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.
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 (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”.
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.