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Commission backs rezoning despite ‘commercial creep’ concerns

Tuesday, February 19, 2013 by Elizabeth Pagano

Setting aside concerns about “commercial creep,” the Planning Commission unanimously recommended a zoning change for a South Austin property last week.        


The owner of the property at 2111 Fortview Road is seeking a zoning change from Single-family residence (SF-3) to Limited Office, with a conditional overlay. Staff modified the request to Neighborhood Office – Mixed Use with a conditional overlay.


“Before you might think that this is just inappropriate at the end of a residential street, consider the context,” said Senior Planner Lee Heckman. “This property is owned by the property owner of Victory Medical. It’s intended to be incorporated as part of their facilities. So maybe it’s not as far-fetched as it seems.”


The Planning Commission voted 8-0 to approve staff’s recommendation, with Commissioner Alfonso Hernandez absent.


“This case is a lot about the detail,” said Heckman, who explained that the property was bound on two sides by offices that are owned by the same person as 2111 Fortview Road. Those offices comprise the Victory Medical.


Howard P. Kells of One Management, Inc. represented the property owner. He told the commission that his client was hoping to incorporate the space for aesthetic medical treatments in a “nice home atmosphere.”


“This is not a precedent-setting move,” said Kells.


Heckman pointed out that though the property was on what is primarily a residential street, there had been a lot of recent rezoning on the block. However, that rezoning had taken place on the Ben White side of the block and at the intersection of Fortview and Manchaca Roads.


Ex-officio member Jeff Jack led the commission in a verbal history of some of the nearby properties which had been developed over the years. 


“I think we have already seen commercial creep, and the fact is that now we have created a dumbbell situation. At both ends of the street we’ll have non-residential zoning…I think it’s a recipe where we’ll just see the entire block go.” said Jack.


Chair Dave Anderson said that while the area was “challenging,” he felt that the zoning request was reasonable.


No one showed up to speak against the rezoning, though Commissioner Myron Smith said that she had heard numerous complaints from neighbors about traffic from the property. Kells explained that as part of the plan, the owner intended to install barriers that would prevent traffic from accessing Fortview Road, aside from emergency vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians.


The barrier was a suggestion by the city. The city also stipulated that a shared access easement between the subject and adjacent property was established. Because the properties share an owner, the shared access allows for traffic to be diverted from Fortview Road.


“For all intents and purposes, if this is zoned office, and if the vehicle restriction is enacted, they are going to function as one property,” explained Heckman.

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