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Board of Adjustment denies variance for huge Planet K fence

Thursday, May 12, 2011 by Elizabeth Pagano

A dispute over a proposed 12-foot fence was just one of many concerns raised about “tobacco shop” Planet K and its adjoining properties on East Cesar Chavez at the Board of Adjustment meeting on Monday night.


“This variance is part of a much larger question about what’s going on in those properties,” said neighbor Scott Perry.


Phil Moncada, agent for the property owner, Michael Kleinman, was requesting a variance in order to build a fence along the Cesar Chavez property that would be double the allowable six-foot height.


Kleinman owns three adjoining lots along Cesar Chavez, including the east side Planet K location.


Moncada claimed that the fence would not be out of character for the neighborhood and that it is needed due to ongoing construction on East Seventh Street, which has resulted in increased traffic and noise on Cesar Chavez.


The property owner was in the process of putting up the fence, which runs along the front of the property, when he ran afoul of city code, at which time he halted construction.


Representatives from the River Bluff Neighborhood Association spoke in opposition to the fence construction, claiming that it would not contribute to the neighborhood and is being constructed to hide a live-music venue that is being built in violation of city code.


“They are already commercializing these residential properties. They are already advertising in newspapers, and they already have a Web site,” said Perry. Advertisements for a weekly “Reggae on the River” event at 3109 East Cesar Chavez can be found at the One Love Kitchen Web site. (One Love Kitchen is a food trailer located on the property.)


“We in the neighborhood are very concerned because they have already established a pattern of not considering the law or anything else. They have had concerts down there, illegally, already,” said Daniel Llanes of the River Bluff Neighborhood Association.


Moncada told the board that there is a site plan for the decks currently in process and denied that they are intended for commercial use. “The only thing the site plan is for is open decks that give you the opportunity to look at the Colorado River and the new Roy Guerrero Park that is directly south,” said Moncada,


He did, however, acknowledge that the site plan is for decks that have already been built. “I concur with the neighborhood. I won’t sit up here and lie to anyone. The decks are built and they were built in what the owner thought was an SF-3 zoning, and historically they wouldn’t have needed a permit,” said Moncada.


None of this sat well with board members, who voted 7-0 to deny the variance.


“I’m concerned, personally, that we’ve got a camel with his nose under the tent here, and that the fact of the matter is that 400 linear feet of 12-foot fence on the street is an affront to the neighborhood,” said Board Member Jeff Jack.


“You are here tonight asking for an extraordinarily high fence, a 12-foot high fence. Are they going to be showing movies there or something? It sounds like a drive-in theater screen,” said Board Member Clarke Hammond.


Under the 2003 Govalle Neighborhood Plan, the property is zoned SF-3 in the rear and commercial in the front. However, the neighborhood has become more residential in recent years.


“When these places were built, east Austin wasn’t bourgeois, it wasn’t artistic…The zoning is barely starting to catch up to where we’re at,” said Board Member Michael van Ohlen, who told opponents of the variance that he “didn’t mean ‘bourgeois’ as an insult.”

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