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ZAP struggles to recommend zoning campsite

Thursday, June 7, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns

Deep in the eastern reaches of Austin is a campground project that Glen Coleman, an agent for the project, says “will bring back the good old days of Austin.”

On June 5, Coleman brought the project, which is located at the northern edge of the Colorado River at 7715 Delwau Lane, before the Zoning and Platting Commission. The owners are seeking to rezone it from Single Family Residence-Standard Lot (SF-2) to General Commercial Sales-Mixed Use with a conditional overlay (CS-MU-CO) and Commercial-Liquor Sales-Mixed Use with a conditional overlay (CS-1-MU-CO). After striking out nearly every entitlement within the CS zoning designation, the commission voted to recommend the rezoning.

The campground will be prohibited from everything but having a campground, a convenience store of less than 5,000 square feet and a limited restaurant of less than 5,000 square feet. A 1.5-acre portion of the lot will have a CS-1 designation for the property to sell alcohol, which will be limited to a 600-square-foot structure.

Many of these limitations, however, were already suggested in the original zoning change application. “We tried to take that huge zoning category and whittle it down,” explained Coleman. “We worked to factor out every obnoxious use that would not fit with the culture of the street.”

The Zimmerman brothers who conceived this project are from Austin and have designed other popular developments like The Yard at St. Elmo.

Coleman claimed that this project was a community initiative and therefore incorporates input from the neighbors who already live on this road, which is also home to the Urban Roots Farm and Driveway Austin Motorsports. He said he only heard from one dissenting voice.

Commissioner Betsy Greenberg, however, noted that she had received several emails about the rezoning of this project, particularly about the inclusion of a space to serve alcohol. Coleman explained that the bar was intended merely to be a source of revenue and not a source of constant commotion in the neighborhood. “We don’t want a Hula Hut, we just want to serve the community,” he said.

Chair Jolene Kiolbassa noted that Hula Hut has a CS designation – the same as this campground.

Based on the feedback she received, as well as Kiolbassa’s description of the graveled road to the site (which she said she drove down on the day of the meeting), Greenberg expressed misgivings. “I don’t think CS-1 is needed on this dark and narrow road,” she said.

Kiolbassa agreed. “It’s just a tricky situation. I wish that Mr. James could tell me that road was going to be improved. But (he) can’t.” As it stands, Scott James, a transportation engineer with the Development Services Department, explained that if anyone parked on the side of the road, it would create passage problems, since the road is only 17 feet wide.

Despite this, Commissioner Sunil Lavani said, “As an RV campground use with the ability to have movable tiny homes … I would propose this would be good for that use.”

Coleman explained that the primary driver behind this project is not to have a bar but to provide midterm living quarters to mobile neighbors, snowbirds, Airstream trailer Airbnbs and visitors here for the South by Southwest festival. The Mixed Use designation that would allow for several tiny homes on the property is both for campers who are planning on staying for longer durations as well as to house permanent staff who would be in charge of supervising the bar. He noted that this RV campsite would not be considered an affordable housing option.

Greenberg pointed out that generally the property owner has to apply for a zoning change. In this case, however, she noted that “the property owner’s name is on the paper, but the signature is not,” as she displayed the signatureless document to the audience. Although it did not halt proceedings, she said that “that should just get signed.”

The rezoning passed in a vote of 7-1-2. Greenberg opposed the recommendation and Kiolbassa and Commissioner David King abstained. Commissioner Dustin Breithaupt was absent.

This story has been corrected to show that Hula Hut has a CS designation, not CS-1 and that the Zimmerman brothers designed the Yard at St. Elmo project.

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