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ZAP approves zoning change to allow proposed learning center

Friday, July 25, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano

The Zoning and Platting Commission refused to let zoning stand in the way of education last week.

Commissioners voted 5-0 to recommend a mix of Single Family and Neighborhood Commercial – Mixed Use (LR-MU) zoning at 2103 West Slaughter Lane. Commissioners stipulated that all existing development standards on the lot remain in place. Commissioners Cynthia Banks and Sean Compton were absent.

Staff could not recommend the original request to Community Commercial (GR) zoning for the entire lot. City Planner Wendy Rhodes explained that, in order for applicant Sara Delaram to open her proposed learning center, she would only need the less-intense Neighborhood Commercial zoning.

In the end, Delaram was able to strike the compromise that won the unanimous support of commissioners.

As part of the agreement, Delaram promised to retain the single-family use for the small efficiency at the back of the lot, which she plans to rent out separately.

Most recently, the building operated as a tattoo parlor, which is a personal improvement service use under code. Delaram’s proposal to create a learning center on the land, which is owned by her father, is also considered a personal improvement service, though one with a presumably different clientele.

“I have a passion for teaching,” said Delaram. “My dad just had this lot empty for the past two years – he’s done a lot of improvements to it… It’s pretty much an office space and it’s all commercial, not anything residential.”

Delaram said that she wanted to create a center that would offer students in the community extra help with their schoolwork, with help from her fellow UT graduates. She explained that she would cover all subjects for all grades, and hoped to create a mentorship program as well.

“I really want to do that, and I have the property to do that. I just need the rights to let me do that there,” said Delaram.

Three other properties on the block have been zoned for office use in the past 15 years. Though the city acknowledges that Slaughter Lane is a heavily trafficked commercial street, they were wary of allowing commercial uses to creep south, toward a street that continues to be residential.

Rhodes explained that staff’s concerns about setting an unwanted precedent remained, even with the downgrade to LR zoning.

“There is an LR-MU next door, to the west. Staff didn’t recommend that either, nor did this commission,” said Rhodes. “But when it went to Council they did.”

“To a certain extent, the horse has left the barn, I guess,” said Commissioner Rahm McDaniel.

Commissioner Gabriel Rojas said that while he was all for protecting neighborhood integrity, when possible, he was also compelled by the city goal of promoting local activity, through small businesses that are in walking distance. Rojas said that Delaram’s proposal seemed in line with that concept, found in the Imagine Austin Plan.

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