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Council splits on La Bare vote

Wednesday, June 17, 2009 by Kimberly Reeves

This week the city council will take up again whether or not the Highland/Skyview Neighborhood Contact Team has the ability to challenge the Planning Commission’s decision to allow La Bare, a strip club that caters to women, to locate on a frontage road near the neighborhood.

Last week, City Council took a vote on the matter, but deadlocked, 3-3. Sheryl Cole did not vote; she was out doing required legal training, and will be back this week to cast what will likely be the deciding vote.

La Bare’s location would be as appropriate as any for just such a club: a strip center along I-35 with no direct access to a neighborhood. It’s likely just what the club owners were considering when they went scouting for a location, right after they were kicked out of a space on South Congress Avenue. The reason? It was less than 1,000 feet from the Texas School for the Deaf.

Last week, La Bare’s lawyer asked whether the contact team had standing to challenge the Planning Commission’s decision. That was a convoluted issue, but the legal department recommened against granting standing.

In the broadest terms, the Highland Neighborhood contact team could argue it was an affected party, Lloyd agreed. But when looking specifically at the current city ordinance, it was clear the contact team was not given standing in cases that involved hearings. La Bare’s lawyer also made this point, but the Council has typically been more inclined to favor opening the door on protest.

Council Member Laura Morrison acknowledged that neighborhood groups involved in city planning were, quite intentionally, some type of hybrid between citizen organizations and city-appointed boards. The groups live somewhere in between.

It was La Bare’s argument that such a decision should lie with the Planning Commission and not a neighborhood association.

Morrison offered the motion to give standing to the neighborhood. Mayor Pro Tem Brewster McCracken seconded Morrison’s motion and was joined by Council Member Randi Shade. The vote ended in a tie, 3-3, and will be brought up again this week.

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