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Pier property rezoning wins final OK

Monday, February 1, 2021 by Jo Clifton

City Council gave final approval at Wednesday’s meeting to rezone a small piece of property on Lake Austin at 1703 River Hills Drive. The property sits in District 10 Council Member Alison Alter’s district and she made the motion to change the zoning from CS-1, which allows for alcohol sales, to CR for Commercial Recreation. That designation allows the owner to operate a commercial marina on the site next to where the Pier, a popular restaurant, once stood.

The owner of Tires Made Easy Inc., who is the current owner of the property, has explained he is simply trying to get permission to repair the boat docks. As staffers noted in the backup materials, there is currently is no development proposed for the property. However, the owner has not been able to repair the marina without the zoning change.

The property includes 212 feet of Lake Austin frontage and the owners requested rezoning for the footprint of the marina, just 2,230 square feet. After an Austin Code official inspected the property, he determined that the boat docks were unsafe and needed repair. However, once owners attempted to get a permit to repair the docks, they learned that they would need a zoning change in order to do so.

Attorney Nikelle Meade of Husch Blackwell represents the property owners, but did not speak at Wednesday’s meeting. However, several representatives of Travis County Water Control and Improvement District No. 20 told Council they were concerned about the possibility of gasoline sales once the marina is repaired. The district uses a raw water intake that is about 800 feet from the property. State environmental regulations do not allow such an intake to be located within 1,000 feet of a business that sells gasoline.

Sean Abbott, an attorney for the water district, told Council that he and the board of directors were concerned about the possibility of a gasoline spill if sales were permitted.

“What compounds our concern is it’s not possible to test for benzene contamination in real time,” he said. “If it should occur, the district’s drinking water could be in danger of being contaminated. We would request it be precluded. The district has regulatory concerns with the boat docks within 1,000 feet of our water intakes.”

Although the marina was operating during the 1980s at the time the water intake was constructed, much has changed in the way drinking water quality is analyzed.

Abbott and the other representatives of the water district requested that Council approve a conditional overlay along with the zoning change that would prohibit gasoline sales, as they did in December.

However, on Wednesday Alter asked Jerry Rusthoven, the assistant director of the Housing and Planning Department, about the need for such an overlay and how the property owner might get a conditional use permit to sell gasoline. Rusthoven explained that in order to sell gas, the owner would have to file a site plan and go before the Planning Commission. The commission would give notice and hold the hearing and make a decision. Regardless of how the commission decided, an aggrieved party could appeal that decision to Council.

Alter proposed approving the zoning ordinance on third reading, but removing the conditional overlay, mirroring recommendations from staff and the Zoning and Platting Commission. Council Member Kathie Tovo objected to the removal of the conditional overlay and voted against the zoning change, so the final vote was 10-1.

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