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Zoning and Platting Commission splits on rezoning Northland Drive parcel

Thursday, June 20, 2013 by Elizabeth Pagano

A plan to rezone a “challenged” piece of land in Northwest Austin split the Zoning and Platting Commission right down the middle Tuesday night. With the vote divided evenly 3-3, the case will proceed to City Council without a recommendation.


Developers are asking for a change from Neighborhood Commercial (LR) zoning to Community Commercial (GR) zoning at 3447 Northland Drive. The triangular lot sits at the point where Northland Drive (aka FM 2222) meets Parkcrest Drive, just west of MoPac Boulevard. 


Chair Betty Baker and Commissioners Patricia Seeger and Sean Compton voted in favor of the change. Commissioners Jason Meeker, Rahm McDaniel and Gabriel Rojas voted against the change. Commissioner Cynthia Banks was absent.


“I think encouraging yet another gas station, and a bigger one there, is just inappropriate,” said Meeker. “I just don’t think this is a serious attempt to change the zoning to something that is going to be better. I don’t think building something bigger there that failed before is going to be best. The current zoning is sufficient for a business that could succeed there.”


Ron Thrower of Thrower Design represented the owner, David C. Conley, P.C.  Thrower explained the change would allow the triangular site to be developed by eliminating the setbacks associated with the current zoning. He said the shape represents the “most inefficiently-shaped piece of property to develop.” An extensive conditional overlay will eliminate many of the uses associated with GR zoning.


Nonetheless, many neighbors spoke against the change in zoning, complaining of increased traffic at the busy intersection, and 24-hour lighting on the property.


While a petition against the rezoning has been submitted it has yet to be validated.


Thrower explained that the new setbacks would give the owner the ability to design something that would “warrant redevelopment of the property.”


“The owner of the property is going to scrape everything that is there today. Everything that is there today is an eyesore, I think we can all agree to that,” said Thrower. He explained that the plan is to develop the lot as a convenience store, with gas pumps, but said that the store would be one more compatible with the neighborhood.


“It will not have your standard Slim Jim’s,” said Thrower. “It’s going to be something different.”


Currently, the lot is vacant, but was last used as a gas station.


Neighbor Matthew Grant questioned the logic of the upzoning.


“I’m concerned that this place has failed twice as a gas station and I don’t see the purpose, for the health of my neighborhood, (in making it) a bigger gas station,” said Grant. “I’d like to leave it LR and hope that someone develops it as a business that’s more for a lot that size in the neighborhood.”


Seeger noted that, while the last gas station on the lot wasn’t there for long, there was previously a gas station that succeeded there for quite a while. She called the current state of the corner “blighted.” She noted that the in and out nature wasn’t likely to generate more traffic, saying that drivers would be more likely to “zip in and zip out” of a gas station.


Rojas said that he would like to see redevelopment on the lot, but thought the case was more appropriate for the variance process, given the desire to reduce setbacks.


“I think on its own, the property is unique enough to merit those setbacks at the Board of Adjustment,” said Rojas. “For that reason, I think zoning is the wrong way to go.”

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