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ZAP weighs industrial rezoning request near Colony Park

Tuesday, November 17, 2020 by Daniel Salazar

The Zoning and Platting Commission has recommended rezoning a tract near Colony Park in response to a request to build a refrigerated warehouse in Northeast Austin.

The commission heard a rezoning request for a 14.7-acre property at 6215 1/2 Johnny Morris Road at its Nov. 4 meeting.

Sherri Sirwaitis with the Housing and Planning Department said the property is currently zoned as Limited Industrial-Conditional Overlay and Warehouse/Limited Office-Conditional Overlay (LI-CO and W/LO-CO).

Staff members recommended Limited Industrial zoning with a conditional overlay (LI-CO) for the tract.

Sirwaitis said the conditional overlay would limit uses to those permitted in the Industrial Park district.

“This CO will prohibit the more intensive, obnoxious industrial and commercial uses on this site,” she said.

Kimley-Horn’s Amanda Brown represented the property developer on the rezoning case.

Brown noted the site is within 5 miles of State Highway 130, Interstate 35, U.S. 183 and U.S. 290, as well as a nearby rail line.

“We’re situated in an ideal transportation network for an industrial use,” she said.

Brown said the existing conditional overlay enforces “a more restrictive industrial zoning.” Wanting to “simplify” the zoning across the entire site, they wanted Limited Industrial zoning without a conditional overlay.

Access will be taken from Johnny Morris Road, an arterial road. Brown said they have also had talks with the Colony Park Neighborhood Association about improving sidewalks near the property.

Christian Garces, the managing partner of Texas ColdWorks, would be the site’s prospective owner and developer. Texas ColdWorks is a refrigerated food warehouse serving the Austin area.

“This will be a state-of-the-art facility, a visually appealing Class-A building – and Austin’s first public cold storage,” Garces said, adding that the facility would not generate much noise or pollution.

“Its proximity to downtown Austin and all major highways … will increase efficiencies of food distribution,” he said. “This will promote local farming, reduce food waste (and) increase the availability of fresh foods, especially for East Austin.”

Sirwaitis said sidewalk improvements along Johnny Morris Road in front of the property would be required during the platting process, but sidewalk extensions beyond the property cannot be part of the zoning case.

Brown said they are planning the sidewalk improvements through a private restrictive covenant. Garces said they haven’t found an operator for the facility yet, but they are willing to try to keep hours of operation from being too late at night or too early in the morning.

Commissioner Ana Aguirre said she wanted to be mindful of the industrial uses that are already located in East Austin.

“I can relate to the residents that are going to be adjacent to this zoning,” she said.

Commissioner David King was worried about the development’s effects on mobile homes near the site.

“I’m just very uncomfortable with this zoning right next to residential uses,” King said. “It just doesn’t feel right to have this kind of zoning next to these families here.

“The eastern crescent seems to be an area where we see a lot of this zoning,” he added. “So I’m just very, very uncomfortable fundamentally with this.”

Commissioner Ellen Ray, who represents District 1 on the commission, also had concerns about equity.

“The east side has really (borne) the brunt of a lot of the adverse impacts of industrial zoning in the past,” she said. “While I’m generally supportive of the job creation that industrial zoning entails … I think we always do need to worry about what it means to be a good neighbor.”

Commissioner Ann Denkler motioned to approve the staff recommendation for LI-CO zoning with performance standards related to things like the property’s permitted noise levels.

“What I would be a little bit concerned about, if I was in the neighborhood, is having trucks driving off at 3 a.m.,” Denkler said.

The motion passed 9-1 with King voting no.

Map courtesy of Google Maps.

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