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Dawson Neighborhood

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Krug Development Files Appeal For Hotel

Guesthouse Hotel Austin (draft)

KRUG Development has filed an appeal with the Travis County Board of Development to request reversal of the staff’s determination that a religious assembly exists at 2530 South Congress Avenue. KRUG is the firm representing The Guesthouse Hotel Austin, LLC. This boutique hotel has been proposed for 2510 South Congress Avenue, in place of the former Taste of China Express. Existence of a church next door has triggered zoning obstacles which limit the design and placement of the Hotel’s driveway, swimming pool and pub.

Neighbors on streets surrounding the two properties may already have received a letter from the City regarding this appeal. Qualifying neighbors may mail in their recommendation to be considered at the hearing. The hearing will be held at City Hall, 1st floor, 301 West 2nd Street at 5:30 PM on March 13, 2017.

Street view, the church in Austin.

Like myself, you may have driven or walked past “the church in Austin” (their spelling) many times without realizing it was owned by a religious movement. The unassuming beige walls at 2530 South Congress Avenue are said to hold a quiet sanctuary and housing for the church’s missionaries and their families. There are no religious symbols to be seen from the street. The only signs are plastic “No Trespassing” sheets, which appeared in the summer of 2016. The chapel building is hardly changed from it’s original construction as a small office. The facility is, ironically, a former motel. An examination of the church’s website shows weekly meetings at 2530 South Congress and other locations, but I was unable to determine the identity of their clergy. However, in some religions, the Members are also the Ministers.

Tim Seay, the church in Austin.

Tim Seay (pronounced “see”) sits on the church’s governing board. Seay made the following statements to the Zoning Commission in July of 2016: “The issue here is protection of residential property rights and church property rights, That’s what we are deciding. We’re a very active church — pretty atypically. We’re there most of the day, every day, and into the evenings”.

Read: KRUG Development speaks in favor of the waivers. The church in Austin speaks against the waivers.

Our understanding of the situation is that the church board fears a loss of quality in their environment. They are opposed to potential sources of noise and traffic, despite their location in a rapidly developing strip of South Congress Avenue. Property along that street, probably closer to downtown, were determined in 2015 to be the most expensive in Texas! In pursuit of their peace, the church board have rejected KRUG Development’s requests for zoning code waivers. This negatively impacts the freedom of design for the Hotel, but does not eliminate it entirely. On June 12, 2016 attending members of the Dawson Neighborhood Ass’n voted to recommend all three setback waivers requested by the Guesthouse. On June 28th, the Austin Planning Commission approved 2 of the waivers, KRUG having dropped the request to feature alcohol within 300′ of a religious assembly.

It seems to me that had the church board allowed KRUG to build the Hotel wall right along the property line, it could work out well for both of them. This would allow the the driveway, pool and pub to be built on the other side. This would also have blocked out noise the church no doubt suffers from HEB Grocery’s loading dock and other businesses in that direction. Without the waivers, KRUG must build the driveway facing the church, and the Hotel’s traffic and pool noise may project onto the church property.

Another part of the picture may be this: the development of the Hotel property will reduce the amount of open green space the church enjoys, though they do not own all of it. Interestingly, a look at the two properties on Google Maps shows that the back end of the proposed Hotel property experiences an extraordinary amount of traffic – coming from the church property! It looks like it has been used by the church for strolling and parking. There are clear tire tracks and foot paths crossing the property line. We are aware of homeless camping in the area, though. The construction of the hotel may affect local property values. While the church is likely free of property taxes, it may still affect maintenance costs in many ways. We don’t know exactly what it could mean if the property serves as an investment holding for the board.

We hope the church and KRUG Development are able to work out their differences. It may be that the church benefits in this by the elimination of homeless trespassers, and furthermore they may even choose to sell the property and build something better elsewhere! Either way, they are our neighbors, and they contribute to the wonderful and diverse nature of Dawson Neighborhood.

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Austin Planning Comm Approves Variances for Guesthouse Hotel

Image: APC Votes for Variances

The Austin Planning Commission debated SP-2015-0300, the compatibility setback waivers requested by KRUG/Guesthouse Hotel. They reached this item at 11:30 PM, and finished at 1:00 AM. Guesthouse Hotel had dropped the request to feature alcohol within 300′ of the Church in Austin, so at stake was the driveway and the pool positions.

Planning Commission Staff had recommended approval of the waivers. Click here for their review sheet, site plan diagrams and attached documents from Interested Parties in the neighborhood.

Many representatives from Church in Austin spoke against the waivers on the grounds of noise, safety and defending the heritage trees on both properties. They do not want the hotel driveway adjacent to their property line, nor the pool, due to noise concerns. Their primary fear is that the hotel will be incompatible with the church’s quiet atmosphere by being a disruptive party destination. They framed the issue as being about their property rights.

The Dawson Neighborhood Plan Contact Team representative was a no-show tonight, leaving Church in Austin itself awkwardly disclosing their lack of neighborhood support. On Monday, June 13, the DNPCT membership voted in favor of all three waivers.

The Planning Commission was ultimately sold on the waivers due to the reality that South Congress Avenue is already an entertainment district, and KRUG/Guesthouse Hotel presented reasonable solutions to each point of objection. They voted on the two waivers separately:

  • Driveway passed: 9 to 2
  • Pool passed 8 to 3 7 to 4 per Austin Monitor

Stay tuned, the Church in Austin may appeal, and The Guesthouse Hotel may ask for a waiver for alcohol sales in the future. Also note that the hotel design may change, as the land use design used tonight was not a final draft.

Please enjoy the 1:28 video here:

This article has been revised for clarity.

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Dawson Elementary Closing Early March 11

President Barack Obama’s trip to Austin TX on the first day of SXSW is going to cause some traffic snarls! As happened last time he visited, expect closures on IH-35 and Ben White (290). He’s making appearances at several locations including the The Long Convention Center (watch the live video stream) and a fundraiser for Democratic National Committee, so some interior streets will be closed for public safety. This may include South Congress Ave and South 1st Street.

President Obama will be in town between 1 PM and 8 PM.

Many City of Austin employees have been invited to work from home that day, and will be sent home at lunchtime regardless.

In anticipation of the disruptions, AISD have announced the early closures of 17 Austin schools on Friday, March 11. [Full list here] Each will close at 12:30 PM, so please be prepared to pick up your children early, or arrange for someone to watch them if necessary. Classes and transportation at other schools will go on as usual. However, if you pick up your children early at campuses remaining open, their absence will be excused.

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Editorial: Sally Hernandez For Sheriff

Jovita Pardo, Campaign Mgr

Hi Neighbors!

My name is Jovita, and I live on Coleman St. in Dawson Neighborhood. I hope you will join me in voting for Sally Hernandez for Sheriff this primary season. Early voting is already underway in your area!

Sally has over 34 years experience in law enforcement. She began her career as a night dispatcher because she had a special-needs child she cared for during the day. Later, she worked her way up to the position of Chief of Investigations in the Travis County District Attorney’s office – and won an award as Outstanding Investigator in Texas. Sally got into law enforcement because of need, but grew to love her profession, and sought to improve it along the way. (more…)

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