Public turns out to talk zoning

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 29, 1999

Sandy and Kevin Anderson moved into their 120-year-old home on 4th St.

Wednesday, September 29, 1999

Sandy and Kevin Anderson moved into their 120-year-old home on 4th St. NW in January. Part of the reason the couple moved here with their four children was the old homes and the trees that give Austin what Sandy called "such a warm welcoming feeling."

Email newsletter signup

She wants more restrictions to protect the old homes and arterial streets in Austin from commercial development.

So did the majority of the 30 residents who joined the Andersons at City Hall Tuesday night to talk land use.

"Once you knock down a 120-year-old house that’s a lot of history gone," Anderson said.

"Leave 4th Street as it is," Barb Scheid said. "Let the trees be; let the land be; let the development continue north of I-90." Scheid’s was the first comment to gather a smattering of applause.

No decisions were made at Tuesday’s meeting; no conclusions reached and no promises given. The meeting was purely informational; its purpose to discuss land use on 4th and 14th Streets as well as the area north of 18th Ave. NW and along Interstate 90 between Target and Oakland Avenue.

"It was a diverse crowd," city engineer Jon Erichson said. "People were there representing their own interests – that was obvious – but they had some very good things to say."

Burt Plehal, a prominent Austin businessman, thought 14th Street was an obvious area for commercial rezoning. He explained that homeowners could get four to five times more money for their homes and the city could get more tax money and with a wider street the traffic would flow more slowly.

"It seems to me like the planning commission should rezone all the way to Oakland," he said.

Plehal didn’t get a lot of support, although Robert Helmers of Kar Korner did make a plea to have his property at the corner of 8th and 14th rezoned commercial – Helmers currently operates under a non-conforming land use permitted because the business was grandfathered into the area when it was rezoned in the 1970s.

"I live next to Kar Korner and I don’t like the idea of additional neon, especially with the college and that beautiful open field," Darlene Theissen said. "There’s a well-used park just a block away from 14th – I think you should work on keeping the street residential where it’s residential."

Some of the most outspoken members of the audience were those who had recently moved here. Jody Ingalls sat to the left of the Andersons – she moved here from the Twin Cities in April and also owns a house on 4th Street. Another non-native couple sat to their right, they recently moved into a 4th Street house only a block from Andersons.

"This city has to decide what image it wants to portray," Sandy Anderson said. "I like Austin a lot, but it’s pretty flat and there’s not a lot of water. Part of what makes it attractive to people is that it seems to be getting back to its roots … Do we want to portray a flat city full of concrete or a town in the middle of a farming area that’s proud of its history?"

Although Hoium stressed that the meeting was purely to exchange information and to get public input for the developing Comprehensive Plan, Yaggy Colby consultant Jeff Mundt said he thought the response reinforced much of what the city’s already working on.

"People are interested in historic preservation, neighborhood protection, corridor planning – that’s obvious," Mundt said. "I was impressed with the quantity and the quality of response: people are really thinking about the community and its future."

Mundt said he expects to have a draft copy of the new Comprehensive Plan to Hoium and the Austin planning commission inside of three months. The plan would be reviewed by the planning commission and the public at that time. Hoium said he plans at least one more public input meeting before then: that one on land uses in the NE, SW and SE quadrants of Austin.