Keeping The Lid On

Between 75 and 100 people filled the gym of the Hyde Park Methodist Church on Monday evening, September 8 for the general meeting of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association. Among several serious issues was the consideration of a petition to support the request for a parking variance at the Duval Center. Development Review Committee chairman Stan Kozinski presented the committee's report and recommendation, setting the tone that kept the controversial pot from ever even coming to a boil. "The committee wasn't at all comfortable being put in the middle of a business dispute between two longtime businesses who have supported the neighborhood," he explained, "and we seriously considered taking no position at all." During the discussion, the group reviewed their famous fights with churches, schools, the post office, apartment complexes, and duplexes over the issue of parking, realizing that they'd had more arguments about parking than any other single issue. In the end, Kozinski noted, "we decided it was necessary to take a position that is consistent with the stand HPNA has always taken against more cars parking on the street," he said. Therefore, the steering committee recommended that the membership decline to support the variance.

Limiting the discussion and questions strictly to issues of parking rather than turning up the fire under the simmering dispute among Duval Center owner Ed Shaw, Hyde Park Bar & Grill owner Bick Brown, and Greg Cooper of Austin Java, the HPNA managed to keep the lid on a troublesome situation. Shaw, Cooper, and Brown all addressed the group in support of their positions, adding spice to the pot. Bick Brown assured the crowd that he was more than willing to sign a parking deal with a bakery operator who could negotiate a deal with Shaw. A petulant Shaw made dire predictions about the bakery space becoming a flower shop or bookstore because of Brown's monopoly. Greg Cooper described the clientele at the original Austin Java location as mostly pedestrians and bike riders, projecting that his prospective Hyde Park clientele would be the same. Though Cooper attempted to stir the pot with a petition that he described as having "650 signatures of Hyde Park residents who are begging us to come to this neighborhood," when the vote was taken only 23 members eligible to vote supported the variance that Cooper requested.

In the end, a majority of the HPNA eligible voting membership in attendance decided not to solve the business dispute with a parking variance and voted to accept the steering committee's recommendation against it. A simple statement reflecting that vote will be sent to the Board of Adjustment. Ed Shaw and Greg Cooper vowed to carry their request to the Board of Adjustment meeting and encouraged their supporters to write letters to the board rather than pack the meeting, as each side is only allowed five minutes to speak in support of its position. -- V.W.

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