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Commission denies commercial zoning for resident’s garage

Tuesday, April 29, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano

An attempt to rezone a North Austin property from single-family to residential simply to increase the impervious cover on the lot found no friends at the Planning Commission last week.


Minh-Tu Ngoc Doan explained that he had no intention of operating a commercial garage on the site. He said that fixing cars was a hobby of his, and he wanted to build a 9,000 square foot house on his lot at 1005 Prairie Drive, and maybe a greenhouse. The associated impervious cover would require a more-intense zoning, as the current zoning limits the lot to 45 percent impervious cover.


The Planning Commission voted 7-0 to deny the change from SF-2 zoning to CS-MU zoning. Commissioners Myron Smith and Brian Roark were absent.


“It just seems like the applicant is seeking commercial zoning, but isn’t looking for a commercial use. In my opinion, zoning should have a public purpose. This seems entirely too private for me,” said Commissioner James Nortey, who added the change was not in line with Imagine Austin’s goal of protecting neighborhoods.


Doan said that he did build a back building without a permit. He explained that he saw similar buildings on neighboring properties, and thought they were allowed. They weren’t, and Code Compliance cited Doan for commercial and residential construction without a permit, operating an automotive repair business on a residentially-zoned property and storing automobiles on a residential property.


“I’m just here to ask for your help. I will comply…with the city, and with my neighborhood,” said Doan. “I love everyone around me.”


North Austin Civic Association Neighborhood Plan Contact Team chairman T. Brian Almon wrote a letter expressing neighborhood opposition to the rezoning. He explained that the neighborhood wanted to preserve the residential uses in the neighborhood, especially from encroaching industrial and commercial uses.


Neighbor Diana Solis, who has lived across the street from the property in question since 1978, also spoke against the rezoning.


“The whole first block is already commercial… there is already a lot of car and people traffic,” said Solis. “Then, maybe three months after Mr. Minh moved in; he had big trucks full of metal, cement, and wood and started building in his backyard. It wasn’t until city compliance trucks came by and paid him a visit that he became concerned with how this was affecting the neighbors.”


Solis explained that Doan told her that he was trying to build a room for his mother. Two weeks later, she got notice of the rezoning to commercial.


Doan told the commission that he was asking for the rezoning because he was told that was how he could get his property back into compliance. He said that he had no intention of running a commercial operation out of his home, or taking in money for fixing cars. Doan explained that at one point, he had even fixed the car of one of the neighbors who spoke against the rezoning, free-of-charge.


“I’m not trying to run commercial from there. I just want to be able to do what I’d like to do and that’s it,” said Doan. “There’s no money involved.”

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