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Planning Commission recommends food truck in Tarrytown

Thursday, October 10, 2019 by Jessi Devenyns

Tarrytown may be a centrally located neighborhood, but it is not very walkable. To give neighbors at least one option that is accessible on foot, David Kanne, a resident and local developer, purchased the 11-unit multifamily complex at 2401 Winsted Lane and has been working to improve the property over the last six months.

His latest proposal is to install a food truck and playground on-site where there is currently a filled-in swimming pool, but that requires a zoning change from multifamily to neighborhood commercial mixed-use. This zoning request was accompanied by a change in the land use from single-family to neighborhood mixed-use.

Kanne spoke to the Planning Commission at its Oct. 8 meeting to point out that a petition in opposition to the rezoning was signed by only 14.07 percent of the landowners within 200 feet of the property.

A valid petition with 20 percent or more of landowners within 200 feet of a property opposing a rezoning requires a supermajority – or nine members – of Council to approve the rezoning.

Despite the circulation of the petition in the neighborhood, the turnout at the Planning Commission was in favor of adding amenities within walkable distance. Seventeen residents showed up in support of the zoning change while nine, including the West Austin Neighborhood Group, arrived to express their opposition. In addition, commissioners received 127 support letters from 72 households, but only 53 letters of opposition from 19 households.

Many of the speakers in favor were parents and grandparents. One of them was Claudia Burns, who said she was baffled by the lack of walkable family-friendly areas in Tarrytown.

“I guess I’m the grandmother in the room,” said Burns. “This provides me a safe place where I can sit down and relax … and where I can also enjoy my (grand)kids.”

Other neighbors cited a simple lack of gathering spaces. Kanne himself walked the distance to Hula Hut, Maudie’s and Caffé Medici and timed all the walks at longer than half an hour.

Neighbors opposed to the zoning change made it clear they were not anti-food truck. Instead, safety was the primary issue. The property is located at the intersection of Windsor Road and Winsted Lane where there is a noticeable lack of sidewalks, and where cars cut through to avoid waiting in the perpetual gridlock on MoPac Expressway.

Mike Cannatti with the Central West Austin Neighborhood Plan Contact Team told commissioners that there have been 16 vehicle crashes at this intersection since 2017. “I don’t mean to be scaremongering,” he said, when he demonstrated that even Google does not send pedestrians down Winsted Lane when its directional services are requested. “The Google gods agree: Winsted is too dangerous to walk,” he said.

Holly Reed, the president of the West Austin Neighborhood Group, said changing the zoning on the site “creates an unacceptable risk of losing multifamily housing.” Food trucks, she pointed out, are mobile and there is no guarantee that if the restaurant goes out of business it will be replaced by another food truck.

To alleviate some of the neighborhood’s worries, Amanda Swor with the Drenner Group, who was representing the applicant, noted that as the developer, Kanne has been working with the neighborhood to find a solution. In an effort to compromise, the zoning change is put forth with a conditional overlay that limits the address’ use to only residential and restaurant limited use. There is also a limitation of 5,850 square feet on the property for commercial use in order to preserve the residential units that are currently there.

Additionally, she told the commission that Kanne was committed to extending the sidewalks along the length of his property to increase safety.

Swor told the Austin Monitor that she intends to continue working with the neighborhood to find a compromise. She is open to negotiating a private restrictive covenant that would enforce the restrictions set forth in the conditional overlay, should the new Land Development Code do away with those provisions.

Commissioners almost unanimously expressed concern regarding the location of the property at the corner of a high-traffic intersection with no stop sign, but still felt that the zoning change was a reasonable request.

“I would pay for someone to put this in my neighbor’s yard,” said Commissioner Conor Kenny, who joined in the aye votes that recommended this rezoning to Council with a vote of 8-3-1. Commissioners Carmen Llanes Pulido, Todd Shaw and Robert Schneider voted against the motion. Commission Chair Fayez Kazi abstained and Commissioner James Shieh was off the dais.

Map courtesy of Google Maps.

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