Tuesday, December 8, 2020 by Jo Clifton

East side cold storage zoning put on ice

At the urging of Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, City Council agreed last Thursday to postpone consideration of a zoning change for an industrial property at 6215 1/2 Johnny Morris Road that might serve as a cold storage facility.

The 14-acre property has been zoned for industrial uses since the original zoning ordinance was approved in 1988. Staffers considered the Limited Industrial Services (LI) zoning to be reasonable with a proposed conditional overlay to limit the site to Industrial Park District uses. Staff wrote, “This (conditional overlay) will prohibit more intensive, obnoxious industrial and commercial uses on the site, as there are residential uses to the north, south and east of this tract of land.”

Staff also found that the proposed zoning was appropriate for the site because the property will use an arterial roadway across from another LI-CO zoned property to the west that has a limited warehouse and industrial use.

Harper-Madison described the case as a difficult one. On the one hand, she said: “What has come to my understanding is that our local food industry could really use a public cold storage facility. But I also understand that we’ve had a steady decline in the number of sites zoned for industrial across the city. So I think that’s a problem that deserves a broader conversation in the citywide planning process.”

On the other hand, she said, “I also have a lot of issues with approving an industrial site right smack dab in the middle of existing residential dwellings, and I think that’s part of the problem that the neighborhood is having as well.”

Staff members’ description of the neighborhood indicates that the tract to the north of the property in question is the site of a mobile home park. The tract to the south has a single-family residence, barn and manufactured home park. To the west, across Johnny Morris Road, there is an office/warehouse use as well as a single-family residence. On the east side, there is a rail line and a single-family residential neighborhood.

Staffers made recommendations to limit the site to prevent numerous industrial activities, as well as liquor sales, recycling and resource extraction. However, the Law Department determined that the Zoning and Platting Commission’s recommendation to add performance standards to the zoning case would not be appropriate.

Harper-Madison said she agreed with the neighborhood. “This case proposes to put an industrial facility with semi-truck traffic on either side of an established mobile home park, and (the facility) will line up against homes in a residential neighborhood. So I think it’s safe to say that the community has unnecessarily borne the brunt of businesses that are not wanted, frankly, in other parts of town. And I’m in complete alignment when they say enough is enough.”

She proposed that Council postpone the matter to its Jan. 27 meeting to give the developer more time to work with the neighbors. Council Member Leslie Pool suggested she would be willing to postpone the item indefinitely. However, Harper-Madison said she could not agree to that because she had already offered that date as a compromise to both sides of the argument. Council voted unanimously for the postponement to the end of January.

Map courtesy of Google Maps.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.

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