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Elizabeth Pagano is the editor of the Austin Monitor.
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Planning Commission sides with neighbors against Polvos’ parking request
Monday, June 4, 2012 by Elizabeth Pagano
The Planning Commission unequivocally shot down a rezoning request from Polvos Mexican Restaurant this past week, voting 9-0 to deny its request to build a driveway to access off-site restaurant parking.
Polvos, at 2004 South 1st Street, wanted to rezone 723 square feet of a lot at 603 West Johanna Street to a Neighborhood Office (NO) to construct a private driveway that would connect an alley to a parking lot.
Polvos owner, Oscar Linares, owns the house located at 603 West Johanna Street and is proposing to use his for off-site parking, much to the dismay of neighbors. Though the house is commercially-zoned, parking would require access through a single-family residential neighborhood, which is not permitted under code.
“I don’t even understand how the lot that they are using for the parking, or they would aspire to use for the parking, could possibly be compatibly zoned next to other single-family properties….This is just egregious,” Commissioner Saundra Kirk said.
Mark Cathcart, who owns the property next door, joined many of his neighbors in opposing the driveway, saying that when he purchased his house, Linares’ at 603 West Johanna was fenced off from the restaurant. Also, there was a double line of trees between the two properties that has since been removed.
“That property now is completely open,” Cathcart said. “It’s already being used for parking. It’s being used as a dump, for commercial storage. They clean out the grills from the restaurant in the backyard. They wash the fat from the grills straight across the residential property, down its driveway, into the drains that drain straight into the creek.”
David Hartman, a partner at Smith, Robertson, Elliot Glen Klein & Douglas, L.L.P., represented the property owner immediately west of the proposed parking. He told the commission that the neighborhood plan specifically identifies restricting to the “maximize extent allowed by law” parking at the intersection of South First and Johanna, saying that “parking variance requests within this area should be given maximum scrutiny.”
Hartman told the commission that there was an off-site parking plan in process, with no staff comments indicating the driveway or rezoning was necessary. “This will get approved without this rezoning.”
“That’s absolutely correct,” said Phil Moncada of Moncada Consulting, who was representing Polvos. “But that means we’d have to come back and try to modify the parking on that existing lot to meet transportation requirements. The reason we were proposing to it this way is that we thought it would be the most safe, practical way, to gain additional parking directly adjacent to the restaurant.”
But Cathcart said: “It really is just completely ridiculous that they have asked to do this. In 2007, the applicant bought the house. They extended it without the planning commission (approval). At that point, I started to complain. I phoned 311 numerous times. But in general, my complaints were never about the restaurant itself.”
Cathcart added that he initially had no problems with the outdoor patio, either, but that has recently changed. “It’s only as they’ve tried to extend it without any permission that I’ve started complaining about that,” said Cathcart who told the board that at some point last year the restaurant had added 38 additional seats on the patio “without any attempt to get permission.”
Moncada told the commission that the restaurant needed additional parking to address a code-compliance issue that “deals with the outdoor patio that’s existing out there.”
“It was actually constructed over 10 years ago by a previous tenet that used to run a restaurant there called Seis Salsas. We’re just trying to come back into compliance,” Moncada said.
Though the deck itself was not in question at the commission, commissioners could not help expressing disbelief at Moncada’s claim that the current patio was the creation of a previous restaurant.
“I patronize that restaurant and I do recall that deck extension is very recent, and Polvos has been there for many years now. So it is a Polvos’ creation, and they’re extending their restaurant capacity with no parking,” Kirk said. “This is not the right solution.”
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