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Elizabeth Pagano is the editor of the Austin Monitor.
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ZAP postpones rezoning case for South Congress salvage yard
Thursday, February 9, 2012 by Elizabeth Pagano
Though Chair Betty Baker pulled no punches in expressing her unwillingness to rezone a South Congress salvage yard, the Zoning and Platting Commission has postponed the controversial case for the time being.
Capital City Salvage is located on the 7000 block of South Congress, in the South Boggy Creek Watershed. The owner was seeking a zoning change from DR (which is an interim use) to Limited Industrial (LI) in order to maintain and expand their salvage yard on the 30-acre property.
“I wish I were not as familiar with this case as I am. I can remember, I was on city staff in the 80s, when there was so much consternation, and people upset about the junkyards – and I don’t know of a politer way to say it – on South Congress. People were concerned that Congress was just a stepchild,” said Baker.
“This was annexed by 1984, and at that time, the owner was told very clearly, very distinctly, you have 10 years to either become conforming, or get the correct zoning… That 10 years is long past,” Baker said. “When I think of all the oil, the battery fluid, and everything else that has oozed down to Boggy Creek, it could almost bring tears to my eyes. This has been exploited all of these years. I could not support it under any circumstance.”
Rob Ormand has owned the property since 1979, and took umbrage with Baker’s characterization.
“The comments you made about all of this oil and so forth oozing down into the creek is inaccurate,” said Ormand, who explained that for 15 years he had employed engineers to address problems on the property. “We have never, ever had oil oozing into the creek.”
In January 2010, the owner cleared several protected trees without a permit and was cited. The owner and the city subsequently developed a tree mitigation plan, and an amnesty certificate of occupancy.
If given LI zoning, Ormand would like to expand the building by adding a security building, restrooms, perimeter fencing, and a “crusher slab,” though not on the six acres closest to Boggy Creek located within the floodplain.
“We’ve given that six acres never to have another car down there. We’ve vacated all that area of cars. I thought this would look good for the city, and making it a preserve would look good… They did vacate about two acres that they once used for storage,” said DeVon Wood of Enabler Design Group.
Wood explained that the crusher slab has been refurbished with an eye towards preventing any of the fluids getting into the creek system. “Right now, everything is OK with the state environmentally, but we are going to surpass their requirements,” said Wood, who explained they would be putting in a buffer along the creek area, separating the buildings from the floodplain.
A national auto recycling corporation, LKQ, will be entering into a long-term 25-year lease of the property. Ormand asserted this would be a positive move.
“You are going from a small business owner, me, to a corporation that is public, and answers to the public… They are the finest auto recyclers in the world,” said Ormand.
Commissioner Sandra Baldridge said that she had a problem telling someone they had to close their business.
“I’m hoping that we can find a way that we can recycle auto parts and scrap metal in this country and not send it overseas… I think 30 years from now, we’re still going to be driving cars, and we’re going to need someplace to take ’em,” said Baldridge.
The case was postponed in a vote of 4-1, with Baldridge voting against, and Commissioners Patricia Seeger and Gregory Bourgeois absent.
The Zoning and Platting Commission will see the case again at its next meeting, on Feb. 21, at which time more detailed topographic and floodplain information will be provided, as well as more information about the water quality in the area.
The adjacent property, at Peaceful Hill Lane, was also on the meeting’s agenda. A fair numbers of neighbors came to the meeting to learn about the proposed condominium project on the land, and both sides agreed to a postponement before the case was heard.
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