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Planning Commission rejects postponement for absent owner

Wednesday, September 9, 2009 by Kimberly Reeves

Last night the Planning Commission took a rare vote to overrule a property owner’s request for an indefinite postponement – at the request of the neighborhood — and settled the case against the owner’s request and without the owner’s presence.


Actually, Planning Commission had two cases up for indefinite postponement last night. Separate neighborhood associations opposed both postponements. In the case of the rezoning of multiple properties on William Cannon Boulevard, commissioners were sympathetic to the fact that the estate of one of the long-time property owners needed to be settled before moving forward and granted the indefinite postponement.


In another case, on Normandy Boulevard, commissioners were less sympathetic to a last-minute call for an indefinite postponement. Owner-applicant Tanvir Siddiqui was not present for the hearing, but commissioners agreed that turning an inside lot within the small neighborhood along Normandy Street into a medical business plaza would erode what already was a rather tenuous grasp on a small neighborhood.


“Protecting a small neighborhood is really tough,” acknowledged Commissioner Mandy Dealey, who made the motion to deny the zoning change. “Once you eat at those boundaries, it gets harder and harder to preserve any small area you want to protect.”


Chair Dave Sullivan noted he had seen a doctor’s office work within the boundaries of the Brentwood neighborhood in which he lived at one time, but the doctor was a solo practitioner with a low traffic count through the neighborhood.


Already, the neighborhood sits temptingly close to the intersection of South 1st Street and Ben White Boulevard, not far from the St. David’s South Austin Hospital and a jumble of medical office space buildings. Staff opposed the zoning change because it violated the neighborhood plan and deed restrictions. Neighborhood leaders, who filed a valid petition, argued that the area’s neighborhood plan was intended to push commercially zoned property to the major transition corridors rather than the smaller streets.


Earl Valerie of the newly formed Pasadena Heights Neighborhood Association noted parking problems. Others talked about the slow erosion of the surrounding pocket neighborhood, which had been all but engulfed by medical offices. Commissioner Jay Reddy tried to argue that commercial development might be a possibility, given the home’s location next door to a Shell gas station.


The owner attempted a proposal for commercial sales, then one for general office and when that plan was rejected, went back to an application for commercial sales.


Commissioners, sympathetic to the neighborhood’s concerns, voted unanimously to forward its recommendation against the change to Council, 7-0. Commissioners Saundra Kirk and Danette Chimenti were absent from the meeting.

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