AUSTIN (KXAN) - The Austin City Council had about 30 hearings on city zoning changes Thursday. One involved plans for a new hotel at Eighth Street and Congress Avenue. Council wound up postponing that hearing, and will pick it up mid-January.
That proposed project is stirring up controversy because it would obstruct the current view of the State Capitol
The iconic view approaching downtown Austin from South Congress has changed over the years. Once, a wide open thoroughfare; the Capitol in the distance with nothing to block the view.
That started changing as the city grew and development sprawled. So, a couple of decades ago the city adopted a protection ordinance, known as the Congress Avenue Overlay.
"It was spurred because some of the buildings going up on the east side of Congress Avenue were starting to dominate and overshadow and even obstruct the views of the capitol," said Jacqui Schraad with the Heritage Society of Austin.
The ordinance set regulations for distances tall buildings have to be from the street.
Developers Gone to Texas Capital One want to build a 30-story hotel at 800 and 804 Congress Avenue. Instead of building 60 feet back from the street like the ordinance calls for, the facade would only be 30 feet back. Schraad worries that would obstruct the view of the Capitol too much.
"They're asking for an exception to the Congress Avenue Overlay. We had to oppose it because nobody wins if we start losing the protections of our historic fabric," said Schraad.
City Council has to approve zoning changes for the plans to go through. That would be a move some Austinites support.
"This would be a great place to bring people into the city, bring money into the city," said resident Anthony Schurz, "It would be a pro-business measure since it's so close to the convention center."
There are three protective ordinances intended to preserve the views and the area around the Capitol building. The proposed hotel construction only conflicted with the Congress Avenue Overlay, an ordinance defined by the city.
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