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Zoning & Platting Commission studies future of Chrysler lot

Tuesday, April 14, 2009 by Austin Monitor

A former Chrysler dealership was on Tuesday night’s Zoning & Platting Commission agenda as the parent company rushes to dump its excess property.

Developer representative Alice Glasco advocated lifting a restrictive covenant on the vacant 7-acre property, located on the northbound frontage road of Interstate 35 (6905 I-35). And, to add an extra twist to the situation, Glasco noted that both she and Chair Betty Baker had been in the department when the original application came through in 1974. In fact, Baker had been the original planner on the Chrysler case.

In 1986, the property next door, a Mitsubishi dealership, was zoned MF-1 and a restrictive covenant was placed on the three adjoining properties to be restricted to car sales and service only. The lot to the south is an RV sales park. The total acreage for the three lots – owned by three entities – is 16 acres.

So while Glasco wanted to lift the covenant on the former Chrysler dealership, the covenant was not attached to it directly and was added as a restrictive covenant on the property next door.

“We’re just trying to clean up the confusing history on how the restrictions were created on this tract,” Glasco said. “If you desire to keep all the GR uses and still prohibit the pawn shops, we’re fine with that.”

Glasco said Chrysler bigwigs in Michigan were surprised, and somewhat confused, over this covenant issue, which was not attached directly to the property.

Commissioner Clarke Hammond, who can see the property from his neighborhood, asked what the prospective use was for the parcel. Glasco said she was unsure, adding that Chrysler wants to sell it and sell it quickly as proof of its commitment to Pres. Barack Obama that it was serious about possible aid.

Baker noted that restricting the property to a single use was over-restrictive and even potentially illegal. For his part, Commissioner Jay Gohil asked whether a new zoning case would come back to ZAP on the property. As long as the zoning is GR, it wouldn’t, said Glasco, adding that the plan would only need administrative approval.

Opinions differed on how to handle the restrictive covenant. Assistant City Attorney Clarke Cornwell said a new zoning case would have to go through on the specific 7-acre property. Baker said it would be just as easy to amend the current restrictive covenant and bracket the changes to the subject property.

Baker sent Planner Wendy Rhoades and Cornwell off to research the issue, with the intention of presenting a solution in two weeks. Either the restrictive covenant could be amended – Baker’s preference – or it would require the city initiating some type of zoning case on the property. She also asked Hammond to work with the duo to suggest what other uses might be inappropriate for the neighborhood.

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