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Council OKs zoning for relocation of South Lamar liquor store

Friday, September 24, 2010 by Kimberly Reeves

Members of the South Lamar Neighborhood Association were rallying hard to pass a petition to oppose the relocation of Chris’ Liquor Store but could not find enough support or signatures to avoid a zoning change on the property at yesterday’s Council meeting.


Chris’ Liquor Store lost its lease in the 2400 block of South Lamar Boulevard and was looking for a new location. The owner found it just up the street, at 2203 South Lamar Boulevard. However, some neighbors opposed a zoning change from CS to CS1-CO.


But they did not represent all of the neighbors. According to the back-up materials presented to Council, the South Lamar Neighborhood Association, as a whole, was not opposed to the zoning change, as long as the only CS-1 CO use was a liquor store. On the other hand, the association’s Bob Thompson told the

City Council last night that he had plenty of reasons to be against the zoning change.


Thompson said the real question was why up-zoning should be approved.


“Should it be because the owner is a nice guy? Or his agent is a nice guy, which he is?” Thompson asked Council members. “Those are not justifications, nor is there a necessity for the zoning upgrade because the neighborhood has no shortage of liquor sales. And we feel we should not be up-zoning next door to single-family residences.”


Agent Alice Glasco, representing the owner, said the neighborhood does have a number of locations that sell beer and wine but no liquor store in the immediate neighborhood. She brushed off comments that a new liquor store would move into the old location, saying the two stores would be too close to compete.


Glasco also noted the owner had his own petition of 301 signatures of customers who use the store and want to see it relocated up the street.


Opponents had a petition of about 17 percent of the surrounding residences, just shy of the 20 percent needed to require a super-majority vote from Council for zoning approval. In the end, however, that did not seem to matter, as Council agreed to the zoning change on a vote of 6-1, with only Council Member Laura Morrison opposed.


Asked whether the city has many arterials where single-family homes are located next to intense commercial zoning, Director Greg Guernsey pointed to North Lamar, Burnet Road, portions of Congress, and East 7th Street.


“There are many areas where you would have footprints of CS-1,” Guernsey said. “We’ve down-zoned quite a bit in East Austin, but CS-1 still is abutting single-family houses in those neighborhoods.”


Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez noted he had dropped his son off at day care only five houses away from Chris’ Liquor for years and never had a problem. He referenced testimony, cited by a couple of neighbors, that noted that establishments selling alcohol bring crime into a neighborhood.


“I haven’t heard any major outcry or anything from those neighbors on drawing in some type of undesirable elements into the neighborhood,” Martinez said.


Council Member Chris Riley went on to say that CS-1 is often no more hostile to a neighborhood than CS zoning. Piling on, Council Member Bill Spelman said that the business has to go some place and that the immediate neighborhood is not overloaded with package stores.


Morrison was the sole holdout. The neighbors in the neighborhood have valid concerns, Morrison said, and she was troubled by the thought of changing zoning on a property to benefit a single business.


To round out the discussion, Council Member Sheryl Cole said it was important to balance legitimate uses of property against neighborhood concerns, and she supported the staff recommendation in favor of CS-1-CO. Council Member Randi Shade said she heard the concerns but didn’t see united neighborhood opposition.

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