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Elizabeth Pagano is the editor of the Austin Monitor.
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ZAP OKs zoning to help longtime family business
Thursday, April 28, 2011 by Elizabeth Pagano
It took a bit of brainstorming but the Zoning and Platting Commission did find a way to help a South Austin business threatened with closure by city rules.
CG& S Construction has operated at 402 Corral Lane since 1963. Stella and Clarence Guerrero purchased the property in 1959 and founded the business. They later sold it to their sons, who now operate it.
Staff said no to a zoning change, concerned that it would set precedent to establish commercial zoning in the middle of the residential neighborhood.
Since the business was unable to meet the code, the city also refused to grant amnesty for a Certificate of Occupancy. The property was not eligible to be grandfathered due to some of the improvements to the business occurring after annexation by the city in 1975.
“There was no secret,” said a frustrated Chair Betty Baker. “The issue of whether it’s grandfathered really bothers me. I don’t even think we should be hearing this case for a land use change. I think it should be grandfathered.”
“I’ve had calls from former council members, a former mayor, a former county commissioner, state senators, all in support of this,” said Baker. “That really doesn’t influence us too much, but it shows the importance and need for businesses like this not only to survive, but become more productive in the neighborhoods, particularly south Austin.”
Clarke Hammond, spoke as a direct neighbor of the Guerreros. “The applicant has met with all the concerned parties collectively and privately. They were extremely proactive in seeking input and attempting to gain support from the neighborhood. In my 10 years serving on ZAP and the Board of Adjustment, I’ve seldom seen such a desire to cooperate,” said Hammond. “Tonight is a night to settle what probably began as a mistake or an oversight by the city 35 years ago and was never corrected.”
“They have contributed to the growth of Austin and they’ve created good-paying jobs for hard-working Hispanic tradesmen, the people who built this city,” said Hammond.
“If staff is convinced that we are not conforming, we have no problem withdrawing the zoning change and continuing to live and operate as we have,” said the Guerrero’s agent, Jim Bennett, despite the fact that this was clearly not an option.
Will Larson, President of the Circle S Ranch Neighborhood Association told the commission that his neighborhood was unable to come to an agreement and was resistant to CS zoning. This led them to oppose a restrictive covenant drawn up by the Guerreros. “We simply don’t want to have commercial zoning in the area,” said Larson.
After two hours of testimony, questions, and deliberation, the ZAP voted 5-0 to rezone the property against staff recommendation. Commissioner Donna Tiemann recused herself. The commission added a stipulation that the only commercial service uses allowed be administrative business offices and construction-zoned services and there be no additional impervious cover.
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