Rosemary Follis, who owns the nightclub Midnight Rodeo at 2201 E. Ben White Blvd., has requested a variance that would allow her to open a strip club there.
The project requires a variance because, under the city’s Land Development Code, adult-oriented businesses are not allowed within 1,000 feet of parks, schools, churches or day care centers, or where 50 percent or more of the lots within a 1,000-foot radius are zoned for residential use.
Midnight Rodeo is 863.65 feet from the southern edge of Mabel Davis District Park, according to an article that appeared in In Fact Daily in mid-April. It also is about 800 feet from a liquor store, 1,000 feet from the southwestern edge of the Burleson-Parker neighborhood, just over 1,000 feet from American Youthworks’ charter school, about 1,500 feet from Future Stars Child Development Center, and less than 2,000 feet from a rock-climbing gym and a private school at St. Elmo Road and Woodward Street, according to Google Earth measurements provided by a Burleson-Parker resident. A new early childhood development center designed to help relieve crowding at Linder Elementary School will open in August at 5200 Friedrich Lane, about a mile south of Midnight Rodeo.
Follis appears to be using an unusual argument in her request to the city’s Board of Adjustment. She and her representative, Charlie Nohra, claimed that because Mabel Davis Park occupies the site of a former landfill contaminated by illegal dumping, it has been condemned and cannot be used as public parkland, according to the In Fact Daily article. Representatives of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department denied that claim, and Nohra requested a postponement from the board to find evidence. (Mabel Davis was closed for 5½ years for a $10 million environmental cleanup, and reopened in 2005. The most contaminated area is now the proposed site for a fenced off-leash area. You can read more on the remediation project at a Nov. 19, 2011, blog post.)
Neighboring business owner Sebastian Stadler spoke at the April 9 hearing to oppose Follis’ request, according to In Fact Daily, which quotes him as saying, “I don’t think they have invested any money into their property since they have owned it. I think they are just looking for an easy way to continue to own it without investing anything into it.”
Follis has owned the property, previously 84 Lumber Co., then Dance Across Texas, since 1990.
Several studies have found correlations between adult-oriented businesses, increases in crime and decreases in property values. A few study results are listed at the site of an Oregon nonprofit that supports liveability; see their resources for more details. And if a strip club opens at 2201 East Ben White, it would not be the only AOB in the area. Within 1.7 to 3 miles are Palazio’s, Expose and Hot Bodies. In just the past two years, employees and customers of two of those clubs have been involved in several beating and shooting incidents that resulted in two deaths.
Follis is also the owner of a nearby duplex at 2405 Ventura Drive where two tenants, Ronald Mathias and Robert Anderson, died of carbon monoxide poisoning in late January 2011. Follis was cited with nine structural maintenance and land use violations at the duplex, which had been illegally converted into 13 single-bedroom apartments, according to the website of Grossman Law Offices in Dallas. Follis also owns other rental properties and a transitional home for ex-offenders. Learn more from Travis Central Appraisal District, the Austin Chronicle, the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE.
If you have concerns about the request for a variance to allow a strip club at the site of Midnight Rodeo, contact Susan Walker of Planning and Development Review at 974-2202 and refer to case number C15-2012-0041. You also can email her via this form: http://www.austingo.org/email/susanwalker
This request for a variance was denied by the City of Austin Board of Adjustment on May 14. See the city’s notes and documents.