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Woodlawn Church expansion wins ZAP approval

Thursday, August 5, 2010 by Kimberly Reeves

The expansion of the Woodlawn Baptist Church in South Austin was one of those zoning cases at Zoning and Platting Commission where the neighborhood liked the project fine but had some concerns about the proposed zoning category.

 

Agent Jim Bennett, assisted by architect Ben Heimsath, presented the plan for the creation of Woodlawn’s new sanctuary and an overall master plan on the five-acre site that will knit all the existing buildings into one campus. To make it happen, Bennett and Heimsath, a five-year member of the Planning Commission, proposed a zoning change from SF-3 to LO-MU-CO on the property, located at 4600 Manchaca.

 

Two neighborhood associations, Western Trails and Southwood, had submitted letters of non-opposition to the plans. Homeowners off Cactus Lane, however, want to see a driveway onto their street closed to through traffic given that the Traffic Impact Analysis had indicated a 310 percent increase in traffic.

 

“I did not mind the project,” said resident Joanne Ray. “I do mind the LO-MU-CO bringing us a driveway that comes straight off the church parking lot onto our street. We have four houses on Cactus Lane and one on Cimarron Lane that are going to be highly impacted. We have an elementary school, four churches, and a day care center within three blocks of us, and we’re bombarded with a lot of traffic and noise.”

 

Chair Betty Baker noted that the road closure request, valid or not, was not something to be addressed at a zoning hearing. Instead, it is an issue to be taken up at the site plan phase. Woodlawn’s site plan could be approved administratively, but it also looks like the church will seek a variance on sidewalks at the Board of Adjustment at some future date, Heimsath told the board.

 

Leann Land, president of the Western Trails Neighborhood Association, supported her neighbors while acknowledging Baker’s logic. Land said it was important for neighbors to register their concerns early in the process.

 

“We felt real strongly that this (closure) would make us feel a lot better and cut down the traffic,” Land said of the closure of the church driveway. “We want a nice church, but we also want what’s best for our neighbors.”

 

Early in the discussion, Baker raised questions about impervious cover. Current impervious cover on the site, with SF-3 zoning, sits at 45 percent. Bumped up to NO, or neighborhood office, that cover would be 60 percent. The more intense LO, or limited office, is 70 percent.

 

That early information led Baker to ask: Just what is the proposed impervious cover of the new campus? Heimsath noted the configuration of the new campus is at 61 or 62 percent, which includes the gutting of an existing building on which the new sanctuary would be placed, the enclosing of existing open space breezeways between existing campus buildings, and pushing open space to the outer edge of the property, where residential lots will be created and sold.

 

Zoning also puts certain constraints on the CO, or conditional overlay, of the property. While Woodlawn was willing to limit its conditional use to religious assembly, the conditional overlay cannot be limited to a single use. So the final CO on the property included both single family and religious assembly uses.

 

While this did cause neighbors on Cactus Lane a bit of discomfort, Baker noted that any new or different uses under the CO would have to come back to ZAP.

 

ZAP approved the change unanimously, with Teresa Rabago absent from the meeting. The case will now go to the City Council.

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