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Stubb’s asks for zoning change to expand

Monday, April 20, 2009 by Kimberly Reeves

Stubb’s Bar-B-Que plans a major expansion of it’s indoor and outdoor venues, but it’s proving complicated.

As Jerry Rusthoven of Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Department noted as he laid out just one of The Stubb’s zoning cases at Planning Commission last week, the proposed expansion will require two zoning cases; a license agreement; an alley vacation; and an agreement with the city over a small triangle of land that even the city did not know it owned.

That doesn’t even include negotiations with Watershed Protection over Stubb’s proximity to the Waller Creek redevelopment.

Last week’s case, heard before Planning Commission, is to allow Stubb’s to expand without providing parking. That requires the city to rezone the land from DMU to CBD-CURE-CO. The CBD-CURE would allow the venue to waive on-site parking (although they would have to provide some handicapped parking spaces.) As Rusthoven explained, to make Stubb’s provide full parking for its venues would be tantamount to requiring the restaurant to replace its own current site with some kind of parking garage.

City staff supported the new zoning for a number of listed reasons: The proposed zoning category was compatible with adjacent zoning. It is in the desired development zone. It is located downtown. And, according to the written staff recommendation, “Cool bands do great shows there.”

The outdoor expansion of Stubb’s – which has had multiple hearings before various boards – would reorient the stage so that the sound does not carry to outlying neighborhoods. Stubb’s wants to bring its current operations up to code and operate both indoor and outdoor music venues.

Chair Dave Sullivan was interested in seeing the benefits to the city that come from offering CBD-CURE Zoning to the site. Commissioner Paul Hui was more concerned about the potential impact on the local flood plain. Attorney Richard Suttle said Stubb’s would need a flood plain variance to move forward with its plans. If Stubbs was to wait on the Waller Creek plan – which would be years in the making – then the live music venue would be moved out of the flood plain entirely.

“Either way, we’ll require a flood plain review and environmental review by the city, and we’d be bound by their recommendations,” said Suttle, who represents the owner of Stubb’s. “The important thing to know is that the city will not grant a flood plain variance unless one meets all of their criteria.”

Stubb’s flood plain request currently is being reviewed by the city, Suttle said. That’s a complicated process that involves gauging the impact of Stubb’s new development on the potential downstream water flow off the site, Suttle said. Stubb’s is still awaiting the city’s assessment of the impact of the expansion plan.

The way noise has carried off the Stubb’s site to various neighborhoods – due to an odd Waller Creek canyon effect — has either been a blessing or a curse, depending on whether you liked the particular band playing at Stubb’s on any given day. Suttle said the new expansion would meet all the city’s noise ordinance requirements. The intention also would be to address acoustical bounce.

Suttle said that computer-generated music – more so than rock bands – tends to carry to neighborhoods. Right now Stubb’s has an acoustical engineer working on the site to determine how to both meet the ordinance – which the site generally does – and minimize that acoustical bounce to non-downtown  neighborhoods. Stubb’s is looking for no relief from the sound ordinance, Suttle said.

The more intense discussions with the neighborhood and local hotels would occur as the new site plan was being developed, rather than at the current zoning phase, Suttle said. Last week was the initial zoning to go onto the site plan phase.

One interesting aside Suttle related to the commission is that those who have moved into a new nearby residential tower signed a lease agreement that noted that Stubb’s noise would be a factor in the neighborhood. Those who agreed to move into the Red River neighborhood recognized that Stubb’s would bring noise and crowds. “It’s actually an amenity for that residential project,” Suttle said.

Commissioner Saundra Kirk said Stubb’s could easily lead the way as an outdoor venue that has addressed the noise limits provided by the city. Kirk, in particular, was interested in impervious cover and setback from Waller Creek. Suttle agreed that Stubb’s wanted to make sure the redeveloped Waller Creek worked.

The expansion of Stubb’s will require the demolition of a number of existing buildings, including an old milk plant and some older warehouse buildings. Those buildings were built in the 1950s. The city’s historic preservation department would address the issue in the process of the site plan, Suttle said.

The only variance that Suttle expects to return to the Planning Commission was a flood plain variance. After the lengthy conversation, the case was put back on the commission’s consent agenda, which the full commission approved without comment.

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