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BoA says expanded parking at Travis County Tax Office is insufficient

Wednesday, May 15, 2019 by Jessi Devenyns

For years, the Travis County Clerk’s Office and the Tax Office at 5501 Airport Blvd. have used the vacant lot next door to accommodate the perpetual parking overflow from Austinites seeking a variety of services.

Now, as Austin continues to expand, the property next door at 5325 and 5335 Airport Blvd. is slated to become a multifamily project and will no longer be available for parking. Simultaneously, the county is expanding its complex facilities by 6,000 square feet. To ensure enough parking is still available for both staff and visitors, the on-site parking lot will increase to 339 spaces from the current 260.

In order for the complex to support the influx of square footage and traffic, however, city code requires 360 spots. Jason Asbury, who designed the site plan for the office, came to the Board of Adjustment’s May 13 meeting to request a variance from the city’s parking requirement to allow the site to be remodeled with 21 fewer spaces than code allows.

“Parking is woefully inadequate already,” said Chair William Burkhardt, who bemoaned his own personal experiences searching for parking when he visits the county offices.

According to Asbury, with the new configuration, parking for visitors will increase “tremendously.” Currently, he said there are 240 employees who work in the offices, which would leave about 100 spots for potential visitors. He was unsure if the office expansion would bring more employees to the site.

Upon seeing the plan, the board members found themselves with more questions than Asbury had answers. Some of those queries focused on the design choices for the parking lot. “I’ve laid out a lot of site plans in my career and this does not look very efficient,” said Board Member Don Leighton-Burwell.

Asbury explained he had added two new parking islands to the design as well as moving the driveways to allow for even more parking spots. Along the northern edge of the site is a strip that remains parking-free, which Asbury noted was due to the number of protected trees in the area that prevented construction and thereby limited the maneuverability of the design. According to Asbury, “We’ve changed as much as we could without adding a parking garage.”

Still, Leighton-Burwell insisted, “I don’t think they need a variance if they’re a little more creative,” and the other commissioners agreed. Various suggestions on how to improve the parking situation included ringing the perimeter with more parking, providing a car-sharing program to reduce on-site parking requirements and encouraging alternatives to drive-alone at peak periods that would limit congestion and reduce parking requirements.

In addition to these solutions, Board Member Rahm McDaniel requested that Asbury find out how many new employees will be coming to the county complex as a result of the enlargement of the facilities. He explained that if the delta of new employees to parking spaces exceeds the current ratio, the complex will have a net deficit to what currently exists.

In order to find answers to their questions and await a new design that includes more parking, the board voted unanimously to postpone the case for a month. Board members Kelly Blume and Martha Gonzalez were absent.

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