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Health District to bypass zoning process for Braker Lane clinic
Monday, November 10, 2008 by Austin Monitor
The Travis County Healthcare District is proceeding with plans for a new clinic on Braker Lane, but will not go through the city’s normal zoning process on the tract. The district had faced vocal opposition from some neighbors over the proposed zoning change from NO and LR on the site to GO.
The case had been set for last Tuesday’s Zoning and Platting Commission meeting. Staff recommendation for the case was going to be for LO zoning, which the applicant supported. However, Austin City Council Member Mike Martinez revealed during Thursday’s Council Meeting that the district had instead chosen to pursue an interlocal agreement with the city regarding the use of the site.
Although similar arrangements are made with other government agencies, including AISD, Martinez said he was dissatisfied with the district’s decision to withdraw from the traditional zoning process. “While I completely understand that that is legal and viable, I think that it circumvents the public input process as it relates to zoning,” he said. “I don’t want to see us going down this road of entering into interlocal agreements with other taxing authorities just because we can…and circumventing our zoning process.”
The district’s decision also sparked protest from some neighbors of the proposed clinic site, who voiced their displeasure during the Citizens’ Communication portion of the meeting. “I have come forward to denounce the arbitrary site selection and the arrogance of the Health Care District and a clearly broken process,” said Françoise Luca. “I urge you to call each member of the Health Care District’s Board of Managers and ask them to put this project on hold.”
Other neighbors joined the call for the City Council, which appoints four members of the Healthcare District’s board, to exercise more influence over the district. “They think they’ve pulled a fast one on the taxpayers and the citizens of North Austin,” Linda Messier said, “but they put themselves in your hands and we’re grateful for that because we trust your leadership. We trust your judgment and we look for you to do the right thing for the citizens. We expect responsible development.”
The planned clinic has already received approval from Travis County Commissioners. They approved funding for the project in September as part of a vote on the district’s budget for FY 2008-09. Healthcare District officials plan to build an $18 million, 50,000 square foot facility to replace the existing Northeast Clinic and serve more than 22,000 patients per year. They have defended the proposed site, saying it is well positioned to serve the clients of the current Northeast Clinic.
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