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Council rezones West Avenue properties despite petition

Friday, October 7, 2011 by Kimberly Reeves

Attorney Richard Suttle won rezoning of a series of properties along West Avenue near the intersection on Seventh Street at Council last night; no small feat given a valid petition had been filed to oppose the zoning changes.


The property covered 705, 707, 709, 710 and 711 West Avenue, although the combined parcel was only .44 acres. Suttle, who filed the case on behalf of Cirrus Logic, was looking for rezoning from GO, or general office, to CS, or general commercial services, which neighbors saw as a precedent on the street.


Actually, what Suttle was looking for specifically was a use: electronic prototype testing, electronic assembly and research services, which were not available in the GO zoning category. As a sort of interim solution, Suttle proposed GO land use and zoning that incorporated the three CS uses he needed. To that he added a restrictive covenant with the local neighborhood and some additional concessions on landscaping.


The building will be a secondary building for Cirrus’ multi-story headquarters on Sixth Street. From the outside, the West Avenue property will hardly seem different from its current appearance, even though its uses change, Suttle told the Council.


“Cirrus Logic wants to add three uses to their currently zoned GO building over there. That’s really the bottom line,” Suttle said. “We’ve signed a private restrictive covenant that basically says it’s limited to CS, it’s limited to 60 feet in height, and when the neighborhood plan comes through, we will seek to adjust the plan to DMU as part of the neighborhood plan.”


A valid petition would be a flag for Council Members Laura Morrison and Kathie Tovo, but neither could complain much about Suttle’s solution. Tovo said Suttle had done what he could to mitigate the building’s impact. Morrison acknowledged the zoning category was only an interim one that would not be lasting.


“I acknowledge there is a valid petition,” Morrison said. “Talking to the folks who have concerns, trying to get to the crux of those concerns, for the most part it is a concern for having CS on the map here. It was considered an example of CS creep, and the concern was that it was going to be moving up north on West Avenue. I’m definitely sensitive to that argument, but on the other hand, I see this as a relatively temporary situation.”


In other words, the CS creep was about as contained as it could be, with an eye to making just about everything, except uses on the property, conform to GO.


Tovo also asked about sound proofing for the building. Suttle said the real concern was sound proofing from the outside so that it would not disturb the activities inside the building, and not vice versa.


Neighbor Blake Tollett, who registered as neutral on the case, expressed some dissatisfaction that the building had been in Cirrus Logic’s hands for almost a year, but the owners had yet to approach the Planning Commission’s Codes & Ordinances Committee to amend the DMU zoning category for such uses.


Regulatory plans and zoning adjustments, such as the new DMU-60 and DMU-90 zoning categories, won’t go into effect until after the plan is adopted. In fact, city staff acknowledged it could be a year or more before zoning categories actually reflect the intent of the approved downtown Austin plan.


Suttle also offered up “good streets if not Great Streets” with his plan, which appeared to include tree plantings, wider sidewalks, parallel parking and street furniture. While Council Member Chris Riley acknowledged the changes would be a much-needed improvement on that stretch of West Avenue, he wanted a timeline for the upgrades so that Council could check on progress.


Those changes, once the current tenant vacates, will probably be in place within the next year to 18 months, Suttle told the Council.


Council agreed, despite some minor changes to the motion, to approve the zoning change on all three readings. The final vote was 7-0.

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