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Dove Springs group wants fresh food, limited alcohol at new store

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 by Elizabeth Pagano

Representatives from the Dove Springs community and Austin Interfaith are hoping that a zoning change can be a positive one, as they continue to work with the property owner to help create a small oasis in one of the city’s food deserts. Neighborhood residents are also concerned about creation of yet another place to purchase alcohol.


City Council weighed in on the case at last Thursday’s meeting, and voted 7-0 to approve a zoning change on first reading only – which will give the owner and the neighborhood more time to work out a restrictive covenant.


“There was some comment made about the rising awareness among the community in Dove Springs about the need for healthy eating. It’s clear that there’s been a huge increase in engagement. It’s really very heartening to see,” said Council Member Laura Morrison.


Owner Tariq Majeed is requesting a zoning change on his 1.8 acre lot at 7101 Bluff Springs Road. He is seeking a change from single family and general neighborhood commercial with a conditional overlay to neighborhood commercial with a conditional overlay. That overlay would apply a 2,000 vehicle trip limit. City Council added a prohibition on drive throughs.

His agent, Phil Moncada, said that he and his client had met with various neighborhood groups, and believed that they had addressed their concerns.


Moncada explained that, though they plan to build a convenience store, they will offer fresh fruit and produce after an agreement with the neighborhood to provide healthy food options.


Ofelia Zapata of the San Jose Catholic Church told In Fact Daily that with the Dove Springs zip code first in obesity in the city, Austin Interfaith has been organizing around improving health in the community.


Zapata said that after a big community meeting on the project, the owner and attorneys had agreed to provide fresh fruit and vegetables. But the alcohol sales – which she called “a bigger issue” – has yet to be addressed or settled through an agreement on the restrictive covenants.


The owner is working with law enforcement to provide a “safe space location” for children on their way to school. To this end, the business will have stickers posted explaining it is a safe location. They have also agreed to report anyone drinking alcohol on the property to the police.


Regardless, Bobby Sandoval, who is a teacher at Langford Elementary and a volunteer with Austin Interfaith, said that they were concerned about alcohol sales so close to the school. She noted that if the business was just 200 feet closer to the school, those sales would be illegal.


But, because the school is not located within 300 feet, with a food sales use the business would have a right to sell alcohol.


Sandoval said that with a school district bus stop directly in front of the store, student safety was “definitely a concern.”


Moncada said that he believed initial neighborhood opposition probably arose from fears that the project would be another drive through, which he said they are not proposing to develop. He said that they were proposing a convenience store with fuel sales and, perhaps, something like a laundromat.


Sandoval said that they were working with the owner to “ensure that the development on Bluff Springs is a positive development for the community.”


She said that the group was hopeful they would be able to finalize a covenant with the owner to guarantee “key protections,” but asked that City Council hold off on approving the zoning until that covenant is finalized.


“As a teacher in the community, I witness families making poor health choices on a daily basis, primarily due to the limited options in our area.


Sandoval said that she typically brings her lunch from home, but on days that she doesn’t she often ends up eating at a fast-food restaurant. She said she would prefer to buy a healthy sandwich from the corner store.  


“This is the first time that I, as an agent of the owner, have heard anything about a potential restrictive covenant discussion,” said Moncada.


The matter must win approval from Council on second and third readings before the new zoning goes into effect.

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