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Late action: Council OKs fix for landmark ordinance; closes car wash

Friday, August 20, 2010 by Austin Monitor

The City Council unanimously approved a “temporary” fix for the historic landmark ordinance shortly after midnight. Council Members Randi Shade and Bill Spelman and the staffs did most of the heavy lifting, along with Jerry Rusthoven of the Planning and Development Review Department. After numerous questions about which commission made which recommendation, Council agreed that they would hear only three cases per meeting—with a few exceptions. The ordinance is supposed to expire in December, 2011.


Both Shade and Spelman expressed the hope that a more nuanced ordinance come forward before that. “Hard cases make bad law. This is not a particularly good law, but the next time we will get it right,” said Spelman. Shade, not one to deny credit, made sure the Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez also got in on the fun. “I did just want to add that Mayor Pro Tem Martinez’ office also helped to make bad law,” she said.


As the clock approached midnight last night, Council put an end to a longstanding issue concerning a nonprofit car wash on Cesar Chavez that has long been accused of noncompliance with city code. By a vote of 4-3, Council voted to uphold an appeal by Sabino and Lori Renteria of United East Austin of the Planning Commission’s decision to approve a conditional use site plan for a car wash at 1711 East Cesar Chavez.


The car wash — which is a service provided by the Push-Up Foundations, a drug and alcohol abuse treatment facility – does not have the sump pumps, sediment traps, handicap ramps, awnings, or wastewater disposal systems necessary to meet city compliance.


Temporarily dragging those in attendance into the deep waters of city bureaucracy, city staff explained that the car wash was given a temporary six-month conditional use permit on February 17, during which time the owner was supposed to go through the process of getting a permanent conditional use permit, without which it would be unable to purchase those very items necessary to keep the car wash in compliance. Unfortunately the process took longer than the owner had hoped, so the temporary permit expired, and it will take several months before the owner can buy all he needs. So even if the vote had gone the owner’s way and the appeal had been denied, the car wash still would have had to shut down operations for the next few months while the owner went shopping.


That turned out to be a moot point, however, as four of the Council members felt that the owner’s spotty history, added to the fact that he had been performing illegal car washes for the past two days, more than justified supporting the appeal. Voting to shut it down were Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez, Mayor Lee Leffingwell, and Council Members Randi Shade and Laura Morrison.

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