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Elizabeth Pagano is the editor of the Austin Monitor.
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Full Council rejects attempt to split zoning on single structure
Tuesday, March 12, 2013 by Elizabeth Pagano
The City Council dampened a novel attempt this past Thursday to split a South Austin house and zone each half differently.
The owner of 2111 Fortview Road, William Franklin, suggested the plan, which would rezone the building from the existing single-family (SF-3) to half Neighborhood Office (NO) and half Limited Office (LO.) It was an attempt to appease neighbors who were concerned about commercial creep and increased traffic in the area. City staff eased the owner away from that idea, noting that it would be impossible to enforce.
Instead, the Council approved staff’s recommendation of NO, with restrictions on vehicle access and hours of operation. They voted 7-0 to approve the recommendation on first reading.
Property Manger Howard Kells explained that, if rezoned, the building will become part of a group of buildings that are used as medical offices. He explained that the property is actually a duplex, and they propose the more intense zoning – which allows for medical offices – for the back of the building.
“Dr. Franklin wants to do aesthetic-type treatments, like laser vein removal, and those require LO. So it’s very important for him to have those two rooms in the duplex closest to Ben White have LO zoning,” said Kells.
When asked why the more intense zoning couldn’t be applied to one of the other buildings that front Ben White instead of Fortview, Kells explained that the Fortview duplex is a larger structure that wouldn’t require much renovation.
The property is located near Ben White and Manchaca, a stretch of Ben White where many of the nearby residential buildings are being converted to offices. The location raises concerns about commercial creep on to the yet-residential Fortview Road.
“Certainly, I can’t support LO, I think that’s much too intense,” said Council Member Laura Morrison. “You can look at the map and see that, basically, it moves the interface between the commercial and residential down into the Fortview residential neighborhood.”
Council Member Bill Spelman expressed confusion over Morrison’s support for NO, which would also be commercial and, for that matter, an office.
“It is office creep to do NO, but with much less intense uses,” said Morrison. “The idea of using it as a back office is much different than having patients in and out all day. This allows them to look at doing something maybe they don’t want, but at least they would be able to reconfigure some of their space and have some opportunity to use the space for their business.”
“Having people come in and out all day really changes the sense of the residential property next door much more,” said Morrison.
A suggestion by Mayor Lee Leffingwell to allow LO zoning, but limit it to the uses desired by the applicant, fell flat.
“To be honest, the only difference aside from some site development regulations… is that LO allows medical offices,” said Planning and Development Review’s Jerry Rusthoven.
The case will return to the Council at a future meeting for second and third readings.
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