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ZAP approves restaurant use for plot at Slaughter and Cullen despite neighborhood concerns

Friday, June 19, 2020 by Nina Hernandez

On Tuesday night, the Zoning and Platting Commission agreed to an applicant’s request to remove restaurant (general) and restaurant (limited) uses from the conditional overlay attached to the property.

Rob Pivnick of LG Slaughter and Cullen LLC owns 116 W. Slaughter Lane and 9012 Cullen Lane. Right now, a conditional overlay prohibits an array of uses including theater, indoor and outdoor entertainment, and restaurant. The neighborhood believes Pivnick wants to rent the space out to a Raising Cane’s chicken restaurant.

Staff agreed with the application, saying the change should be allowed based on the property’s location on an arterial roadway and a collector street, that restaurant use is compatible with the adjacent lots, and the restaurant use would be 240 feet from the closest Park Ridge residence.

Based on the fact that the project sits between a regional center and along an activity corridor, as well as the existing mobility options nearby, staffers concluded that the project “supports the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan.”

But the Park Ridge neighbors were adamantly opposed. Susan Hambright, director of the Park Ridge Owners Association, said the commission should not reverse the actions of the 2007 commission that instituted the conditional overlay in the first place.

“We are truly disappointed to be back here fighting this issue that was settled in 2007,” Hambright said. “Despite the applicant’s comments, really nothing has changed for Park Ridge since then, except that in 2015, a new entity purchased the property.”

Hambright said the neighbors are concerned that the fast-food restaurant will remain open late into the night and its loudspeaker and lights will become a disturbance in the neighborhood. Furthermore, they say the scent of fried chicken will waft into their homes and backyards.

Commissioner David King said the commission should deny the request and uphold the conditional overlay the Park Ridge residents have “depended on.” He warned that the commission would be acting without a small area plan, and that this decision would ultimately become precedent for future cases.

“I’m very uncomfortable with approving these one-off zoning cases, simply because we don’t have a small area planning process,” he said. “I’m struggling to support this request, even though I understand that the site needs to be developed, and I understand that we need a variety of different foods, and people need to have options.”

Commissioner Bruce Evans said he sympathizes with the neighbors, but believes the commission should apply the zoning as outlined in the Land Development Code “without seeing how many things we can cut out.” Restaurants are a reasonable use for the area, and there are existing restaurants across Slaughter that are closer in proximity to the neighborhood than 240 feet.

There is still a restrictive covenant on the property that remains unaffected by this vote. It determines, among other things, construction hours, noise level of mechanical equipment and the height of any outdoor lighting.

The commission ultimately approved the request 6-3, with commissioners King, Ana Aguirre and Jolene Kiolbassa voting no.

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