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Zoning to allow for cocktail lounge

Monday, July 8, 2002 by

Enough bars on gateway from ABIA to city, says Baker

The Zoning and Platting Commission recommended against a requested zoning change for property on Highway 71 East in a brief meeting last week. It was the only contested case of the evening. All other items were either approved on consent or postponed.

The owner of the property at 2463 Highway 71 E. near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport sought permission to convert it into a cocktail lounge, which would require a change to CS-1. It had previously housed a pawnshop. Staff had recommended a zoning of CS-1-CO for part of the property to allow for the bar, with a zoning of GR-CO on the remaining portion. “From a zoning standpoint, it appears to meet ‘Planning 101.’ There are similar uses in the area,” said Jim Bennett, who represented property owner Kris Hawkins. “It does seem to be compatible with the adjacent uses.”

But those adjacent uses concerned Commission Chair Betty Baker, who was worried about the proliferation of bars along the road that serves as a conduit between the city and ABIA. “I think you should have a more desirable group of uses as you come into the capital of the State of Texas,” Baker said. There are already two existing bars in the immediate vicinity. Other commissioners were also opposed to allowing another establishment to sell alcohol.

Bennett tried, unsuccessfully, to convince Baker that the cocktail lounge would not be a detriment to the area. “The area is in transition right now . . . the uses that are there now were developed when this was still known as Del Valle,” Bennett said, pointing out that stricter controls would be applied now that the area is inside the city limits of Austin. “A lot of those uses seem to warrant some future development that might be more aesthetically pleasing for the entrance to the airport.”

The owner of the business next door, Wingfoot Express, said customers of the existing bars frequently used his parking lot without permission. “There’s a bar two doors down right now,” said William Kuntz. “We already have problems with bar patrons using our parking, which we need at all hours of the day and night, because we deliver parcels and luggage out of the airport,” he said. “I don’t like towing anyone, but when they’re prohibiting access to our building there’s nothing else I can do. They come out of the bar, furious about it, and I have to deal with people that have had a few too many . . . it makes for a difficult way to operate a business.”

Commissioner Jean Mather suggested a GR zoning for the property, but Commissioner Michael Casias instead proposed a zoning of CS. That would still allow many of the commercial uses, including a restaurant with some alcohol sales, which are allowed under CS-1. However, a bar or cocktail lounge would be prohibited. The commission voted to recommend CS zoning for part of the tract and GR zoning for the remainder and to apply a conditional overlay limiting the number of trips per day. The vote was 5-1, with Commissioner Diana Castañeda opposed. Commissioners Vincent Aldridge, Angular Adams and Keith Jackson were absent.

SBCA to reconsider suit Against Stratus, City tonight

Stratus is rare case that divides board

The Save Barton Creek Association (SBCA) will meet once again tonight to reconsider whether to join the Save Our Springs Alliance (SOSA) in a lawsuit against Stratus Properties and the City of Austin. The group adopted new rules last week, according to Shudde Fath, the group’s treasurer, in response to the unusual 6-2 split vote on June 25 which would have added Save Barton Creek as a plaintiff in the suit. The following day, SBCA President Jon Beall initiated a telephone poll of directors who were at the meeting but had departed before the vote. The participating directors then voted 7-6 to withdraw from the suit, in effect nullifying the vote to join the suit. (See In Fact Daily, June 26, 2002.)

SOSA and the tiny Circle C Neighborhood Association filed suit on June 24 asking a state court to declare that the SOS water quality ordinance overrides claims under the state’s land development grandfather laws, known as HB 1704 and Chapter 245. In addition, SOSA’s suit claims that Ch. 245 is unconstitutional and that Circle C property owners have property rights under a 1984 Municipal Utility District agreement that would be violated by the Stratus proposal.

Fath said she suggested new rules at last week’s meeting that would prevent surprise votes on controversial matters. “My motion was anytime there’s a split vote if someone on the losing side so requests, the action will not be effective and the action will be postponed until next meeting.” Advance notice of the vote would be given for the following meeting time to all directors, under those rules, Fath said. “That’s only if there’s no notice.”

Fath noted that the group had not needed a complex set of rules in the past. “We’ve had unanimous votes for the last several years,” on all major issues, she said.

Beall said tonight’s meeting would include a briefing from the city’s outside counsel, Casey Dobson, and from a representative of the city’s Watershed Protection Department. “We’ve heard from the opposition (to the Stratus proposal) and now we get to hear from the other side. It should be very interesting. It’s a very contentious situation,” he concluded.

Although the Save Barton Creek Association is older and less confrontational than the SOS Alliance, the group has joined with SOSA in a number of lawsuits. SBCA is important to SOSA, in part, because Save Barton Creek has more resources to fund litigation.

The City Council is scheduled to take a first vote on the proposal this Thursday. At the June 27 Council hearing, between 400 and 700 members of the public signed up to speak on two separate items. However, fewer than 100 of them had reached the microphone before Council members agreed to call a halt around 3am. A good many of them are expected to return this week; and Bill Bunch, executive director of the SOS Alliance, is sure to spend the next few days revving up public reaction to the plan. (See In Fact Daily, June 28, 2002.)

In Fact Daily was on vacation last week. For news from June 24-June 28, click here. Click

Frasier moving up on national level . . . Austin Sheriff Margo Frasier has been elected to the Board of Directors of the National Sheriff's Association, She will serve a two-year term, after election by the group’s general membership. She is the first woman to hold this position. According to the Sheriff’s Office, Frasier will also serve on committees dealing with domestic violence, legal affairs, traffic and Congressional affairs . . . Also talking about Stratus . . . The board of directors of the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District will discuss the Stratus proposal at this Thursday’s meeting and decide whether to take an official position on the matter. They are also scheduled to discuss and possibly take action on an amendment to the Goforth Water Supply Company’s pumping permit. Board President Jim Camp said Goforth has requested an increase of 29 million gallons per year. The company currently pumps 290 million gallons/year. Camp said he will be at a family reunion this week and has asked Vice president Bill Welch to chair the meeting. Welch has moved outside the aquifer district, but the board is planning to set an election date so that voters in the area of Onion Creek—where Welch now resides—can decide whether they should be annexed into the district. Camp said he expects the board to set that election for either September or November. No one has challenged Welch’s continued service on the board prior to that election . . . Lamar at Sixth Street variance up for consideration tonight . . . The Board of Adjustment last month postponed consideration of a request for a variance that would allow developer David Vitanza to build a 7-story tower at the busy intersection. The delay was granted after it became clear that there were not enough votes in favor of the variance to assure its passage. The board also is scheduled to consider the appeal of a controversial administrative decision to allow the El Taquito taco stand to become a restaurant. (See In Fact Daily, June 5, 2002 .)

© 2002 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

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