Monday, January 30, 2017 by Joseph Caterine

Planning Commission denies request for bank drive-in services on 38th

At the urging of two Zoning and Platting commissioners, the Planning Commission unanimously denied a rezoning request for a conditional overlay for drive-in services at 623 West 38th St. during its Jan. 24 meeting.

City staff had supported Pioneer Bank’s request to remove the current prohibition on drive-in services from the current zoning, in part because a drive-in bank use would have less of an impact on traffic than other drive-in uses.

Moreover, Pioneer Bank deals mostly in commercial banking as opposed to other financial institutions that cater more toward individual customers, said Ted McConaghy, the agent representing the owner.

“Pioneer has a facility about 3 miles west which they are going to decommission,” he said at the meeting. “The heaviest traffic in their drive-thru lane was under 20 trips per day.”

Commissioner Patricia Seeger inquired as to why Pioneer had waited until after construction to make a rezoning request. “Why did you not come forward then for the change in the neighborhood plan?” she asked.

“At the beginning it was discussed, but it was decided that it was not critical,” McConaghy responded. “They had customers already leasing space, so they wanted to make sure the bank was open on time.”

Betsy Greenberg, a member of the Zoning and Platting Commission, spoke in opposition to the request on behalf of the Heritage Neighborhood Association. She said that before the building was permitted, the owners of Pioneer had told the neighborhood’s steering committee that they did not intend to include drive-in services but that their tune had changed as the project neared completion.

“They presented this as no big deal, just a few cars per day,” she said. “The only problem with this line of reasoning is that banks get bought and sold all the time. In fact, the ownership of (Pioneer) has changed since the application was filed.”

Jolene Kiolbassa, also a ZAP commissioner and Heritage Neighborhood Association member, said that another financial institution had approached the neighborhood about building a bank on this property shortly after the Central Austin Combined Neighborhood Plan was adopted in 2004. But, she added, they walked away after the neighborhood said they would not change the prohibition on drive-in use. “We thought we had dealt with this issue 10 years ago,” she said.

McConaghy expressed disbelief at the neighborhood’s united opposition to the zoning change during his rebuttal.

“I’m a little bit surprised that there was a unanimous decision by the steering committee,” he said. “I guess I wish they had been a little more vocal when we had met with them in person.”

Commissioner Karen McGraw moved that the request be declined, seconded by Commissioner Angela Pineyro De Hoyos. McGraw said that the opposition to drive-in services in Central Austin was not unique to the Heritage neighborhood.

“All of these neighborhoods have been working up to 15 years to get rid of the drive-in services in this area,” she said, “so I don’t think we should start to let more come in.”

The motion passed unanimously 10-0. Chair Stephen Oliver and commissioners Fayez Kazi and Chito Vela were absent.

Image courtesy of the city of Austin.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

City of Austin Planning Commission: This commission addresses issues of land use as assigned to it by Austin's City Code. These include the abilities "[t]o make and amend a master plan, recommend approval or disapproval of proposed zoning changes and control land subdivision within neighborhood planning areas and submit, annually, a list of recommended capital improvements." It has sovereign authority, or the right to make final decisions on certain cases.

Zoning and Platting Commission

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