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ZAP rejects medical office zoning for Jollyville Road home

Tuesday, September 30, 2008 by Austin Monitor

The Zoning and Platting Commission at its last meeting rejected a requested zoning change for a home at 11777 Jollyville Road. The chiropractor who purchased the property earlier this year wants to convert the property into an office for his practice, but would need a change from the single-family zoning on the property to LO to do so.


Dr. Garrett Bary told the commission he had sought out property along Jollyville Road to serve his patients. “Most of my patients live closer to this area. I have an open family practice. I run a quiet, clean office,” he said. “It’s open Monday through Thursday, so after six o’clock, there’s not a sound…so I’m kind of the best neighbor you could have, residentially. If you were to keep it residential, you’d get renters and things like that in there. They would be noisy and tear it up”


His agent, Ron Thrower, said that particular portion of Jollyville Road. was primarily occupied by doctors, lawyers, and other light office uses, along with some retail and even light industrial. He pointed to the Jollyville Area Study, which called for office space along Jollyville up to 120 feet back from the road. “This is adopted policy of the City of Austin,” he said. “The intent is to convert the house to office use for a chiropractor and acupuncture operation…and provide a visual buffer and physical buffer. The whole idea is to get this operation to the Jollyville frontage. All the customers will be parking along the Jollyville Road parking area.”


But some neighbors of the site argued that it was actually not on Jollyville Road. The original address for the property had been on Highland Oaks Trail, but the city changed the address after a curb cut was granted that allowed access to the site from Jollyville Road. “It originally was addressed as 11801 Highland Oaks Trail,” said neighborhood representative Bob Cronkite. “We in the neighborhood stand in almost unanimous opposition to the zoning request. It faces a residential street. It’s in a residential neighborhood. Essentially, all the neighboring properties are single-family residences.”


Although the address had been changed, Cronkite argued, the property should still be considered part of the neighborhood, not part of the offices along Jollyville Road. “The change in this zoning would be inconsistent with the environment and would disrupt the continuity of the area,” he concluded. “We think that allowing a business to come in would compromise the integrity and seriously compromise the entire neighborhood.”


Members of the commission were more inclined to consider the property part of the residential neighborhood backing up to Jollyville, rather than the offices facing the busy four-lane road. “No neighborhood is stronger than its boundaries,” said Commission Chair Betty Baker. “This is a boundary.” The vote to recommend against the zoning change from SF-2 to LO passed on a vote of 8-1, with Commissioner Keith Jackson dissenting 


Baker also said she had heard a disturbing report about the way the case was handled when the curb cut onto Jollyville Road was granted. “I understand that the person requesting the permit for the curb cut on Jollyville Road…was told by someone on city staff  ‘Why don’t you go ahead and do this…It will probably help the zoning case a little bit’. I’m putting that on record because I want people who are issuing permits for curb cuts or paving parking lots not to be giving zoning and land use advice,” she said. “I mean it very, very strongly. You have prejudiced this case.  It is not fair to the commission when someone on city staff gives this type of information to circumvent us.” Baker did not identify any particular city staffer as being the source of that advice.

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