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Condition of property stalls vote by zoning panel

Thursday, August 7, 2008 by Austin Monitor

Chair Betty Baker could find little recommend in the rezoning of a half-acre of property on Swansons Ranch Road from SF-2 to CS after neighborhood complaints at Tuesday night’s Zoning and Platting Commission meeting.

The problem with the property, owned by T.J. Greaney, was as much the current state and condition of the buildings as it was the zoning of the buildings. Baker saw little appeal in the temporary buildings on the site, or the location of an unoccupied mobile home on the property.

Specifically the property was occupied by a building that was once a problematic landscape business with parking problems that is now an electrical contractor. A second structure on the property was used as an embroidery business, and agent Jim Bennett admitted a pest business had occupied the property but was no more.

Bennett noted that it was surrounded by commercial uses, including car storage and various local trades such as a flooring business. Most sounded somewhat tamer – and much more limited in traffic and scale — after the testimony of the owners. Neighbors who opposed the rezoning of the Greaney property called it an island of an industrial park in the middle of the street.

From the way Bennett described it, though, it sounded like one property with commercial uses in a neighborhood of commercial uses. He noted that the owner also had addressed concerns: modifying the height of a security fence; being flexible on the daily trip limits; agreeing to “no parking” signs on Swansons Ranch.

This was a business that was in the middle of a street with businesses that included woodworking, automotive repair, apartment buildings and various other commercial uses. About half the properties on the street were zoned or used for some type of commercial endeavor, Bennett noted.

In fact, the local neighborhood association on Slaughter Lane noted its own support of the new zoning, saying it always was anticipated that Swansons Run was intended to be a commercially zoned street.

But Baker zeroed in on the quality of the onsite buildings on the property. Greaney did concede the buildings on the property were far from upscale and that there had been a residential use on the site.

“There were big parties, big fights at the mobile home,” said Greaney, noting that the home was vacant and he had done significant renovation work. “A lot of stuff happened there…. If that is something that would be an issue, we can address it. That mobile home – since nobody has been living there— has been significantly redone, from the floors to the roofing. We have it skirted and well maintained. It doesn’t look like a temporary building.”

Greaney went on to say that his ownership had led to improvements on the property that had turned it from a “not-so-desirable looking property” to a “very low-end commercial endeavor” that was better looking.

“It’s a whole lot less use and a whole lot less impact on the neighborhood, and most of the effects from traffic and stuff are not even affecting the residential part of the neighborhood,” said Greaney, noting the lot’s proximity to the corner.

Still, Baker noted the pictures of the property presented by the neighbor did nothing to add to the argument for rezoning. Combined with the testimony of neighbors, it was enough to have Baker postpone the case once she realized that no one on the Zoning and Platting Commission had seen the site.

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