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Champion sisters get final zoning on tracts at Loop 360 and FM 2222
Strict limit on trips per day imposed per neighborhood associations' requestThe City Council on March 9 finally concluded the seemingly never-ending struggle to zone more than 200 acres of land owned by the Champion sisters, Josie Champion, Juanita Meier and Mary Roberson. The land lies west of Loop 360, and straddles both FM 2222 and City Park Road. The land was split up into five zoning cases after developer Larry Peel withdrew and the sisters' attempt to form a planned unit development failed. The sisters were represented by attorney Michael Whellan of Graves Dougherty Hearon & Moody, who argued till the very end to get the council to allow more vehicle trips. That request was fought by neighboring Jester Estates, represented by attorney Jim Cousar of Thompson & Knight. The applicant had requested 9,500 trips per day, and the neighbors, including the 2222 Coalition Of Neighborhood Associations (CONA), insisted on no more than 6,500 trips per day. Council Member Willie Lewis asked how the city could enforce a cap on vehicle trips. Alice Glasco, director of the Development Review and Inspection Department, said the trips were based on national standards for a given land use. She said traffic counts could be used to determine actual trips per day, and in the case of commercial development an adjustment in the land use could be required if actual trips per day exceed the permitted number. Whellan offered to limit development to 8,000 trips per day with 10 percent of residential development to be built under the city's Smart Housing Program. The program would allow fee waivers in return for reasonably priced housing for renters who make no more than 80 percent of the median family income. (See In Fact Daily July 19, 1999.) Cousar, however, argued that from a traffic viewpoint it would be better if development were more commercial and less residential. "Not all trips are created equal," Cousar said. "We think the neighborhood would use that retail, but residential will be more people driving at the same time." Council Member Bill Spelman moved to change the zoning on two tracts from the recommended LO-CO (Limited Office-Conditional Overlay) to GO-CO (General Office-Conditional Overlay), and also to reduce the setback on one tract from 300 feet to 100 feet. In addition, Spelman moved to modify the settlement agreement to give the developers two additional years to complete the projects. Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman said, "That gives them more time with different land uses, extra time to find those who will come in and make offers to develop the land use." Assistant City Attorney Deborah Thomas clarified, saying, "You're passing an ordinance and giving an indication of the manner in which you would amend the settlement." Asked to comment, Whellan said, "We will agree to revise the settlement agreement if we have 8,000 trips per day and 10 percent Smart Housing units." Spelman said, "The difference between 6,500 (trips per day) and 8,000…For 1,500 vehicles per day we get no lawsuit plus 10 percent Smart Housing." Cousar said, "We think the city is within its prerogative to restrict to 6,500 and that's the Coalition's position." He said that number was based on a compromise among all the Coalition neighborhoods. One of the neighbors said the number was derived from FM 2222's capacity of 39,500 trips per day, according to the Texas Department of Transportation, and actual traffic counts of 33,000 trips per day when the development application started about two years ago. Council Member Beverly Griffith said there were probably eight small towns feeding traffic onto FM 2222 daily "and we have no influence whatsoever. We are approaching crisis proportions." With that the council voted 5-0 to approve the motion, with Mayor Kirk Watson and Council Member Gus Garcia off the dais. "Like it or not we finally have a resolution," Goodman said. Like it not is what Whellan tells In Fact Daily. Yesterday he said the Champions would market the properties in accordance with the ordinances approved by the council. Regarding the limitation on trips per day, he said, "They can file a new zoning case or bring a lawsuit. But the dust needs to settle before we decide how to proceed. I've had two children since I was first introduced to this. I didn't want to have a third child during litigation of the matter, which is why I wanted to revise the trips so it would be in the settlement." Whellan explained that the settlement of a lawsuit entitled the Champions to develop the property under the Hill Country Roadway Ordinance and the Lake Austin Watershed Ordinance that were in effect Dec. 8, 1993. "The total amount of impervious cover built will be the maximum amount allowed in the Lake Austin Watershed Ordinance," he said. Whellan contends that limiting the trips per day in effect cuts the density allowed, and thus limits impervious cover. "Limiting trips per day does limit impervious cover," he said. Cousar says that limiting trips per day does not limit impervious cover. He illustrates the point with a theoretical example of apartment zoning on a steep slope that allows 20 percent impervious cover. Building a multi-story apartment building with structured parking would create a high number of units and a large number of trips per day. Building single-story apartments with pools, patios, covered parking, and spread out, would use the same impervious cover but a "small fraction of the trips per day," he said. The same contrast would be found in a five-story office building vs. a one-story office building, he said. "What they are restricted in is the total intensity," Cousar said. "A restriction on impervious cover and a restriction on trips per day is not the same thing." Whellan also said it was not equitable for 2222 CONA to focus solely on close-in developments on 2222 when developments further out, such as those on RR 620, are ignored. Cousar said he did not know how far the group's sphere of influence has extended in the past, but added, "This case has gotten 2222 CONA into a more systematic and regional approach. I think we will see them taking a more proactive approach, not just in zoning but in other land use." Cousar said, "I'd look to (2222 CONA) to approach the staff and council to look at the macro case for limiting trip generation up and down the road, specifically 2222." CAMPO to consider near-term improvements and long-range plan Road show scheduled for 2025 Transportation Plan If you want to stay up with long-range transportation planning, you'll want to know about some upcoming meetings scheduled for the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO). On Monday, March 20, at 6 p.m. the Policy Advisory Committee will have a presentation of the Draft CAMPO 2025 Transportation Plan in the Joe C. Thompson Conference Center, Red River at Dean Keeton Street. At 7 p.m. the same night a public hearing will be held on amendments to the FY 2000-2002 Transportation Improvement Program. These include: • Capital Metro's request for $41 million for vehicles, technology, land, facilities and a light-rail transit system. • Texas Department of Transportation's request for $97.8 million for three projects on U.S. Highway 183, one project on State Highway 45, and three other projects. • The cities of Austin, Lakeway, Pflugerville and Round Rock, as well as Travis County, have requested 16 bicycle-pedestrian projects totaling almost $2 million. The Draft CAMPO 2025 Transportation Plan will be going on the road for open house meetings from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. as follows: • March 22, Wednesday–Austin at Capital Metro, 2910 E. 5th St. • March 27, Monday–Round Rock at Public Library, 216 E. Main St. • March 28, Tuesday–Oak Hill at Hampton Branch Library, 5125 Convict Hill Road. • April 5, Wednesday–Cedar Park at Williamson County Annex Community Room, 250 Discovery Blvd. For more information, call 499-2275 or visit the web site at http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/ATS New board and commission appointments The Austin City Council on March 9 appointed the following new members to Austin's boards and commissions: Design Commission: Joan Hyde Downtown Commission: Marion Sandez Lozano, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Equity Commission: County Judge Sam Biscoe, Rachel Davila, Leo Dunn, Paul Ellis, Penny Green, Pat Hayes, Tom Kenney, Jennifer Kim, Chris King, Louis Malfaro, Ray Marshall, Earl Mosly, Mike Murphy, Jewel Parker and Sal Valdez Solid Waste Commission: Lark Anthony, East I-35 representative In addition, Jerome "Jerry" Alvila was reappointed to the Music Commission. Primary elections today…The Republican and Democratic Parties would like to see you at the polls today, with party nominations to be decided for positions ranging from constable to president. In that regard, Texans for McCain is taking a diehard stance. Even though their candidate has pulled out of the race to win the GOP presidential nomination, the group is urging voters to cast ballots for McCain anyway. "The campaign is far from over for reforming the government," says a press release from the group. "Neither of the two likely party nominees is likely to go far enough in reforming campaign financing in order to eliminate big money interests…from having a corrupting stranglehold on government."… Election watch… Governor George Bush, U.S. Senators Phil Gramm and Kay Bailey Hutchison, Lieutenant Governor Rick Perry and other Republicans will be at an Election Night Watch Party tonight at the Dell Jewish Community Campus, 7300 Hart Lane, an event that gets underway at 7 p.m… Senatorial hopeful…Former State Representative Charles Gandy, who is running for U.S. Senate as a Democrat, will host an election day party starting at 8 p.m. tonight at 1603 Taylor Gaines St. in Austin. For more info, call 444-3900… Hear Hightower…The Metropolitan Breakfast Club will have radio host Jim Hightower as guest speaker Wednesday morning from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Breakfast is $15 for the general public, $10 for members. Hightower's latest book is, If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote, They Would Have Given Us Candidates. For more info call Pete Gasper at 477-7683.
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