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Jo Clifton is the Politics Editor for the Austin Monitor.
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Tuesday, November 28, 2017 by Jo Clifton
After rejection, Council OKs liquor store zoning
After the first vote to change the zoning on property at 12611 Hymeadow Drive fell short of the votes needed to allow a liquor store, Council Member Jimmy Flannigan took the unusual step of getting the item on another agenda just three weeks later so that the three members of City Council who had been absent could weigh in on the matter.
The property is part of Flannigan’s District 6 and sits on a busy highway, as he pointed out.
Mayor Steve Adler and Council Member Pio Renteria were attending a conference during the Aug. 10 meeting and Council Member Greg Casar was absent at the time of the vote. After hearing from people living in a nearby neighborhood who opposed the zoning change, four members of the Council voted against the rezoning and five voted in favor.
At that time, none of the four members who voted against the rezoning was willing to change their vote in order to rescind the action, so it appeared that the property owner would have to wait 18 months and resubmit his zoning request.
However, Adler and Renteria joined with Flannigan in a resolution to overturn the previous vote. On Aug. 31, with a full Council on the dais, the vote was 7-4 to rescind the motion rejecting the zoning change and to direct staff to send out new notices and put the item on the next available agenda, which turned out to be Nov. 9. The only Council member to vote in favor of reconsideration who had opposed the zoning change originally was Council Member Ann Kitchen.
Flannigan’s maneuver worked, and on Nov. 9 the vote was also 7-4 to approve Commercial-Liquor Sales (CS-1) zoning to allow for a liquor store. As expected, Adler, Renteria and Casar joined Flannigan, Kitchen and Council Member Delia Garza in voting for the zoning change. Council Members Ora Houston, Alison Alter, Leslie Pool and Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo voted no.
Neighbors showed up at the November meeting, just as they did on Aug. 10, to say that the neighborhood already has enough liquor stores and that adding another one would likely increase the crime rate. They also expressed concerns about children living in a nearby extended-stay motel and the impact that a liquor store might have on them.
Ron Thrower, who represented the property owner, pointed out several liquor stores in the area and the fact that the property is largely surrounded by commercial zoning. He showed Council the results of the survey the property owner did to show that people feel safe in the neighborhood and would not be opposed to an additional liquor store.
Flannigan told the neighbors who had gathered to watch the case and speak out against it, “I know there have been questions about the path this case has taken. It was very unusual for it to fail four to five, as it did originally, and so it has taken an unusual path. … There are a lot of concerns about liquor stores, and we’ve heard other cases where people are concerned about liquor stores in proximity to schools or churches, and in accordance with the code. It gets a little more challenging when we’re talking about children that live in residences because children live in residences everywhere.
“Some of the other points that my neighbors brought up, you know, the Town and Country (soccer) Fields are more than a mile away. They’re not next door to this location. This location is on an access road, on a highway. It’s not a place that anyone would consider in the middle of a neighborhood,” he said. “Being on the highway, the closest school is Westwood High School, and not only is it, if I had to guess, more than a mile away, there’s a whole other liquor store between it, this location, and the high school.”
He also expressed frustration that Council does not seem to have a consistent policy about liquor stores, other than the rule requiring that they be 300 feet away from a school. He commended the neighbors for their diligence in traveling to City Hall to express their opinions and urged them to continue to work with his office on other matters, particularly traffic issues.
Following a recommendation from the Zoning and Platting Commission, Council added conditional overlays prohibiting adult-oriented businesses, bail bond services, pawn shops and alternative financial services, which is already prohibited in CS-1. With seven votes, the zoning won final approval and will not need to come back to Council.
Map courtesy of the city of Austin. This story has been corrected since publication. The original vote on the rezoning was five in favor, four against.
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.