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ZAP says no to gas station, yes to office space

Friday, January 29, 2016 by Jack Craver

The site of a burned-down day care center will now likely become office and retail space, thanks to action taken by the Zoning and Platting Commission last week.

The commission adopted city staff’s recommendation that the .96-acre plot of land at 11812 Millwright Parkway, near the intersection of Anderson Mill Road and Highway 183 in Northwest Austin, be rezoned from its interim designation of Single Family (SF-2), which refers to medium-sized single-family homes, to Limited Office-Mixed Use (LO-MU).

The applicant, NZ Lands Inc., had requested Neighborhood Commercial (LR) zoning, but city staff reasoned that LO-MU zoning would be a more appropriate transition between the convenience store and retail strip center to the south and the single-family residential areas to the north, east and west. The applicant, Zulfiqar Ali Prasla, also owns the nearby convenience store, Speedy Mart, that fronts Anderson Mill Road.

The commission agreed, although it did not receive much of a counter-argument from Prasla, who did not attend the hearing but had informed Sherri Sirwaitis, the case manager from the city Planning and Zoning Department, that he opposed staff’s recommendation.

Sirwaitis dutifully relayed the applicant’s position. “He said they’d prefer to have LR because they wanted to redevelop the site in combination with the existing convenience store/retail center that is fronting Anderson Mill Road,” she said. She later specified that Prasla had said it would be harder to sell the land, along with the plot that includes the existing convenience store, if they were zoned differently.

With staff’s recommendation, Sirwaitis explained, there were many more “intense” commercial uses, such as service stations or personal services, that would be prohibited on the parcel at issue. LO zoning is geared more toward office and retail space that does not generate as much constant traffic.

However, Sirwaitis noted that staff had recommended zoning the property for “mixed use” as well, which would allow the property to be easily converted into a residential development in the future.

Staff’s recommendation was good news to Christy Bickel, who lives near the site and said that a use similar to the former day care center was OK with her, because at least it didn’t cause noise during nights or weekends.

“We were more worried about service stations, and we already have a traffic issue,” she said.

Commissioner Ann Denkler suggested that the commission recommend adding a conditional overlay to prohibit the property from being used for medical offices. Such uses typically create more traffic, which she said was inappropriate for the setting.

Denkler’s amendment failed, garnering the support of only Denkler and commissioners Jackie Goodman and Jolene Kiolbassa. Commission Chair Gabriel Rojas, along with commissioners Thomas Weber, Yvette Flores, Bruce Evans, Dustin Breithaupt, Susan Harris and Sunil Lavani, voted against the added restriction.

“I didn’t think it was necessary to broadly limit any and all medical uses on that tract,” Rojas told the Austin Monitor in an email. “Ann said that medical causes a much larger traffic impact, but I felt like the size of the site was more the determinant in limiting the amount of traffic any use on the site could serve.”

Goodman clearly disagreed. “May you all never have a medical office near to you,” she said after the zoning was approved.

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