City Council postpones implementation of Riverside development regulating plan

Joshua Fechter

The Austin City Council voted to postpone the implementation of a new regulating plan for development in the East Riverside Corridor at its regular
meeting Thursday.

Citing the late hour and council members’ multiple concerns with the East Riverside Corridor Regulating Plan, Mayor Lee Leffingwell suggested at 11:35 p.m. the council postpone taking action on the plan until the Dec. 6 meeting.

Among the council’s concerns is a provision in the plan that prohibits the construction of new businesses that use drive-thrus.

Leffingwell said the provision would discourage economic development along the East Riverside Corridor. He said businesses such as pharmacies, fast food restaurants and dry cleaning services would not seek to reside along the East Riverside Corridor and would take their business elsewhere.

“It’s an economic development killer to put this [plan] in the corridor,” Leffingwell said.

Erica Leak, a planner in the Austin Planning and Development Review Department, said businesses would not be able to construct buildings with drive-thrus because it would encourage automobile usage, which the regulating plan seeks to discourage.

“Having new drive-thrus takes away from a pedestrian environment,” Leak said.

Leak said the regulating plan requires developers to construct buildings closer to sidewalks, which she said would encourage pedestrians to frequent businesses occupying those buildings. She said because drive-thrus tend to occupy a large amount of space on a property, pedestrians would be discouraged from frequenting businesses with drive-thrus.

Leak said the plan ensures existing establishments with drive-thrus would be able to keep their drive-thrus or remodel their buildings to eliminate the drive-thru.
Leffingwell also raised concerns that the plan would limit the number of lanes on East Riverside Drive.

“There’s no way I’m going to support that initiative to reduce the number of lanes on Riverside Drive,” Leffingwell said.

Leak said a study conducted by the city’s transportation department found Riverside Drive would be reduced to two lanes running in each direction if the proposed urban rail project is constructed in the corridor. She said the reduction in lanes planned for the corridor’s anticipated prioritization of urban rail usage over automobile usage is not related to the regulating plan.

The second phase of the urban rail project proposed by the city would extend into the East Riverside Corridor, providing a route from downtown to South Pleasant Valley Road along East Riverside Drive.

Printed on Friday, November 9, 2012 as: Council delays decision to regulate East Riverside