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Commission, neighbors, seek LI zoning

Thursday, August 25, 2005 by

Members of the Planning Commission found themselves in the unusual position Tuesday night of hearing from neighborhood residents supporting a zoning change on a vacant lot that would allow industrial uses near single-family residences. Although the city staff recommended against changing the Southeast Combined Neighborhood Plan to allow the zoning change from NO-MU-NP to LI-NP on the tract at 5200 Freidrich Lane, the Commission went along with the request from the property owner and the neighborhood groups to grant the change, which will allow the property owner to develop the site with a warehouse and office complex.

“The warehouses that we will be building will be targeted toward small business people, people that have the need to rent 2,000 or 3,000 square feet,” said John Biggar. “We build very attractive and well-landscaped buildings. I’ve enjoyed working with the neighborhood association. They should have a voice.”

Biggar and his agent, Jim Bennett, sought the LI zoning because there might be some activities allowed only under the industrial zoning category. “We’ve agreed to prohibit basic manufacturing. There might be some assembly going on in some of the uses, so that’s a reason for requesting the LI,” said Bennett. “This zoning that we’re requesting is not surrounding the neighborhood, it’s on the periphery of the neighborhood. A compatible and harmonious existence can be achieved by working with the folks and the people who make up this neighborhood plan.”

Under the current zoning, which includes a mixed-use component, the tract could be developed with apartments or other residential units. “We much prefer to have light traffic, day-use industrial traffic,” said Linda Ranney Hendry of the Paisano Mobile Home Park Neighborhood Association. “We as a neighborhood association do not want the possibility of more apartments and duplexes and more residential property at this time, because that would be more 24-hour traffic, noise, etc. Since the 2002 neighborhood plan, there has been another very large complex of apartment buildings built on Terry Road just a couple of blocks from our location.”

Members of the Kensington Park Neighborhood Association and the Franklin Park Neighborhood Association also wrote letters or signed petitions in support of the LI zoning. The only opposition came from Jack Howison, who lives in Kensington Park. He urged commissioners not to allow any changes to the neighborhood plan until the city extends Pleasant Valley Road from Button Bend Road north to St. Elmo Road. Completing that segment of the road, he said, would provide for an alternate route for traffic to exit the neighborhood. “The City of Austin has studied this issue for over 20 years,” he said. “It’s been funded a number of times, and during the neighborhood planning process it certainly was an issue. Many of the maps in the neighborhood plan show it connected. It was that much of a done deal at the time.”

Commissioners were sympathetic to Howison’s concerns about the lack of action on Pleasant Valley. Commissioner Dave Sullivan even requested that staff from the Public Works Department present a report on the project at a future meeting, but said he did not think the Pleasant Valley project should be linked to the zoning change on Freidrich Lane. Commissioners did have several questions about the possibility of improving Freidrich Lane, including the possibility of building new sidewalks, but those did not prevent them from voting unanimously to recommend approval of the requested zoning change and conditional overlay.

©2005 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Waiting in the wings . . . Although Council Member Raul Alvarez has not yet declared his intention to step down after two terms, his failure to begin the process of running for office a third time has some observers privately confident that he is a lame duck. Potential candidates for the Place 2 seat have apparently been waiting for the incumbent to make up his mind. Former State Senator Hector Uribe said Wednesday he is seriously considering a run. Uribe has a lot to say for a man merely thinking about a campaign. He said, although Austin is the greatest city in the state and he appreciates the job the current Council and city management have done, he wants to provide leadership in several areas. Uribe said safety encapsulates all the issues, “including safe drinking water, clean air, safe streets and homes. But what really jumps out at me is what happens on the East side.” For example, in the shooting death of Daniel Rocha, he said that blaming Rocha for resisting arrest would be too easy an answer. “Was there a failure of policy . . . I think our natural response is to take sides quickly and what I can offer to the City Council is a certain maturity.” Uribe said he was also concerned about the erosion of the Austin film industry, which is facing challenges because of incentives offered by the states of New Mexico and Louisiana . . . Others who may be considering the race include Eliza May of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and businesswoman Sylvia Acevedo. The list, of course, will likely grow as soon as Alvarez makes his intentions clear . . . Reporter OK . . . In Fact Daily reporter Mark Richardson was resting comfortably at Seton Hospital yesterday after undergoing knee replacement surgery. He will be back on his feet sometime next week . . . Today’s Council meeting . . . Council Member Brewster McCracken is bringing back an ordinance designed to prevent the city from taking private property from one owner to give it to another solely for economic development purposes . . . After last week’s approval of plans by Gables to build a mixed-use development in the Bunny Run neighborhood, it seemed the company would have clear sailing. After all, the neighborhood representative asked the Council to approve the new zoning, albeit grudgingly. However, the Council got at least one phone call yesterday from a neighbor who said he was not happy with the plan. It remains to be seen whether that person will have any influence when the Council takes up the matter again today . . . The North Austin Civic Association has hired Jim Whittliff to represent them in opposing changes to their neighborhood plan that would allow for commercial development. The current land use map calls for multi-family zoning. Jim Bennett represents the applicant . . . Sarah Crocker is expected to be back in town to assist the owner of a car washing company who faces a valid petition against his zoning change request. H2O Car Wash owner Michael Doerr hopes to build a car wash at 3327 West Slaughter Lane similar to one he has on South Lamar . . . At 2pm staff will make a budget presentation on the proposed budget for Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services Office, the Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Department, the Watershed Protection and Development Review Department, and the Public Works Department . . . The Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget and tax rate at 6pm. That hearing may draw some members of the Building Owners and Managers Association. The group's political action committee is urging members to attend the hearing to speak out against higher property tax rates. The Council voted to post the nominal tax rate of 44.30 cents as the maximum possible rate for next year, but still has the option to go with a lower rate when voting on the budget next month . . . The Council is also scheduled to consider an appeal by the owners of the Nelson and Texanna Davis House, who want to move the home from its current location on West 12th Street. The Historic Landmark Commission refused to grant a certificate of appropriateness necessary to move the landmark home . . . Chamber of Commerce Awards . . . Meals on Wheels and More, Higgin Botham and Associates Inc, David Weekley Homes, and Wells Fargo Bank won this year’s awards for Commitment to Community from the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. Winners in the Commitment to Education category include the Junior League of Austin, Cole & Powell, Washington Mutual Bank, and HEB. The Assistance League of Austin won the Freescale Non-Profit Award and Austin Habitat for Humanity was cited for its innovation. Businesses lauded for innovation include Get the Picture Inc, Raba-Kistner Consultants Inc, and Wayport Inc. Winners in the Customer Service Category include Enterprise Rent-A-Car, David Weekley Homes, ETS Global Chauffeured Services Ltd., and the Texas Guarantee Student Loan Corp. Congratulations to all.

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