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Citizens turn out to air concerns over proposed Bradley Settlement
Final public hearing and vote set for March 9It wasn't the all-night public hearing that sounded the death knell for the Barton Creek Planned Unit Development, but citizens finally turned up the volume to express their feelings about the proposed Bradley Settlement. Last night 66 people signed up to speak at the third public hearing on the deal that would end litigation with developer Gary Bradley and settle development regulations for more than 3,000 acres of land. Because of other business on the agenda, the hearing on the Bradley Settlement didn't start till 11:40 p.m. last night. It didn't end till 2:20 a.m. this morning. Mayor Kirk Watson said at the conclusion of the hearing that there would be another public hearing March 9 and the council is scheduled to vote on the agreement that night. Watson started the hearing with an unabashed defense of the deal and a point-by-point refutation of the seven major criticisms leveled by the Save Our Springs Alliance (SOSA), which opposes the agreement unless changes are made ( In Fact Daily March 1). Watson used the same arguments advanced by the city's attorney, Casey Dobson of Scott Douglass & McConnico, as previously reported. "What we're doing is making sure (Bradley's) tied to the Land Development Code and Save Our Springs Ordinance no matter how the fights at the courthouse and statehouse turn out," Watson said. "We'll be functioning with Mr. Bradley just like every other developer in town. That's not a reason not to do this deal but a reason to do this deal." Roy Dalton, board chairman of the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD), said the proposed deal was far better for the aquifer than Bradley's original plan to use groundwater for his development and build a wastewater treatment plant to irrigate the golf course with treated effluent. BSEACD General Manager Stovy Bowlin said that the Bradley Settlement, when combined with the city's land preserved under Proposition 2, totaled "almost 7,000 acres on the recharge zone developed to SOS (Ordinance) standards or set aside…completely." The question still on the table, he said, is how the well to be drilled to water the golf course on the Spillar Ranch would affect residential wells in the vicinity. Using a hand-drawn chart to show a cross-section of what lies beneath the surface of the land, Bowlin said that a deep well drilled into the lower Trinity Aquifer would be separated by an impermeable layer from the more shallow residential wells. A study done in 1984 showed that pumping 300 gallons per minute could draw down the aquifer by 20 feet to 80 feet as much as a mile away. "We could guestimate what the impact would be but before we could determine the exact impact we'd have to pump a test well, monitor adjacent wells and measure drawdown," he said. Bowlin suggested the city explore buying the community wells in the areas southeast of Spillar Ranch that serve Copper Hills, Autumn Woods, Southwest Territory and Chapparal Park and use water from those widely dispersed wells to irrigate the golf course. Residents in those areas could be supplied with water from the City of Austin. "That would spread the demand over a far larger area," he said. Mayor Katherine Rosenbluth of the Village of Bear Creek said, "We're in a drought. I have homeowners (wells) currently going dry. With the possibility of millions of gallons taken out (of the aquifer) just across the road from us, I don't know how we can't be affected." When residents' wells go dry, she said, they have the option of drilling their wells deeper or installing rainwater harvesting, either of which cost $10,000 or more. "We'll have a whole lot of property owners without water. It's the substance of life and we can't live without it." She asked that alternatives to a well be found for irrigating the Spillar Ranch golf course. Erin Foster, chair of the Hays County Water Planning Partnership, said her organization is starting a well survey for the Trinity Aquifer and the council should not move forward until the results are analyzed. Alternatively, Foster said, the well should be taken out of the plan and the golf course should be irrigated with the city's drinking water. She estimated that would cost about $185,000 a year. "Surely they can up the green fees a couple of bucks a head and not put any one's well in jeopardy," she said. Gareth Pollard, president of the Goldenwood Property Owners Association, said when the Circle C Ranch golf course started in the early 1990s, "wells went dry and spurred a crisis." He asked the council to bring to bear other options to water the golf course on Spillar Ranch. Sherry Heiden said she lives near the Circle C golf course and had a fully functional well until the golf course was put in and then she had to haul water every summer. "I'm now hooked up to the Hill Country Water Supply Corp. and I pay about $250 a month for water. I drive by that nice green golf course from my yard of burned up grass," she said. Bill Bunch has been on a sabbatical from his duties as SOSA general counsel but he came to last night's public hearing to speak on his own behalf. "Not in my worst nightmares would I think this council would extend utilities down the center line of the recharge zone," Bunch said. He likened this proposal to the 1984 Municipal Utility District deal that went south. "We're not rising above history, we're repeating it." He said if the council wanted to repeat history it should repeat the outcome of the June 7, 1990, all night hearing on the Barton Creek PUD, "a rare occasion when the council listened to the people and didn't succumb to threats." Bunch said the proposed agreement didn't get the city anything it would get anyway. He said the deal would give Bradley a competitive advantage over other developers. "This is how we reward bullies?" Bunch asked. Robert Singleton presented 20 ideas for improving the proposed settlement, including purchasing the properties to be developed or to compensate Bradley Interests for any losses to be incurred for coming into full compliance with the SOS Ordinance. He said all documents associated with the agreement should be made publicly available before the deal undergoes a full series of board and commission reviews. Neal Tuttrup, who has been an environmental activist for more than a dozen years, pulled out the emotional stops. He said his work began as a love affair with the planet but over the years has descended into a war zone. He said he thinks the fight to save Barton Springs has already been lost, adding, "Why am I here? Because if you have a friend dying of cancer you don't walk away." He spoke at 2 a.m. and said he had to be at work in the morning. "This is peace under repression and peace under repression is not peace." SOSA Board Member Mary Arnold said, "The aquifer is rock and has a lot of holes in it similar to the holes we've been seeing in this development agreement." She said she was present to complain when the Circle C MUD agreements were approved in 1983 and 1984 and is tempted to say, "I told you so." Karen Hadden said, "Do not pursue a policy of surrender and declare victory." Side deal with Bradley Settlement would end war over Circle C annexation But if Bradley deal falls through so will this one If the Bradley Settlement goes through then another important agreement to end litigation over the annexation of Circle C Ranch is likely to be approved as well. If the Bradley Settlement is not approved then the status quo will continue and lawsuits pending in the courts over annexation will continue. The City of Austin has negotiated a term sheet for a settlement with the Circle C Home Owners Association (HOA). The term sheet is the basis for negotiating final details for an agreement to be signed before March 8. Any final agreement is subject to approval by the City of Austin and the Circle C HOA. Jim O'Reilly, president of the Circle C HOA, said his group has been fighting the 1997 annexation of Circle C in court for two years and had yet to get a ruling. In the meantime, he said, Gary Bradley had put the development on hold and the HOA had suffered. He said the HOA had been meeting with City Manager Jesus Garza, Deputy City Manager Toby Futrell and City Attorney Andy Martin to work out a settlement. "If the agreement is signed we will withdraw from all lawsuits and accept Circle C's annexation," O'Reilly said. Circle C resident Kevin Cromack said, "There's a new era of trust and we'd like to see it continue. As residents we've come a long way from that night of acrimony at Bowie High School when discussing annexation." The term sheet lists 17 amendments to the Circle C Annexation Service Plan, eight amendments to the existing contract for maintenance, one zoning change, a neighborhood planning process, and six immediate items of maintenance. The major items include: • Designating a site within Circle C for a fire station with design funded in 2001 and construction funded in 2002, with construction in 2002-2003. • Including in the 2000 Transportation Bond Package or as an improvement in conjunction with the fire station the extension of Escarpment Boulevard from Aden Lane to State Highway 45 to provide internal access and fire protection access, provided that the right of way is dedicated to the city at no cost. • Creating an impervious cover bank that may be used to provide improvements and donate impervious cover for elementary school sites, child care sites and community and recreational facilities. All improvements to the commons areas owned or controlled by Circle C HOA within Circle C Ranch shall be subject to impervious cover limits of the Save Our Springs Ordinance. • In a separate agreement between Circle C HOA and Bradley Parties, the location of an elementary school site in Circle C West or Hielscher Properties will be agreed and water quality controls shall be in accordance with the Bradley Settlement. Other concessions include a traffic light at Slaughter Lane and Park Road, rest rooms and a water fountain at Slaughter Creek Metropolitan Park by the soccer fields, a water fountain at the Veloway and a feasibility study for rest rooms there, and completion of the existing roadway and parking lot at the Slaughter Creek Metropolitan Park soccer field area. The Circle C HOA will retain private garbage service and negotiations for bids shall be handled by the HOA board of directors. Ken Rigsbee, who chairs the steering committee for the Circle C HOA, tells In Fact Daily, "It's important to the City Council that Circle C homeowners buy into this (Bradley Settlement) deal. If they want our support, there are things we want from the city," he said. Rigsbee said the elementary school, the fire station, the extension of Escarpment, and impervious cover flexibility for the commons area were critical. "We've got this one opportunity," he said. The term sheet states that "provisions for enforceability are being worked on." Rigsbee said Circle C HOA wants any future lawsuit not to be tried in Travis County and the city wants it not tried in Hays County and the compromise will likely be not to try it in Travis or any contiguous county. Rigsbee said it wasn't easy to get the Circle C HOA to authorize the agreement with the city. It was discussed in a meeting of some 300 people, he said. "The meeting was somewhat tense," he says. "People in Circle C don't trust the city, and they're beginning to distrust the steering committee I chair. But they gave us a consensus vote." Minority contractors say CSC excluding them in bid process Council approves resolution to boost MWBE participation Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) may end up with significant participation by minority and women-owned businesses in building their downtown offices, but it will come as a surprise to many in the minority construction community, who believe they aren't welcome on the project. City Council approved a resolution Thursday directing the city manager to make weekly reports to the council on CSC's progress toward meeting the spirit of the city's Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) Ordinance–a minimum of 32 percent MWBE participation. In addition, the resolution directs City Manager Jesus Garza to issue proposed additions to the contract between the city and CSC and between CSC and general contractor Hensel Phelps. Those contract changes–which the city cannot force CSC to sign–should designate an action plan showing "how CSC will insure and enforce accountability and participation" consistent with the ordinance and the council's goal of ensuring minority participation in the bidding process, according to the resolution. Council Members Gus Garcia, Willie Lewis and Beverly Griffith sponsored the resolution. The council approved the resolution unanimously, although Mayor Kirk Watson barely made it to the dais in time for the vote. Frank Fuentes, speaking on behalf of the Hispanic Contractors Association, criticized CSC's prime contractor, Hensel Phelps, saying the company's track record indicates it will not fulfill the commitment to minority and women-owned businesses. Carol Hadnot, representing the Austin Black Contractors Association, told the council, "We have been working diligently for the past months and we're at the end of our rope. We're not getting anywhere. There has been some lack of communication," between the contractors and CSC. Michele Pettes, executive director of the Texas Center for Women's Business Enterprise, said her group has been "frustrated at the lack of involvement of CSC. CSC has seem reluctant to participate." What CSC has been reluctant to participate in is the city's weekly meetings with members of minority and women's trade associations. Minority contractors also complain privately that there was no minority participation on the Page Southerland Page (PSP) design team. According to information provided by CSC, PSP has one Hispanic-owned business consultant and five women-owned business consultants, for a total of 15 percent of PSP's approximately $3 million contract. In addition, CSC may have made a major tactical error when the company decided not to hire anyone to ensure participation of women and minorities in the bidding process, according to one minority consultant who asked not to be identified. Instead, the city formed a 15-member team, which was supposed to disseminate information to the minority contracting community, according to a letter from CSC to Deputy City Manager Toby Futrell. Unfortunately, CSC didn't attend many of those meetings. Another member of the minority contracting community told In Fact Daily, "The lack of communication was in your face." Both sources accuse Hensel Phelps of sending bid documents to minority contractors considerably after they were sent to the majority community. In addition, one contractor said some companies which purport to be minority contractors do little but "pass through" money from one firm to another, acting only as middle men. The letter to Futrell, written by Tom Newman, director of corporate administrative services for CSC, states that Hensel Phelps "sent drawings to potential subcontractors on Jan. 3, 2000." Howard Falkenberg, Austin spokesman for CSC, said he believes that means all subcontractors, majority and minority. The letter states that Hensel Phelps notified the city's Small and Minority Business Resources Department, Hispanic contractors, Black contractors and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on Jan. 13. In addition, Newman says Hensel Phelps advertised in La Prensa on Jan. 24. Bids were originally due on Jan. 27, Falkenberg said, but the deadline was extended to Feb. 1 to make sure all the contractors had time to submit their bids. Futrell told the council that CSC has gone back to all its first-tier subs and asked them to target more MWBE participation with available work that's left. "They're shooing for 32 percent and they're at over 25 percent now," she said. Council Member Garcia said, "We need to send a clear message to CSC on what we want done." Council Member Griffith said, "Let's stay on top of this and make sure these goals are achieved." CSC finalized its contract with Hensel Phelps Feb. 22, Falkenberg said. Falkenberg said the problem CSC is having stems from the fact that "minority contractors are used to operating under one set of rules with the city. A commercial procedure was used (by CSC). People haven't understood the level of participation by minorities. Negotiations haven't even started. CSC has been reluctant to say" that it expects 25 percent minority participation, and is only now saying so "because it's a big issue," he said. "Under normal circumstances," CSC would not be revealing anything about its business dealings with contractors, he said. Falkenberg said that Vic McNallie, president of the southwest division of Hensel Phelps, which is headquartered in Austin, will attend Monday's meeting with the MWBE advisory group. Falkenberg said he believes a number of contractors' names would be revealed in about 10 days. Minority contractors have worried because Hensel Phelps hasn't released names of its primary subcontractors. But Falkenberg said that's because negotiations are ongoing. "Hensel Phelps doesn't want to make any mistakes," he said. Falkenberg doesn't know whether CSC will sign the contract addenda approved by the council. "I think CSC will thoughtfully consider anything they (the council) put forth," he said. Falkenberg insists that CSC will have significant minority participation. But it might not be people who have been active in any of the MWBE organizations, he said. "We don't expect those folks (critics) to say, 'Wow! That's great! But they're not going to be able to criticize (the subcontractors) as shams," he said. Falkenberg admits that CSC's failure to participate in the city's minority recruitment and advisory process was a mistake. "In hindsight, we would've done better to be more directly active," he said. "But at the end of the day we will have significant minority involvement." Need fresh blood…During the public hearing on the Bradley Settlement last night and early this morning, Robert Singleton suggested the city ought to hire a new lawyer and include third parties in the negotiations. To that Casey Dobson of Scott Douglass & McConnico, who's been negotiating the deal on the city's behalf, replied at 12:40 a.m., "You may be onto something about changing lawyers. Any colleagues watching now can come on down."… Long night…One man who spoke at last night's public hearing on the Bradley Settlement summed up the long night this way: "This meeting lasted so long my wife drove all the way from West Texas and beat me home."… Chill out…Time is short to crank it into the plans for the 300 West 6th Street office project, but Jeff Pace, managing director for CarrAmerica Realty Corp., tells In Fact Daily that he's considering buying chilled water services from Austin Energy. A plant to be constructed in parking garage west of the Hobby Building is already slated to serve Computer Sciences Corp., the new City Hall, the Hobby Building, and the Museum Park office project that's slated to house Intel Corp. "We would have to decide quickly," he says… High-tech buy-in…At yesterday's City Council meeting, entrepreneur Peter Zandan, founder of Intelliquest Inc., was presented a proclamation designating March 2 as Austin Interdependence Day. This recognizes the region's technology leaders who signed the Declaration of Interdependence at the 360.00 Summit and encouraged formation of the Austin Entrepreneurs Foundation. The Foundation will facilitate benefits for the community at large through a program to grant stock options for nonprofit organizations. For more information, call Lynne Skinner at 485-1900.
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