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ZAP goes in opposite directions on two North Lamar properties

Monday, April 11, 2011 by Kimberly Reeves

At their meeting last week, the Zoning and Platting Commission considered zoning requests for two landowners on far North Lamar. When the dust settled on the final votes, one ended up lucky and the other not so much.


The unlucky landowner was Nasib Naser, who wanted to rezone his property at 12030 North Lamar from LR-CO to GR, his second re-zoning request in three years. Naser, who has been running a tire shop on the site since his tenant died of a stroke, asked to both upgrade the existing buildings and add a high-turnover sit-down restaurant.


Naser told the commission his first stab at a zoning category was an unfortunate mistake and that he needed the upzoning to implement the improvements that would turn an eyesore into an attractive business. Under city code, GR equates to community commercial district, the kind of intensity that is typically used for a supermarket or retail plaza.


“You can keep it the way it is or allow me to improve it and make it look nice,” Naser told the commissioners. “It’s a matter of trust.”


Planner Sherri Sirwaitis, who handled the case, said that staff could not justify the higher intensity zoning on the site, however, given the surrounding low-intensity commercial uses. The property also backs up to the Walnut Creek flood plain.


Unfortunately for Naser, he also had to explain to the commissioners why his property, La Palma Plaza, had been red tagged for operating without a certificate of occupancy and why he had been cited for remodeling without a building permit.


Naser called the remodeling red tag nothing more than a weekend decision to tear down a wall on an unused commercial building on the property to avoid potential injuries to his employees. The certificate of occupancy issue appeared more problematic, the result of the city’s inability to verify a grandfathered business use on the site, although it was easy enough for neighbors to note that the tire business had been at that location for more than 30 years.


Sirwaitis said the issue was not just the use but whether that use had been altered or changed in the intervening years. Naser said his attempts to clear up the problems with city staff had been unsuccessful.


“I went down because they told me I needed a permit, but I couldn’t get a permit because I didn’t have certificate of occupancy and the property did not meet zoning restrictions,” Naser said. “I was caught between a rock and a hard place.”


A motion to deny Naser’s request passed unanimously, with commissioners Sandy Baldridge and Cynthia Banks absent.


The commissioners had no problem granting GR zoning for a property at 11331 North Lamar Boulevard, however, a commercial retail center that includes two food sales businesses, a restaurant, and several general retail stores.


Sirwaitis said the site is different from Naser’s because it is located at the intersection of two major city arterials, North Lamar and Braker Lane. The property, she said, meets the clear definition of what a commercial district should be. The applicant’s agent, Jim Witliff, had met with the neighborhood and agreed to a long list of prohibited uses such as pawnshops and auto services. The conditional overlay also limits floor space to 25,000 square feet.


“We have met with the neighborhood association, and we have had good positive meetings,” Witliff told the commission. “We’ve tried to address everything that we can, and we’re doing footprint zoning, limited to the existing building, to limit the possibility of additional space.”


Commissioner Donna Tiemann, noting that the concerns of the neighborhood were “mild,” went ahead and moved to approve the zoning, which passed on a unanimous vote.

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