In November of 2012, representatives of a prospective buyer for the office building at 518 Oltorf St. (at Rebel Rd.) approached SRCC and the GSRC Neighborhood Plan Contact Team to discuss their plan for turning the property into a restaurant. Since the property was currently zoned GO-NP (General Office – Neighborhood Plan) which does not allow for restaurant use, they were requesting an amendment to the neighborhood plan and a zoning change to GR-NP (General Retail – Neighborhood Plan). The representatives met with members of SRCC and the NPCT to describe their plans and propose some compromises that they would be willing to make in return for granting the amendment and up-zoning including some restrictions of uses as well as noise and parking abatement.
The GSRC Neighborhood Plan had specifically designated this piece of property to remain as office-use due to its proximity to single-family residences and the need for a mixture of uses along the Oltorf corridor. After meeting with the immediate neighbors and discussing the ramifications of the proposed changes, the GSRC NPCT members voted to oppose the neighborhood plan amendment for the following reasons:
1. Office use is desired in our neighborhood, especially for a tract such as this that is directly adjacent to single family homes.
2. This tract directly abuts two single family homes on tracts zoned SF-3. The requested zoning does not provide an adequate zoning buffer between single family homes and commercial land uses.
3. A restaurant at this site would bring constant odors to the adjacent and nearby neighbors from garbage, grease traps, kitchen exhaust, and vermin.
4. A restaurant at this site would bring frequent loud service vehicle traffic including food delivery trucks, garbage trucks and grease disposal trucks.
5. These services are likely to interrupt the sleeping patterns of the adjacent and nearby neighbors due to typical restaurant hours.
6. A restaurant at this site has the potential to bring additional loud noise from outdoor dining, let alone the potential if it is used as an indoor or outdoor music venue.
7. Commercial use of this site is likely to increase parking and traffic on Rebel Road, a residential street that already is used as overflow parking for a nearby popular restaurant.
8. The change of use has the potential not only to make home life unbearable for the adjacent and nearby neighbors, but to drive down their property values.
SRCC invited the applicant to our December general meeting for a presentation regarding the zoning change. There was excellent attendance and lively discussion with lots of Q&A. In the end the membership voted overwhelmingly to support the NPCT’s opposition for nearly the same reasons.
The neighbors within a 500 ft. radius of the property pulled together and signed a petition in opposition of the changes. The petition was deemed to be a valid petition by the City given that more than the minimum of 20% of the ownership of these properties had signed.
On January 22nd, the case went before the Planning Commission. David Swann and Sarah Campbell spoke from the NPCT, Marc Davis spoke from SRCC, and Jim Hallinan and Nathan Tate spoke as Rebel Rd. neighbors. Many of the same points were made and it was noted that the presence of the valid petition would require a super-majority from City Council when the case appeared before them. The Planning Commission voted 6-2 in opposition to the plan amendment and the zoning change. Respecting the neighborhood plan and the massive effort that it entailed was their primary reason for opposing the changes. The two PC members that voted in support of the changes cited a desire to compromise – they believed that a restriction of uses and noise/parking abatements could create a “win-win.” The majority of the PC members disagreed and felt that a compromise was not appropriate and would not be enough to protect the neighbors from the impact of having a restaurant on the site.
The case will be heard by City Council, but no date has been set yet. Please contact David Swann (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any input, questions, or interest in helping with this case.