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Council backs neighborhood in Manor Road zoning change request

Thursday, April 12, 2012 by Elizabeth Pagano

The City Council has thwarted a zoning change request on Manor Road, choosing to side unanimously with neighbors who opposed the request to change zoning on the property from LO to CS.


In February Council voted 5-2 for a modified recommendation of Limited Retail on first reading. Subsequent to Council’s vote in February, staff, neighborhood and the owners met, and failed to reach consensus. The neighborhood produced a valid petition against the change, which stood at 38.25 percent last Thursday.


Mildred and Kennie Sneed, who own the property, initially sought a change in zoning in order to sell the property. But after facing neighborhood opposition, the Sneeds modified their plan.


“We had asked initially to be able to sell our properties, but we were not able to come to an agreement with the neighborhood association, so we said we would keep our properties and thereby open businesses of our own,” said Mildred Sneed.


The Sneeds currently operate a real estate business on the property, and Mrs. Sneed produced a contract for the operation of a tuxedo rental shop and dry-cleaning drop off business that would be run on the property if the zoning change was granted.


The property is bordered by both commercial and residential properties, including an Auto Zone which is located directly across the street. Sneed told Council that the section of Manor that her property is on sees about 10,000 car trips per day, and the addition of a dry cleaners was unlikely to impact traffic.


“We’re not doing anything different than what is already there,” said Sneed. “The neighborhood is similar to the properties on Koenig Lane or Cesar Chavez, where the community is really infused in with the businesses.”


Both the University Hills Neighborhood Association and its contact team disagreed, however, and asked City Council to maintain the zoning indicated on their neighborhood plan, which was adopted in 2007.


“Residents are concerned about commercial zoning encroachment into the University Hills neighborhood, up Northeast Drive, in that area,” said Lynn Marshall Vice Chair of the University Hills Contact Team.


Marshall explained that at the time the plan was developed, upzoning the lots was discussed and dismissed.


Marshall explained that there were concerns that “increasing the zoning there would start what some people call ‘zoning creep’ into a residential neighborhood. At that time other properties were receiving additional up-zoning for commercial purposes, and those were left at the existing zoning at the time.”


“It seems to me the creep has already happened,” said Council Member Bill Spelman, who noted that across the street from the property was zoned general retail, as were many nearby properties.


Marshall explained that while there were retail businesses in the immediate area, it was the intention of the neighborhood to maintain the north side of the street as residential despite the character of the south side.


“We’ve had seven or eight meetings at which people spoke in a very concerned manner about bumping zonings up, and things happening next door,” said Marshall. “We’ve been meeting on this since September, and also scheduled additional meetings to address this.”


“The reference was made that University Hills was not a good single-family community, but rather is an area rife with multiple criminal problems, and therefore the community’s opposition to the Sneed commercial up-zoning request is without merit,” said Joan Bartz, vice president of the University Hills Neighborhood Association.


“The University Hills community, from its inception, has been and will continue to be, a family-oriented, law-abiding residential community with limited large commercial development on the periphery of the community. And that is where it is at this time. It has not encroached into the residential area at all. We do not intend it to, regardless of what your comp plan says,” said Bartz, referring to the Austin Tomorrow plan.

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