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ZAP endorses mixed-use for East Austin tract

Tuesday, September 8, 2020 by Daniel Salazar

On Tuesday night, the Zoning and Platting Commission voted in favor of mixed-use zoning for an East Austin property, but once again clashed over the scope of conditional overlays.

ZAP commissioners recommended designating a 4.67-acre tract at 5601 Nixon Lane, off FM 969 east of U.S. Highway 183, with a community commercial base zone, a mixed-use combining district and a conditional overlay prohibiting service or gas stations on the property.

The commission previously reviewed a rezoning request for the property on July 7 and supported rezoning the tract from Community Commercial (GR) to Neighborhood Commercial (LR) while prohibiting a service station use. However, the applicant didn’t realize the LR designation would reduce the allowable height, so the rezoning request was changed to GR-MU before it advanced, said case manager Heather Chaffin, with the city’s Planning and Zoning Department.

While property owner Mohammad Arami said he had no intention of building a gas station on the site – there are two others across FM 969 and Nixon Lane near the property – he also did not want to limit himself with an overlay.

“My intention is to get the most use of this beautiful piece of property,” he said. “Unfortunately, the majority of it is in the floodplain so there is just not that much that I could … do except possibly mixed-use.”

Commissioner David King said ZAP’s previous position on preventing service station uses on the site should stand.

“I don’t know of any new information that would change my perspective on that,” King said. “If he doesn’t want to do that (build a gas station), then I don’t see that this is going to really impair him,” he added.

Commissioner Hank Smith opposed including a conditional overlay since the site is so constrained, especially under the updated floodplain through the federal Atlas 14 rainfall study that would limit development to a small portion of the land.

“He needs the maximum flexibility without any overlays to build anything on this property,” Smith said. “There is so little developable land, we don’t want to constrain him any more than we absolutely have to.”

On Tuesday night, Commissioner Ann Denkler advanced a motion to prohibit service stations on the site.

“I have to admit I don’t see the need for another gas station,” she said.

The motion passed by a 6-3 margin, with commissioners Timothy Bray, Bruce Evans and Hank Smith against. The commission then approved adding the mixed-use combining district to the community commercial base zone with the conditional overlay attached by a 7-2 vote, with Evans and Smith opposed.

Evans said the commission’s discussions should focus on the applicable zoning rather than what applicants intend to do with their properties.

“By putting these conditional overlays in place, we just continue to inhibit the actual profitable use,” Evans said.

Development plans for the site remain undetermined at this time. Arami said less than an acre of the tract is usable, adding he “can’t even get a restaurant” built on the property.

City Council is tentatively scheduled to take up the case at its Oct. 1 meeting.

Map made available through a Creative Commons license.

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