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Rehab facility gets thumbs up, despite proximity to church, day care

Wednesday, August 3, 2011 by Kimberly Reeves

Agent Danae Falvo’s biggest challenge to the rezoning of an office strip mall wasn’t in the audience at last night’s Zoning and Platting Commission meeting. It was Commissioner Patricia Seeger, sitting on the dais.


This rezoning case, from LO to GO-CO, had been postponed by the applicant, the adjacent business and then ZAP, in mid-July. The owner, Mursch Partners LP, wanted to lease one of its office suites for an outpatient treatment center for drug and alcohol addiction. The building, however, sits in close proximity to a church and the small house it rents to House of Little Angels, a day care center.


That had Seeger upset, she admitted at the time of the vote, which was to recommend rezoning to rent to a program Changing How I Live my Live, referred to with its acronym CHILL. The new location was on far South First Street, between William Cannon Road and Stassney Lane.


“When I saw this case, I was very upset, but I went out and met with Ms. Falvo, and we had a number of telephone conversations. She sent me a lot of information about CHILL and what CHILL does, and at this point, I’m in favor of the zoning change,” said Seeger, who admitted she was swayed by the church’s support for the project. “The fact that the pastor of the church right next door— who has youth groups and has kids on site all the time – is supportive of this endeavor, that kind of turned everything around for me today.”


Falvo did build her case in favor of the rezoning around a number of key points: The program, which serves high school students and adults in far South Austin, was on Montopolis Avenue, far from its ideal location. The program upheld a strict code of conduct, with immediate expulsion for non-compliance. And CHILL, surrounded by single-family residences, had letters of support for its program from nearby businesses who reported no negative impacts from the program.


In her presentation, Falvo also addressed the proximity issue, noting that CHILL was, and would continue, to operate its group counseling sessions in the evenings, a half-hour past the time children at the day care center went indoors.


“All children will be indoors no later than 5pm for dinner and to be picked up,” Falvo said. “Our small group sessions will start at 5:30pm and 6pm. This will give no opportunity for interaction between the clients and the children.”


Mark Weaver, pastor of New Hope Church, spoke in favor of the proposal. New Hope leases a small building to House of Little Angels.


Uses in the strip center included a dentist and a weight loss business, which Commissioner Donna Tiemann noted were “medically oriented” uses. Tiemann and Seeger, however, were concerned that one outpatient treatment facility did not turn into five sometime in the future, overwhelming the day care center.


The zoning change rezoned the entire property from LO to GO, with a conditional overlay that limited trips to no more than 2,000 per day.


Commissioners discussed a number of options to address the outpatient proliferation issue, including dividing the property into two tracts, with only one tract capable of serving a outpatient treatment use. ZAP also could have used a more difficult rollback provision that would have rolled back zoning to non-outpatient use if the suite went vacant for more than 90 days.


Chair Betty Baker deemed that option “almost impossible to pass.”


Seeger suggested that field notes limited the outpatient use to the one individual suite being used for CHILL. Commissioners, including new commissioner Gabriel Rojas, unanimously agreed to that zoning change. Cynthia Banks was absent.

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