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ZAP finds solution for Shenanigans Club

Thursday, November 9, 2006 by

It took a number of postponements – and a brief mid-meeting recess – but the Zoning and Platting Commission did finally land on a solution for zoning the Shenanigans nightclub, part of a larger retail strip center that was recently annexed into the city.

The city annexed an area that included the Pond Springs Plaza into the city a year ago. Tenants included Shenanigans nightclub, along with a mix of other retail businesses such as Jardin Corona Mexican Restaurant, Q Fashions, Super Nails and a delivery service. Earlier this year, the owner London Management Trust, petitioned the city to make the current zoning permanent, including the zoning for Shenanigans. Shenanigans also included a back deck, which was considered a non-conforming use.

The Pond Springs case was the only contested case on the Zoning and Platting Commission’s agenda on election night. Vincent Gerard, who represented the club, said the owners had made significant efforts to address the issue from the adjacent apartment complex, posting signs on the back deck and in the club to try to mitigate noise issues and restricting motorcycles from parking in certain areas around the club.

That drew a flurry of protest from the apartment complex next door, which has found the late-night noise and motorcycle traffic to be a nuisance. Those protests delayed a final vote on the zoning of the property on Pond Springs Road, and in the intervening months the owner has made efforts to both limit traffic and control noise, especially around the back deck of the nightclub where smoking is allowed.

Additional mitigation measures also were suggested by city staff and the apartment complex owner, such as limiting rear spaces closest to the apartment complex to employee parking, additional signs prohibiting motorcycles in the alley, removing a pool table from the back deck and constructing an 8-foot fence to mitigate sound issues.

Residents at the apartment complex, and the on-site complex manager who attended the hearing, said the initial efforts had made a difference at the club, although some blamed it on the fear of a bad zoning decision when it came to the Shenanigans space.

“I think since our last meeting, they have toned it down a lot,” complex manager Lee Boyer said. “They’ve cut down on their antics on the back deck, and they’ve made an attempt at the motorcycle issue. Whether the sign is scotch taped or welded on the back deck, though, I can guarantee you that if you have people out there on the deck that are drinking, they’re not paying attention to, ‘Please keep the noise level down.’ ”

The final solution came forth in fits and starts and even included, at one point, a proposal to circle the entire property with a fence. The final solution, which was opposed by Vice Chair Joseph Martinez, was to divide the parcel into three portions. The overall zoning of the full property would be GR-CO. A second tract, which would include the Shenanigans bar itself, would be zoned CS-1, for commercial liquor sales. And a third tract, which would separate out the back deck to the bar, would be GR-CO. That zoning would stop drinking on the back end of the club, without stopping those who wanted to smoke.

Martinez did not consider the distance between the club and apartments to be sufficient to allow congregating on the back deck in the late hours of the evening. The motion also made sure that no amplified sound would be allowed on the back deck, and that the noise on the back deck would be no louder than 85 decibels.

The City Council must now rule on the matter. If London Management Trust fails to get the zoning change to allow commercial liquor sales – and Shenanigans moves from the property – the owner would have had only 90 days to fill the space or lose the right to have a bar in the shopping center.

Continuing the process of developing a Zero Waste program for the city, the Solid Waste Advisory Commission Wednesday approved a draft of a Request For Information (RFI) for ideas from potential consulting firms. Commission members hope to take the information received from various firms and develop a Request For Proposals.

The SWAC is developing the criteria for the Zero Waste program after the results of an initial RFP developed by Solid Waste Services staff was put on hold by the City Council. Council members put the brakes on the project after it received a resolution from SWAC complaining that it was given little or no opportunity to have input on the criteria for the firm chosen. (See In Fact Daily, Oct. 13, 2006)

That process resulted in the engineering firm of R.W. Beck being chosen from only two firms. SWAC members objected to the fact that one of the main criteria used in the search was that only engineering firms would be considered.

At Wednesday’s meeting. SWAC members reviewed a draft called for anyone to submit their ideas on how a Zero Waste Program should be structured in Austin. The RFI includes a request for ideas on how best to reduce the waste stream, increase recycling, and outline both educational and economic development components.

“It’s important that we realize Zero Waste’s potential for job creation,” said Chair Gerard Acuña. “It’s a good idea to look into how such a program could create jobs.”

One of the goals of the RFI will be to examine just what Zero Waste would mean in Austin. It might mean a targeted reduction in the waste stream, such as 85 or 90 percent. It might also reference a specific Zero Waste program from another city or a combination of more than one plan.

Once the information from the RFI is available, it will be reviewed by both the SWAC and its Long-Range Solid Waste Planning Task Force. The two groups will make specific recommendations for the scope of work to be described on the RFP.

The SWAC would also be able to have input on the criteria on the decision matrix the city Purchasing Department will use to choose the consultant. The SWAC approved the RFI on a 6-0 vote.

©2006 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Travis voters beat state average . . . Travis County voters turned out Tuesday in numbers higher that than the statewide average. "Travis County voters again showed their zeal for democracy by surpassing the average statewide voter turnout," said County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir. DeBeauvoir's office reported that more than 41 percent (231,336) of registered Travis County voters participated in the November 7 election, compared to 33 percent statewide. DeBeauvoir paid special tribute to the more than 1,500 election workers. "Democracy is strengthened by the active participation of our citizens," DeBeauvoir said. "Voters and workers alike all contributed to a great election day." By mid-afternoon Wednesday, final unofficial results from Travis County were pending, awaiting Williamson County totals for precincts within the City of Austin. Final official results will be reported in the Final Canvass issued by each entity conducting its election.. . . . DAA adds to Downtown Rail story . . . Charlie Betts of the Downtown Austin Alliance said In Fact Daily should have reported a response from consultant Charles Heimsath when asked who would benefit from downtown rail, and further, Would the city be subsidizing "a rich person's transportation system?" Betts said he would give us Heimsath's response and elaborate on it. "Of course not. The transit connector circulator streetcar system would be for the use of 90,000 workers in downtown area and for the 50,000 students at UT. That would allow them to move to downtown and (to future campus buildings at) Mueller." The system would also be used by 7 million annual visitors to the city and "the untold thousands of other Austinites who frequent downtown, the Capitol complex and UT, however they get here. Once they get here the system will allow them to move around those three communities and Mueller without causing congestion and foul air." . . . Oops! . . . It was late. We were tired. That's our excuse for forgetting the strange rules of November elections in Texas. Although Congressional elections are subject to federal law, State House races are a matter of state law. So, it was a mistake to say the newly-elected Democratic House member Valinda Bolton would have been in a runoff with her Republican opponent, Bill Welch, for the District 47 seat if she had not reached 50 percent-which she did. Like the Governor, House members are only required to garner the most votes cast on the November ballot, even if that number is far fewer than a majority . . . Council retreat . . . The planned facilitated retreat will go ahead as scheduled starting Thursday and continuing, apparently, on Friday-but maybe not. Council Members Lee Leffingwell, Sheryl Cole and Mike Martinez have all expressed reservations about the location, The Crossings, 13500 FM 2769, 22 miles from City Hall. Martinez has said he would not return on Friday because of parenting duties. Leffingwell said, "I don't think there's a great deal of enthusiasm about having a retreat at all, but we do want to talk about issues," facing the city. "I said I'd either stay late on Thursday or come on Friday," but not both. Rich Bailey, chief of staff to Mayor Will Wynn, says any organization with a $2 billion budget and 10,000 employees needs a retreat to set priorities and work on long-term issues. He said the Council has not had a retreat in six years . . . Intel raffle . . . The Austin Parks Foundation held a raffle during Wednesday night's Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association block party to determine who will get the "first whack" at the Intel building. Michael McGill is the lucky winner. "I'm glad to see it's soon to be under destruction," he said. A new federal courthouse will eventually be built on the current site of the unfinished Intel building. The General Service Administration has not yet decided what method will be used to bring down the building, but McGill will be allowed to play a role in the demolition . . . Veteran's Day . . . City Hall offices will be closed on Friday for Veterans' Day. In Fact Daily will offer an abbreviated issue.

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