From the Desk of the Co-Presidents – January 2015

Follow-Up to the December Rezoning Vote

After the very intense HPNA meeting in December, members no doubt want a follow-up report on the issue of rezoning 4500 Speedway for restaurant use.

The case went to the Planning Commission on December 9. Half a dozen Hyde Parkers attended, which meant they outnumbered the Commissioners; only five of nine Commissioners attended. As a result, the case went forward to City Council without a recommendation from the Planning Commission.

The case was part of the 2 p.m. agenda for the December 11 City Council meeting, but it wasn’t considered until around 10 p.m. Again, half a dozen Hyde Parkers attended to speak in opposition at the public hearing, and several of them had taken time off work to be there. Imagine the surprise of those people when the applicant abruptly changed his request from restaurant use to simple office rezoning. After several Hyde Park speakers made the point that HPNA had not been notified about the change, Councilmember Morrison asked for a postponement to return the case to the Planning Commission for reconsideration. Some people who attended the meeting to speak against rezoning left believing that the applicant had planned this strategy from the beginning, to ask for something in excess of what he wanted in the hope of having room to negotiate for what he actually wanted. Or perhaps the applicant changed his plans because he saw neighbors present at the City Council meeting that he knew did not support his original plan.

The applicant will be returning to HPNA to ask for support for office rezoning, which would require changes to the Neighborhood Plan and North Hyde Park NCCD. He has stated he wants to “meet the neighborhood half way.” Hyde Parkers need to consider this carefully. If Hyde Park agrees to give every rezoning applicant half of what he or she requests, what effect will that have over time on Hyde Park protections?

The larger issue here is whether a requested rezoning affords the neighborhood or the city something of greater value than whatever protection the rezoning takes away. Rezoning this property to office use takes away a residential unit. Does Austin want to lose housing at a time when housing in Austin is already undergoing a shortage? The appearance of Christmas decorations on the house at 4500 Speedway makes it clear that someone still considers it a home, and the applicant already has a permit to add an additional dwelling unit. Also, any rezoning from residential to commercial use on 45th Street opens the door to future similar rezoning. Right now, commercial properties on 45th Street are primarily limited to the commercial areas at Guadalupe and Duval. Is additional commercial property on 45th Street beneficial to the neighborhood? How will such commercial property impact nearby homeowners? Overall, does the rezoning of this property create added value for anyone but the property owner? These are some of the tough questions the neighborhood needs to address as the applicant moves forward with his alternative proposal.

 

Recognitions and Thanks

We want to thank Michael Nill for getting the December Pecan Press out early, so that neighbors could be informed about the upcoming meeting and votes in a timely way. We also want to thank Tammy Young for all her work organizing our holiday party, including coping with the possibility of rain! And we want to recognize George Wyche, the recipient of the 2014 Walter and Dorothy Richter Good Citizen Award. George had contributed to the neighborhood consistently and steadily, without need for recognition or acclaim, for decades. He exemplifies the ideal of being a good neighbor.

–Kevin Heyburn & Lorre Weidlich
HPNA Co-Presidents