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Jo Clifton is the Politics Editor for the Austin Monitor.
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Tuesday, August 28, 2018 by Jo Clifton
Council rejects campgrounds with bar
On a vote of 6-5 last Thursday, City Council rejected a zoning change that would have allowed a developer to put a campground with rental recreational vehicles as well as a bar at the end of a narrow lane in District 1.
The vote probably would have been different if not for the issue of alcohol.
Glen Coleman, representing the developer, brothers Adam and Noah Zimmerman, told Council the Delwau campgrounds project at 7715 Delwau Lane on the Colorado River was “the most fun project that I have ever brought to you.”
He said the brothers proposed to bring in 50 to 60 Airstream trailers. “These are long-stay trailers, so you think snowbirds,” who would stay for one to three months. “This is not a KOA. This is more of a long-term” situation. “It is Airstreams, not mobile homes,” he said.
Important to the financial success of the project, Coleman said, would be food sales from one or two food trucks, a small bar, and a convenience store, which would serve members of the nearby neighborhood as well as those staying in the campgrounds.
Coleman tried to stress that the bar would not be a nuisance, saying it would be simply a place where people could come and have a beer or glass of wine. “We can’t have a party bar next to our sleeping campers,” he said.
Some members of the nearby neighborhood said they were in favor of the zoning change, 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). For example, Darcy Scott, a nearby neighbor, explained that the only way to access food, or even a gallon of milk, from the area currently is to get on U.S. Highway 183.
Scott also said that the developers had promised a playground for children, and she was personally excited about that prospect.
However, other neighbors voiced objections, particularly to the idea of alcohol sales at the end of a narrow road with a substandard bridge.
Jayme Moore said about one-third of the residents of her small neighborhood, Knollwood, are in favor of the development, as opposed to two-thirds, as Scott had said. Moore also claimed that even those in support do not want alcohol sales.
Moore said that she had measured the road with a measuring tape. “It’s 14 feet for most of it,” she said, and she pointed out that developers would not be expanding that part of it. “Our road also doesn’t have streetlights, so it’s very dark at night. The very idea of people going down and drinking at this facility and then driving down this road is very, very problematic. … There should not be liquor sold at the end of this road. This is a substandard road that will not be improved, going over a bridge that has flooded several times since I’ve been there. I’ve also witnessed emergency vehicles not being able to make it down the road and having their arrival delayed by that.”
Another neighbor speaking against the project was David DeSilva. Although he is the owner of several downtown bars, he too said he was opposed to alcohol sales at that location.
Coleman said that having the bar was critical to the financial success of the project. Even when Council Member Ora Houston tried to tell him that she might vote for the project without the bar but could not authorize zoning for alcohol sales at that location, Coleman reiterated that the bar was essential.
Houston said, “If this was a commercial kind of street and not at the end of a cul-de-sac, I might be more in favor of having not only the campground but some other kinds of amenities for a community. But that is not what this lane is. It is not a collector, it is not a road: It’s a ‘lane,’ in the true sense, old sense of the word. … Two cars can’t pass at the same time.”
Houston also noted the presence of a group known as Urban Roots, which works with junior high and high school students. The director of the program had written to Council saying he was opposed to having alcohol nearby.
Council Member Pio Renteria thought it would be fun and spoke about how much he enjoys using his kayak. Mayor Steve Adler said he would not vote for Houston’s motion to reject the zoning on first reading. Council members Delia Garza, Greg Casar and Jimmy Flannigan also voted against Houston’s motion, making the vote 6-5.
On a query from Adler, city staff noted that the developer could not come back with a new zoning request on that property for 18 months. However, Coleman said, “Council, we thank you for your time and we’re at peace with your decision.”
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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.