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Auto dealer storage garage riles Allandale residents

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 by Tyler Whitson

A group of Allandale neighborhood residents aired their frustrations about Charles Maund Volkswagen’s presence in the area at the last Zoning and Platting Commission meeting.

The problem centers around the dealership’s planned construction of a three-story parking garage for nearby vehicle storage. It would be located on the northeast corner of Burnet Road and Pegram Avenue, adjacent to residential properties.

“What I’m hearing right now is that Maund is not as good of a neighbor as they could be,” Commissioner Rahm McDaniel told the project’s representatives during the Sept. 2 discussion. “I’m not sure how much work you guys are putting into being responsible members of your community.”

The applicant, KBGE Engineer Jennifer Garcia, requested a site plan deadline extension in July, six days before it was set to expire. Planning and Development Review staff granted a 180-day extension.

“It’s a pretty standard thing we do in a site plan review, giving extensions when there are still comments waiting to be cleared,” Planning and Development Review Case Manager Brad Jackson told Commissioners.

Robert Vinson and Richard Mackin — whom Jackson described as “interested parties” — filed an appeal to the extension. Vinson, who spoke at the meeting, owns Vinson Motors, a used car dealership directly adjacent to the lot that would hold the garage.

Though the appeal was eventually denied by a 4-1 vote on the grounds that it was not relevant to the requirements of the site plan extension, it opened the process to a public hearing involving several residents.

The residents expressed concerns that the proposed parking garage would further increase congestion in the area, reduce traffic safety, threaten the privacy of adjacent residents and be visually unappealing. A few told Commissioners that they attempted to open a dialogue with the dealership’s ownership and management, with little or no success.

Dennis Oxford said he owns two single-family, residential properties directly behind the lot where the garage would be built. “With the construction of this building, I will lose all of the privacy in my backyard. I will have people looking into my bedroom,” he said. He requested that the city require the applicant to include features that obstruct the view from the garage of adjacent properties.

Peggy Maceo said she lives 553 feet from the lot. “Allandale already has serious public safety, traffic and noise problems associated with this business,” she said. “To allow the expansion of Maund Volkswagen, whose day-to-day operations presently exceed the physical boundaries of their property, will cause residents even more problems.”

Garcia used the hearing as an opportunity to defend the site plan. She told Commissioners the garage is “allowed administratively” and is “complying with all code and all regulations by the City of Austin’s land development code and design criteria manuals.”

Garcia added that the plan complies with setback requirements and height restrictions, includes a 25-foot buffer zone, adds landscape buffering along Pegram Road and reconstructs an existing fence on the property.

Compass Roads Design Group representative James Little, who helped design the parking garage, also took to the floor to address some of the residents’ concerns. “We put a lot of thought and design time into the whole project before we moved forward,” he said. “We did not get involved with the neighborhood, we went by the book.”

Maund Volkswagen General Manager Dale McConnell told Commissioners that he and his colleagues “don’t want to be bad neighbors.”

“I’ll do what I can within the dealership to ensure the safety of the residents of the neighborhood,” McConnell said.

McDaniel, who voted against the appeal, spoke directly to the project representatives in attendance. “This is permitted use that we’re talking about here,” he said. “So a lot of the compatibility issues that are being discussed aren’t as much issues that are germane to this extension.”

“My issue is, I don’t think you’re being nice,” McDaniel added. “And since I have the opportunity to sit up here and tell you so, I’m telling you so.”

Commissioner Jackie Goodman, in her second meeting as a Commissioner since City Council Member Laura Morrison nominated her in August, chose to abstain from the vote.

“Once upon a time,” Goodman said, “this city had expectations that before you ever got to Zoning and Platting, Planning Commission or Council, you would have touched base … with the people who are going to be impacted by you.”

 

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