The Austin Chronicle

Neighbors Protest Proposed Health Clinic

By Lydia Crafts, August 8, 2008, News

Some North Austin residents banded together to fight the Travis County Healthcare District's plans to build a community health clinic at 1200 W. Braker Ln., during two informational meetings held last Thursday and the following Monday at St. John's Episcopal Church.

The proposed $18 million clinic would serve the uninsured and underinsured and replace the Northeast Austin Community Health Center on Ed Bluestein Boulevard. The district, which is independent from the county but can levy property taxes, has said the current clinic is cramped and outdated, while the new facility would accommodate twice as many patients.

To move forward, the district has requested that the city rezone the 7.4-acre parcel from the "Neighborhood Office" designation, which permits only small office buildings compatible with the neighborhood, to "Limited Office," which allows for medical office buildings and other professional and semiprofessional uses "predominantly" serving the neighborhood.

Members of the North Park Estates and Gracywoods neighborhood associations have taken issue with the proposed location, which they say is too far north to serve the majority of the clinic's patients. They have also expressed frustration with what they perceive to be the district's lack of outreach to their communities. The district counters that a majority of its patients live within a few miles of the site, and that it is the best option among numerous others considered.

The neighborhood already has enough signatures on a valid petition (from neighboring property owners) to require a supermajority vote (at least six of seven) from City Council on the rezoning. The Zoning and Platting Commission is scheduled to hear the rezoning case Sept. 16.

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