Last week I wrote about a zoning case in North Austin, at Braker and Wedgewood, that the neighborhood association is opposing because they don’t want more renters in the area.
On Tuesday, ZAP heard from the same neighborhood group about a proposed rezoning just a couple blocks away. The applicant wants a small development: some ground-level retail and condos on top. ZAP originally heard the case last month and postponed it in the hopes that the applicant could work out an agreement with the owner of a next-door dance studio to create a joint driveway onto Braker. Otherwise, the property’s access will be onto May Drive, a neighborhood street that the neighborhood association doesn’t want more traffic on. Unfortunately, the owner of the dance studio isn’t interested.
The ZAP commissioners didn’t seem too bothered by the access onto May. But they did entertain a number of concerns from the neighborhood group about what the property could be used for. Specifically, the group doesn’t want the following:
Residential treatment centers
Jim Duncan, who is definitely a neighborhood preservationist but expressed his distaste for the anti-renter comments made in the other case, said he couldn’t support a prohibition on multifamily housing. However, Chair Jolene Kiolbassa seemed sympathetic to that idea, noting that the current zoning (which was approved two years ago) includes such a prohibition.
Ultimately, the commission didn’t vote to bar apartments. But it did grant the neighborhood group’s request to bar all of the other uses they didn’t want.
Now, I’m not really interested in standing up for payday lenders. But why is it OK to allow neighborhoods to veto residential treatment centers? I have a friend in that neighborhood who is a substance abuse counselor and who is outraged by the misinformation that the association has propagated about mental health facilities. These are precisely the types of services that we desperately need to address the addiction and mental health problems fueling our homelessness crisis. If not on Braker Lane, then where are these facilities supposed to go? Why are our land use commissions legitimizing this ignorance about mental health?
As for restaurants, my guess is that there are quite a few people in the neighborhood who would appreciate a quality eatery within walking distance of their homes.
Agents for developers or property owners are often happy to agree to these types of restrictions if they don’t affect their clients’ short-term business plans. But the problem is that the zoning remains whether or not those plans are ever realized, or long after they’re realized.
Ten years from now, when a new person buys the property and wants to do something else with it, they’ll have to go through the rezoning process all over again. If you don’t care about the significant costs incurred by the property owner or developer (many in city politics don’t), you should at least care about the amount of taxpayer resources (city staff) that are consumed by this cumbersome and entirely unnecessary process.
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