Many of you probably remember that, back in 2005, Reagan Outdoor Advertising attempted to secure an up-zoning of their property on the northwest corner of Woodland and IH35 which is currently zoned General Retail (GR). They proposed to build their headquarters on the lot which included offices as well as warehouse, sign printing, and chemical storage which required portions of the lot to be zoned Commercial Services (CS). After SRCC and the immediate neighbors fought hard, no zoning change was granted but the final approved site plan had many residents concerned because it retained the same warehouse and sign printing facilities in the drawings. Fortunately Reagan never built the facility and, last year, with more involvement from SRCC and the neighbors, the Planning Commission voted to deny their last-minute site plan extension requests and the site plan died. This was particularly good news for the neighborhood because it meant that a new site plan would have to adhere to the newly revised Heritage Tree Ordinance and save many of the trees on the wooded lot that would have been lost with the old site plan.
Now, Reagan is back with a new plan but, unfortunately, they still don’t feel that it is in their interest to develop the lot under the current GR zoning which would mean an office or retail building. Instead, they believe that a commercial storage facility like Public Storage or Storage Depot would be ideally suited to the location. This development would require an up-zoning to Commercial Services (CS) as well although they would agree to limit all other CS uses of the land so that only commercial storage would be allowed.
In two smaller meetings in the past several months, Reagan’s representatives met with a small group of SRCC members and concerned neighbors to go over their proposal in detail. They made numerous concessions in the site plan to lessen the impact of the proposed 125,000 square foot, four story structure on the neighboring properties including extensive landscaping, tree preservation, lighting, setbacks, and layout. They also agreed to restrict the design of the building to be more aesthetically pleasing and resemble an office building with higher quality exterior materials and windows. They also proposed limiting the hours of operations and claimed that the number of site trips would be far less than what an office or retail property would cause.
At the well-attended SRCC General Meeting on June 3rd, Reagan’s representatives gave the membership a final overview of the plan and asked for approval. Many questions were asked and issues were brought up and, in the end, the membership voted unanimously to oppose the zoning change for the following fundamental reasons:
- Commercial storage requires CS zoning for a reason – the usage is consistent with all the other uses allowed under CS
- The City of Austin already defines CS zoning as “not compatible” with adjacent residentially zoned properties. The neighboring properties would feel significant impact from this type of facility even with all the restrictions that were proposed.
- Restrictions in a Conditional Overlay and Restrictive Covenants can be hard to enforce. Given that Reagan has no operator signed on for this property, there is concern that the style and layout commitments would not be easily enforced and the building would end up as a giant box like most storage facilities.
- “Zoning is forever” – once CS zoning were allowed on this site, even when limited by a conditional overlay, it opens the door for the restrictions to be knocked off more easily over time. This phenomenon, known as “zoning creep” can result in future uses that are more intense and incompatible with the surrounding properties.
The zoning case will now be heard by the Planning Commission where SRCC and concerned neighbors will voice their opposition to the zoning change. The case will either move on to City Council or can be appealed to City Council after the Planning Commission has voted. If you feel strongly about this case, please contact Pat Roeder at firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.