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Delwau campground zoning moves forward

Tuesday, May 12, 2020 by Jo Clifton

A zoning change that would allow property owners to open a campground for recreational vehicles, a convenience store and cafe at 7715 Delwau Lane took the next-to-last step forward last week, as Council approved General Commercial Services-Mixed Use (CS-MU) zoning on second reading. The vote was 8-2-1.

Council members Kathie Tovo and Alison Alter voted no and Council Member Leslie Pool abstained. The site is off of a narrow road on the Colorado River east of Ed Bluestein Boulevard.

Glen Coleman, who represents the applicants, Noah and Adam Zimmerman, told the Austin Monitor Monday that the project has evolved considerably after taking into account the concerns of some neighbors as well as Council.

Coleman pointed out that the project has garnered support from a number of nearby neighborhoods. However, he said his clients and residents of the neighborhoods agreed that the project should move forward on second reading only on May 7 so that neighbors could have time to look at a restrictive covenant that the Zimmermans have signed.

That agreement, which is with the Lower Boggy Creek Neighborhood Association, includes a commitment not to have amplified music on the property and to reserve the majority of camping spaces for campers leasing space on a month-to-month basis. Coleman said, “Weekend stays are not prohibited but the majority of the sites will be reserved for a minimum of a one-month stay.”

In addition, according to a memo from city staff, “The applicant has proposed that several of the more intense land uses permitted in CS be prohibited. The addition of MU (mixed-use) provides flexibility to provide permanent residences in the campground. This mix of land uses provides new services in this area and provides a transition from the residential areas to the west and the racetrack to the east.”

Staff also wrote that the property owner “will be required to dedicate a public access easement to expand Delwau Lane at time of site plan.” The developer will be required to expand the roadway and provide a way for pedestrians and bicyclists to share what is currently a narrow road.

Council rejected a zoning request on the same property in 2018 that would have allowed for alcohol sales along with live music and rental RVs. When Council denied that request, alcohol sales and the narrow roadway seemed to be the most important stumbling blocks. The new proposal does not include the sale of alcohol.

At that time, Council Member Ora Houston represented District 1 and opposed the new zoning. Her successor, Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, strongly supports the current request.

Tovo noted that when the project was presented in 2018, “there was a lot of conversation about making it an event space,” but the applicant has not indicated that is part of the current plan.

Tovo added, “We’ll have more opportunity on third reading hopefully to hear from neighbors about that.” She said she had gotten a number of emails in support that mentioned “the importance of this rezoning for tourism. So, you know, it’s shifted – the purpose of it has shifted depending on which direction the conversation went. But I thought we heard compellingly from Max Elliott of Urban Roots and from some of those nearby neighbors that the kind of uses being contemplated for this site would be pretty impactful given the nature of that road and the nature of that particular area and its impact on surrounding neighbors.”

Although Mayor Steve Adler called his name to speak, Elliott was apparently not on the line or ready for a Zoom conversation at the time.

Harper-Madison said, “I also have heard a great deal from our constituents in District 1, both in opposition and in support. And on my end I perceive more in the way of support. So I look too for the opportunity for us as a body to hear from the community at large and not just a handful of folks.”

She added that she was hearing some pushback from the project’s supporters because it seemed like their “voices aren’t being as amplified as the opposition. My office has been working with the applicant here. … It’s my understanding that the negotiations have been productive, though, and that there’s a consensus to move forward on the second reading with the understanding that there would be an opportunity for the neighbors, for Urban Roots, which I also have a great deal of respect and appreciation for, and the applicant.” She added that she looked forward to a successful collaboration, “and my hope is that we’ll be able to make a deal and everyone will be okay.”

Council Member Pio Renteria agreed, saying he has constituents in the same area who are looking forward to any new amenities the RV park might bring. “My constituents that just live directly south of this location … in an area there that has nothing, no groceries, there’s no entertainment center there. My constituents really want to take advantage of what’s out there and right now there’s nothing.”

Pool said, “I voted no on first reading. I’m going to abstain this time to acknowledge the work that possibly, hopefully is underway with the neighbors, and then also in some hopes that we are focusing on the legitimate concerns that are also being expressed by the folks at Urban Roots.”

Map courtesy of Google Maps.

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