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ZAP postpones consideration of controversial recycling center to July 2

Tuesday, June 25, 2013 by Elizabeth Pagano

A plan for a recycling center on about 160 acres in far northeast Austin continued to cause trouble at the Zoning and Platting Commission last week.

 

After some consideration, the commission opted to postpone the case until its July 2 meeting, contingent on the presence of a full commission.

 

“I do think that this issue is important enough, and given the voting history on this issue, that the appellant and the applicant and the commission would benefit from a vote of a full commission, with everyone present,” said Commissioner Rahm McDaniel. “It’s very important we get it right.”

 

Republic Services of North America (previously BFI Waste Systems) plans to build a recycling center at 10001 East US 290, on land currently under interim zoning of Rural Residential (RR). Though early in the process, an administrative site plan extension for a grading plan has been appealed to the Zoning and Platting Commission.

 

John Joseph of Coates Rose appealed the administrative 180-day site plan extension request on behalf of his client, Austin HB Residential Properties, Ltd. The company owns several hundred acres nearby. Joseph argued that the plan was premature, and should be resubmitted after the zoning process was complete. The applicant, and staff, disagreed.

 

Although postponing the case was something the commission was able to agree on, the commission was divided about whether to allow the grading plan to be extended 180-days, or grant an appeal of the extension.

 

Earlier in the meeting, the appeal was denied in a 3-3 vote, with Chair Betty Baker, Jason Meeker and Gabriel Rojas voting to grant the appeal and Commissioners Patricia Seeger, Rahm McDaniel and Sean Compton voting to extend the grading plan.

 

Later, the commission reconsidered that ruling, and unanimously approved the postponement, with Commissioner Cynthia Banks absent.

 

“Sometimes you wonder why you are here, and this is one of those times. We know without a doubt, the process for cases coming to us: zoning, subdivision, site plan. This one is coming to us absolutely backwards,” said Baker, who said she felt the appeal should be granted, and the land should go through the process “as we expect and require of other cases.”

 

Baker said that she had heard the land in question was annexed by the city as a courtesy, and will be leased by the city as a dump.

 

“I can’t deny it, or prove it, but I’ve heard it. And I’m not the only one that has heard it,” said Baker. “We talk about transparency in government. And if that is the situation, there is no transparency in government. We’re being used or misused.”

 

Baker expressed concern that the appeal was the only way to get the case into the public hearing process, in terms of land use.

 

Meeker agreed, saying the use of the land wasn’t his concern, but the appeal was justified and the case had gone in a “crooked direction.”

 

“I think that staff has made a determination of extension, and gone through something that is essentially procedural. I feel uncomfortable with intruding into their procedure, unless I feel they have done something wrong. In this case, they have gone through this with city legal,” said McDaniel. “I have a hard time supporting this appeal regardless of how I feel about the planned use of the site and how it pertains to the comprehensive plan.”

 

“I think we all would have rather seen the zoning case on this first,” said McDaniel.

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