the crime in our area,” Hunter told the commissioners, offering letters of support from Police Chief Stan Knee and District Attorney Ronnie Earle. Hunter brought statistics on crime and accidents that he tied directly to the sale and consumption of alcohol at other businesses in the area.

City staff, however, did not recommend the rollback on zoning. Annick Beaudet of Development Review and Inspection told commissioners that the current LR zoning is “fair and reasonable, and compatible with the nearby uses and zoning.” The owner of the property, M&G Investment, did not respond to notices of the zoning hearing and did not appear to argue its case. Neighbors, however, are opposed to some of the uses allowed under the LR zoning.

Joan Gibbs, president of Coronado Hills Neighborhood Association, argued that the neighborhood is home to a project that serves 24 young men being rehabilitated through the Texas Youth Commission and the last thing those youngsters need to see is more loitering and alcohol in the area. Instead, she told the commissioners, the area needs more positive role models.

Downzoning would stop plans for a Shell service station that would sell beer and wine under the land development code for food sales. The city opposes the rollback, in part because a site plan has already been approved. The site plan does not expire until 2003. The building permit, however, expired last November. Back in October 2000, the neighborhood asked the Planning Commission to initiate a zoning rollback. At that time, city staff members told the commission no site plans had been approved for the property.

Chair Betty Baker acknowledged that any actions by the Planning Commission would be irrelevant if the owner chose to get a building permit before the City Council approved the rollback on all three readings. “I’m just not sure we’re going to accomplish anything,” she told her colleagues. The commission, however, grappled with just how far they could go in siding with the neighborhood to stop liquor sales on the property.

Baker first dealt with the LR with a conditional overlay that would exclude liquor sales, but Assistant City Attorney Deborah Thomas told the commission that liquor sales is a subcategory of food sales; therefore, food sales too would have to be excluded from the zoning..

The motion appeared to have the support to pass until Commissioner Jim Robertson made the point that he was uncomfortable with a motion by the commission that appeared to usurp power that should belong to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. He also pointed out that the zoning was, as city staff had determined, consistent with area land uses.

That appeared to sway Baker and the vote to roll back the zoning failed. Heimsath and Commissioner Silver Garza voted for the rollback. Commissioners Baker, Jean Mather, Ray Vrudhula and Robertson opposed it. Commissioners Sterling Lands, Robin Cravey and Lydia Ortiz were absent from the meeting, leading Baker to call for the item to be put back on this week’s agenda for a full hearing. Baker told the commissioners it was her hope that some compromise could be reached between the landowner and the neighbors.

City Hall schematic design

Presentation scheduled for May

Local AIA to host reception for design team

City Manager Jesus Garza has notified the City Council that the schematic design presentation for Austin’s new City Hall will be on May 3, instead of this Thursday as previously planned. In a memo to the Mayor and Council Members, Garza writes that the new date will allow architects to analyze community input and respond, “as well as (provide) a presentation of the cost estimate of the project. The presentation will then air (periodically) on Channel 6 until May 17th when the item is scheduled for Council action.” Garza also notes that there will be a public reception at the Convention Center from 6 to 8 p.m. on May 3.

Garza’s memo also says that the City Hall Design Review Center at 101 W. 5th St. will remain open through the end of May, and that the city’s web site will be updated with pictures of the schematic design as well as responses to previous community suggestions about the design. The American Institute of Architects’ Austin chapter plans to host an open house to allow local architects to see the updated design and talk with the design team on May 4. Local architects have generally been supportive of lead architect Antoine Predock’s plans. Architects hope to avoid the embarrassment they felt over the University of Texas regents’ rejection of a design for a new art museum by another world-renowned architect.

Also on May 4, Tom Spencer of KLRU’s Austin at Issue will interview Predock for a later broadcast.

The design team toured the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport Terminal with the city’s ad hoc Nature and Character of Austin Committee on April 4. The team includes former Council Members Bob Binder and Gus Garcia, Bruce Willenzik of the Downtown Commission, and Janet Siebert, the airport’s expert on Austin’s nature and character and a member of the Design Commission.

©2001 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Austin poet Susan Bright will be signing her new collection,“Breathing Under Water” at Barnes & Noble Booksellers, 10,000 Research Blvd. #158, tonight at 7:00pm. The author is a Barton Springs swimmer and the new collection features the springs . . . I didn’t know they could sing . . . Local political lights will actually stand up and sing Tuesday from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Club De Ville, 900 Red River, to help raise funds for Frontera Fest. Hyde Park Theatre sponsors Frontera Fest, the venue for 800 local and national artists each year. Featured karaoke entertainers will include Council Member Daryl Slusher, former Council Member Brigid Shea, Bill Bunch of the Save Our Springs Alliance, and Robert Faires, arts editor for the Austin Chronicle, who is hosting the event. The karaoke begins at 7:00 PM, and will feature a different Austin celebrity every 15 minutes. Tickets are $20. Light snacks will be available with general admission . . . Today is tax day . . . You probably knew that. Richard Troxell, president of House the Homeless, has set up a web site at to collect signatures for a wage that will get people into housing. The initial goal is to get local governments to pay their employees enough to afford housing—on 30 percent or less of their income. The wage will vary with the location. For more information, visit the site.

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