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Campground case returns 18 months after initial rezoning denial

Tuesday, January 14, 2020 by Jessi Devenyns

A rezoning case to transform a 12-acre plot next to the Colorado River into a community-centric campground returned to the Zoning and Platting Commission on Jan. 7.

The case failed to receive Council’s approval in 2018. Following the 18-month waiting period required to refile a rezoning request, the Zimmerman brothers came back before ZAP with a new request for the property at 7715 Delwau Lane. This time, they asked for a change from Single Family Residence-Standard Lot (SF-2) to General Commercial Sales-Mixed Use with a conditional overlay (CS-MU-CO). The new filing omits the previous request to include Commercial-Liquor Sales-Mixed Use with a conditional overlay (CS-1-MU-CO).

Neighbor John Whipple was skeptical, saying the only major difference is that the sale of hard liquor has been omitted from the plan, adding, “This has always been pretty much an alcohol concession masquerading as an RV park.”

Glen Coleman, who was representing the applicant, described the project as a campground for snowbirds who intend to stay on for longer periods. Plans for the site will allow up to 80 spaces allocated for RVs, a bathhouse, a yoga studio and a common workspace on the four developable acres on-site. There will also be public access to the Colorado River and an eatery that will sell beer and wine.

Another neighbor, Jayme Moore, said that while the concept of the project “is lovely, beautiful and delightful,” she and the neighbors along Delwau are opposed to introducing alcohol sales on the street. “I think overall our concern is the alcohol,” she said.

Commissioners, too, expressed concern at the idea of selling alcohol on a community campsite. In order to limit the risk associated with drinking and driving, the commission voted 10-1 to recommend a zoning change but to limit the uses. The limited uses they recommended are multifamily with apartments prohibited, RV campground, outdoor entertainment, outdoor sports and recreation, personal services, general retail sales, and restaurant limited. The commission voted to make the uses conditional so they will have final approval over the site plan in order to offer their recommendations on noise level and operating hours. Chair Jolene Kiolbassa voted against the motion.

Heather Chaffin with the Planning and Zoning Department told the Austin Monitor via email that if there is a store on the site, “The owner would be able to sell beer and wine but not liquor.” A restaurant-limited zoning prohibits the sale of alcohol for on-site consumption.

Although the commission whittled down the list of permitted uses within the zoning category, Coleman told commissioners, “I think you understand the project and where we’re going.”

As part of the project, developers will make improvements to the road, which Coleman told commissioners will include stop signs, crosswalk markings, an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalk and off-street parking. The developer has no plans to widen the road beyond the length of the property.

“The road is just not adequate to handle this kind of traffic for commercial rezoning,” said Max Elliott, co-founder of the nearby Urban Roots Farm. Neighbors and commissioners also shared their concern at increasing traffic across the bridge dividing the property from Highway 183. The bridge, neighbors said, is “problematic” and floods frequently.

A neighborhood traffic analysis anticipates that the addition of 80 RV spots and a 1,200-square-foot restaurant will add 321 vehicle trips per day. Although this is a 392 percent increase in traffic compared to current conditions, the analysis noted that the additional vehicle trips will still allow the roadway to operate at a desirable level.

Coleman pointed out to commissioners that even if the property was developed under current zoning, there could be an increase of up to 200 vehicle trips per day. He said that with 1,200 trips per day permissible on the road, there is even room to increase the number of people coming to the project from elsewhere in the city. “I don’t think that (this campsite) is something that should be limited to a small number of people,” he said.

Commissioners acknowledged that development of the site was inevitable, though they felt that in order to succeed, the project would require careful consideration. After parsing the necessary zoning use categories for the property, the commission voted to recommend a zoning change.

Map courtesy of the city of Austin.

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