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Tarrytown food truck approved with change to neighborhood plan

Thursday, December 12, 2019 by Ryan Thornton

City Council gave final approval to a Tarrytown zoning case on Thursday that also necessitated an amendment to the Central West Austin Combined Neighborhood Plan.

Ideally, Council Member Alison Alter said, the applicant’s request – to make room for a food truck and family-friendly play area on the corner of a multifamily lot – would involve neither a zoning change nor an amendment to the neighborhood plan’s future land use map.

“We’re doing this because we’re being told we have to,” Council Member Alison Alter said Thursday, in reference to the amendment to the neighborhood plan.

Council’s action changed the existing zoning at 2401 Winsted Lane in District 10 from Multifamily Residence Low Density-Neighborhood Plan (MF-2-NP) to Neighborhood Commercial-Mixed Use-Conditional Overlay-Neighborhood Plan (LR-MU-CO-NP). The justification for the change is that the current Land Development Code does not allow food trucks under multifamily zoning districts.

Both the conditional overlay and a private restrictive covenant between the property owner and the neighborhood greatly reduce the entitlements otherwise associated with mixed-use zones, but the case struck another nerve with neighbors – particularly the West Austin Neighborhood Group – due to the legal obligation to change the zoning in the FLUM from single-family to Neighborhood Mixed Use.

Thanks to its proximity to MoPac Expressway, neighbors have argued the site’s 11 residential units are some of the cheapest Tarrytown has to offer. Alter said some of her constituents expect that adding a commercial element to the site’s future zoning designation will compromise that affordability.

Division Chief Mitzi Cotton explained, however, that the city doesn’t have the option to approve the zoning request without the amendment to the neighborhood plan. Because the neighborhood plan is part of the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, state law requires that its individual zoning parcels match the zoning of the comprehensive plan.

The site’s current multifamily designation is out of sync with the single-family use noted in the FLUM. In this case, Cotton said that’s because the zoning hasn’t yet caught up to the neighborhood plan. When a zoning case like this comes up, she said, those discrepancies need to be reconciled.

With Council preparing to take up the draft Land Development Code for first reading on Monday, this case comes at an awkward moment. Under the draft code map, 2401 Winsted Lane would be zoned Residential Multi-Unit 2 (RM2). As Alter noted, there’s a chance Council will decide to allow food trucks in all Residential Multi-Unit zones under the new code through a conditional use permit that could easily be granted or revoked if problems arise.

Staff members have opposed that proposal, but the Planning Commission and some Council members have shown support for allowing food trucks in more zones with an easier approval process.

In theory, Alter said, that means this property and other multifamily properties could have the right to provide a food truck on-site through a conditional use permit as soon as a few months from now. “I feel pretty strongly that I don’t think we need to adjust this FLUM at this time.”

On the other hand, apart from in transition zones, the Land Development Code revision team is mapping the draft map more or less equivalent to current entitlements. Jerry Rusthoven, director of Planning and Zoning, said that could mean the parcel is updated in the draft map to more closely match the granted mixed-use zoning in order to guarantee allowance of a food truck.

“I’m excited about a new code that would allow food trucks through a (conditional use permit) process,” said Council Member Jimmy Flannigan. “It’s because the code is so messy that we have to go through this really convoluted process.”

Council approved the zoning request 7-3-1 with Council members Kathie Tovo, Ann Kitchen and Leslie Pool voting no and Alter abstaining. The amendment to the neighborhood plan passed 7-4 with Alter, Tovo, Pool, and Kitchen opposed.

Map courtesy of Google Maps.

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