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Some zoning cases never go away—they just circulate through the system. The Champion sisters, who have battled with both the city and the State of Texas over various issues related to their valuable northwest Austin property, have won the support of the Zoning and Platting Commission for a change in development conditions on some of their land. The property at FM 2222 and City Park Road was originally zoned by the City Council in 2000, with a limit on the amount of traffic generated by the site. (See In Fact Daily, March 14, 2000 .)

Monday, January 27, 2003 by

The change endorsed by the ZAP would alter the conditional overlay for part of the tract zoned LR-CO, allowing an increase in the number of trips per day. It would also change another part of the tract currently classified as DR (Development Reserve) to LR-CO. City staff had opposed the change to the conditional overlay, requesting a traffic impact analysis (TIA) amendment. “At this time, since the applicant does not wish to do the amendment to the old TIA, we cannot recommend the proposed zoning change,” said Glenn Rhoades of the Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Department.

But attorney David Hartman argued that the change in the traffic impact resulting from the zoning change would not trigger the need for a new analysis. “It’s real clear to us, looking at the code, that only if you’re going to exceed 2,000 trips per day need you file a TIA,” Hartman said. “So I think this whole question is pretty much answered when you look at the code. The bottom line is, we don’t think a TIA is appropriate or required. It’s time to recognize we’re at a major commercial intersection of two major state-maintained roads, and whatever trips are coming off this site are pretty much negligible.”

Commissioner Keith Jackson then proposed an alternative zoning for the tract, after which a representative of the 2222 Coalition of Neighborhood Associations reminded commissioners of her group’s opposition to new traffic in the area. However, Chair Betty Baker defended the Champions’ desire to develop the land. “This property has been in the ownership of one family for more than a hundred years,” Baker said. “This property did not increase the traffic dilemma and congestion at FM 2222 and 360 . . . probably 60 to 70 percent of the property remains undeveloped today. The traffic and the situation at the intersection was not caused by these property owners or these tracts of land.” Baker temporarily relinquished the chair of the committee to move approval for the zoning change. That motion passed by a vote of 6-2. Opposed were Commissioners John-Michael Vincent Cortez and Clarke Hammond. Baker made the motion and Commissioner Melissa Whaley provided the second. Commissioner John Philip Donisi was absent.

While the tract in question is currently vacant, other parts of the sisters’ land in the area are moving through the development process. City staff members are reviewing a subdivision request for one tract to allow for 40,000 square feet of retail space. There is also a proposal for an office complex on one tract, while another tract has an approved site plan for a 459-unit apartment complex.

Jim Cousar, who represented the Jester Neighborhood during the initial zoning case, told In Fact Daily that eliminating the trip limitation makes no sense since growth in the area—which has overburdened the roadways—has diminished very little since the zoning was granted. He said the coalition of neighborhoods had agreed to a higher number of trips per day than they wanted in attempting to reach an agreement with the Champions. The property owners, however, never agreed to the limit.

Hyde Park A&P not historic, Baptist Church argues

Last week, the Planning Commission joined with the Historic Landmark Commission to recommend historic zoning for the former A & P Grocery store at 3810 Speedway by a vote of 6-0, siding with city staff and the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association over the objections of the owner of the property, the Hyde Park Baptist Church.

“We just disagree with the staff’s rationale for what deserves historic zoning in our city,” attorney Richard Suttle told commissioners on behalf of the church. “We can disagree without being disagreeable . . . it doesn’t qualify in our opinion. It is essentially like zoning a Randalls, HEB or a Wal-Mart some time in the future because a branch of a national chain was placed in a neighborhood. I can’t imagine anybody honoring that. Hyde Park Baptist Church definitely objects to the zoning.”

But Steve Sadowsky, deputy historic preservation officer for the city, explained that staff felt the building met six of the thirteen criteria for being declared historic. “The significance of the building lies in its identification as a neighborhood grocery store, and more importantly, as a branch of a large chain store,” he said. “This store and this building truly represent a unique chapter in the development of not only Hyde Park, but the development of the city, as national stores started moving into Austin.” The store remained in the building until 1940. After that date it was home to the Red Cross, the firm of Lacoste and Romberg ( www.lacosteromberg.com/meterhistory.htm ) and several other tenants.

Suttle told commissioners he suspected that neighborhood members had additional motives beyond zoning the building historic. The historic zoning case was brought forward to the Historic Landmark Commission after the church filed for a demolition permit for the building with the intent of replacing it with a new building that would contain some additional parking. “My opinion is some of the neighborhood think they could maybe stop the site plans on this. This piece of property was in the growth corridor agreed to by the church in 1990,” Suttle said. “They gave up their five or six demolition permits in the true interior of the neighborhood on Avenue F. It makes no sense to me that the church would give up demolition permits that it had in its hand only to find out that they couldn’t grow in this area where we all agreed they could grow.”

Members of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association, arriving at the meeting just before commissioners were set to vote on the item, offered a different recollection of those negotiations. “In the agreement between the church and the neighborhood, there was not much mention of this building,” said Karen McGraw. “There was the idea that the church could grow in this direction, but there was also a very strong concept agreed to that the church would build compatibility with the neighborhood. This building is a very useful building and is worthy of being kept. We would certainly be willing to see this function as a commercial use again.”

It was that potential for commercial use, along with the building’s historic significance, that drew support from Chair Chris Riley. “In this case, I think the neighborhood has objected strongly and persuasively about the reasons why it values this particular historic asset,” he said. “The significance of this project to me is . . . it actually is a shining example of a commercial establishment that can exist compatibly within an otherwise residential area and be viewed as a neighborhood asset. To me, that speaks to several criteria for historic zoning.” The commission voted 6-0 to support the zoning change from MF-4-NCCD to MF-4-H-NCCD. Commissioners Rhonda Pratt and Dave Sullivan were absent from the meeting, and Commissioner Niyanta Spelman recused herself from the discussion and vote on the item since she lives in the neighborhood.

The Lower Colorado River Authority is close to signing an agreement with a developer to put a 120-slip marina on Lake Buchanan.

There are far fewer ramps and slips on Lake Buchanan than on Lake Travis, largely due to its relative shallowness. Sailboats and fisherman have always made up the bulk of the traffic on the lake. Jeff Singleton, manager of recreation partnership initiatives at the LCRA, says only two boat ramps are located on the Burnet County side of Lake Buchanan. Another two are located on the Llano side.

“This is a very popular fishing lake,” Singleton said. “It’s not a recreational boating lake by any means because of the depth. Also, access is not good. You have very few places where you can get onto the lake, and that’s one reason why we’re doing this.”

Signing development agreements with private developers for LCRA land is not uncommon. Granite Beach, on Lake LBJ, opened three years ago. With a small marina, a swimming beach and some water park rides, Granite Beach “filled a niche,” Singleton said.

Singleton is hoping for similar results on Lake Buchanan. Lake Buchanan Investments (LBI)—Midland oil executives Steve Sell, John Pool and Skipper Hamilton—intends to put a 117-slip marina, RV sites and a small store to sell gasoline and bait on the 63-acre property. The total investment is estimated at $2.5 million.

The land is located just east of Buchanan Dam in Burnet County. The site is divided between an 8-acre park owned by Burnet County and 55 acres owned by the LCRA. About 30 acres of the land is submerged, allowing the marina to move the dock in and out of the lake. Singleton said the deal is attractive to Burnet County because local residents have used the small pocket park for illegal dumping and criminal activity.

The development deal guarantees that someone other than county employees will be monitoring the land. Burnet County commissioners already have signed off on the development deal. An independent agreement will be signed between county officials and LBI.

LBI was the only company that responded with a plan after the LCRA put out a Request for Proposal on the Lake Buchanan land last November. The target date for completion will be the summer of 2004.

© 2003 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Montgomery takes the prizes . . . Austin-based political consulting firm Montgomery and Associates was pleased to receive three national Pollie Awards for TV spots produced during last year’s campaigns. Montgomery won two awards for ads made for Barbara Canales-Black, who lost her bid to be the Democratic nominee for State Senate District 20. The third winner was for Cameron County Judge Gilbert Hinojosa . . . Fund-raising season . . . Council Member Raul Alvarez has put out his first campaign letter, emphasizing protection of the environment—especially in East Austin and over the Barton Springs recharge zone—and asking for the maximum amount of support from each contributor ($100). His first fundraiser is scheduled for Feb. 3 at Nuevo Leon . . . HLC meeting tonight . . . The Historic Landmark Commission will hear about progress on the Dickinson-Hannig House, which was saved from demolition when it surfaced during the construction of the new Austin Hilton at the Convention Center. The Commission is also scheduled to discuss and take action on the Downtown Design Guidelines . . . Urban Renewal Board to meet . . . The city’s Urban Renewal Agency board will hear a report on the East 11th and 12th Street corridor and consider amending the plan for one of those blocks being developed by the Austin Revitalization Authority . . . Insurance watch . . . Texas Watch has some doubts about how much the new Legislature will be able to change the current insurance system. Accordingly, the consumer group Texas Watch has launched a new web site to help Texans get in touch with their legislators. The site is http://www.fixtexasinsurance.org . According to the site, “Texas Watch has helped provide a platform for Texas consumers on insurance, nursing home resident protection, patient protection and consumer law issues in legislative and regulatory activities” . . . Transportation Improvement plan hearings . . . The CAMPO staff will hold a final public hearing on the Transportation Improvement Program plan for 2004-2008 Thursday night at the Round Rock Library, 216 Main Street. The CAMPO Policy Advisory Committee will hold its hearing on Feb. 10. The PAC has no meeting scheduled for this month .

© 2003 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

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