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Western alignment for SH 130 would have negative impact on parks, creeks

Friday, June 9, 2000 by

CAMPO slated to vote Monday on budget for part of SH 130

A study by the city's Watershed Protection Department (WPD) shows that environmental damage to creeks in Northeast Austin will be greater if the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) chooses to build State Highway 130 along the so-called "western alignment," as opposed to the "eastern alignment." The Policy Advisory Committee of CAMPO ( Capitol Area Metropolitan Planning Organization) is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Monday to consider the plan.

The western alignment would have a detrimental impact on the Walnut Creek watershed, while the eastern alignment would have a detrimental impact on the Gilleland Creek watershed, according to Nancy McClintock, manager of the Environmental Resource Division of WPD. McClintock told the City Council on Thursday there are three major reasons to believe that the eastern route would be environmentally advantageous.

• Quality of woodlands and other habitat in the Walnut Creek watershed is higher than that of Gilleland Creek watershed.

• The impact on city parkland would be much greater with a western alignment.

• The city would have greater ability to limit environmental degradation in the much less developed Gilleland Creek watershed. Walnut Creek already has suffered serious erosion and water pollution problems and is considered especially vulnerable.

The city is currently evaluating "several difficult and expensive projects aimed at restoring (Walnut) Creek's function. The SH 130 project will only further exacerbate existing pollution and erosion problems," McClintock's report says.

Council Members Gus Garcia and Willie Lewis expressed fears that the western alignment would also increase flooding in the Crystal Brook neighborhood, which the city has been trying to remedy for some time. McClintock said TxDOT is legally obligated to follow regulations designed to prevent flooding, but the two council members seemed skeptical.

According to the report, both routes would result in increased road noise, alter views, and restrict access to parks. "The western alignment would impact more park land by running adjacent to Pioneer Farm and the Walnut Creek Greenbelt, and through Colony Park neighborhood park. The western alignment would also impact a portion of the old MoKan railroad line, which is targeted by both the city and the county as a potential hike and bike trail.

"The western alignment would run through two Destination Park acquisition areas. Public speculation (on) the western alignment of SH 130 has hindered the acquisition of some tracts targeted for Greenways and Destination Parks. Several key property owners have been reluctant to sell their land until the alignment has been determined."

Contacted later, Dick Kallerman, transportation chair of the local Sierra Club, reiterated the group's position that "SH 130 isn't a good idea at all. They're going to budget $575 million on Monday night at the CAMPO meeting, putting it into the TIP (Transportation Improvement Plan), the budgeting item of the long-range program, and that's for the northern link of it from the Georgetown to the boundary between Travis and Caldwell Counties."

Kallerman said Travis County Commissioner Karen Sonleitner tried, but failed, to get the CAMPO Executive Committee on Wednesday to vote to put only the eastern alignment into the long-range plan.

Council okays limited retail at new City Hall, but may nix later

Retailer Shaw pleads not to leave gap in six-block area

City Council Thursday approved staff recommendations for 4,000 square feet of retail space at the new City Hall but reiterated distaste for a municipal building that would look like "Joe's Café." After approving the agenda item in the morning, Council Members Daryl Slusher and Gus Garcia became concerned that staff did not understand their directive that City Hall not have retail storefronts and asked for reconsideration in the afternoon. Slusher's afternoon amendment left open the possibility of reducing the amount of retail when architects bring back schematic drawings.

Jan Hilton, CSC/City Hall deputy officer of the city's Redevelopment Services, told the Council it is important to have continuous pedestrian attractions so that people will want to continue on down the street. Garcia said he would leave it up to the next council to decide. However, Slusher said, "I thought we very clearly said we did not want storefronts."

During the morning session, Stuart Shaw of Bonner Carrington said, "I want to reiterate my strong support for connecting all six blocks" of the CSC, City Hall and Amli residential projects on 2nd Street. "The concept of retail has never been to have a Gap" clothing store at City Hall. "In speaking to all the retail developers, it helps preserve the city's investment in Blocks 2 and 4" to have the ground level of all the buildings used for retail. "As we go forward, if anything disconnects either Block 3 or 21, it compromises the synergistic effect," he said. "What we're going to find out is we need every bit of connection of all of these blocks."

As directed by council last week, staff now plans to include the Auditor's Office among those to be housed in the new City Hall.

Obviously, questions about the shape and size of retail space will come up again.

Council says police and city must negotiate on civilian oversight

Friction over whether Focus Group members can participate

After a brief discussion Thursday, City Council directed the city manager to incorporate a civilian oversight group into negotiations between the City of Austin and the Austin Police Association. However, they took time to praise the police force in general.

Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman asked if it would be possible to bring members of the task force to the Meet and Confer sessions.

City Manager Jesus Garza said that would only be possible, "outside the table process–that would be appropriate."

Clearly miffed, Goodman said, "Fine. That would have been good to know earlier."

Deputy City Manager Toby Futrell said, "No one can be added to the table that has not been at the training (for the Meet and Confer process). But specific topics are being researched among working groups and the working group brings that back to the entire table." She said such a procedure should accomplish the goal of interaction between the two groups.

Council Member Daryl Slusher said that during the negotiations, "My intent is the chief would have some flexibility. I do not want to do anything to impair the chief's ability to deal with misconduct."

During last week's public hearing on civilian oversight, 34 people addressed the council on the issue and of these 29 were in favor of police oversight. (See In Fact Daily June 2)

Slusher said "obviously most of our citizens are for civilian oversight. I didn't like the remarks that were made last week. Remarks were made that were extremely unfair to our police. There's been a lot of improvement over the years, but there are still incidents. But the Austin Police Department is not Los Angeles. They're out there risking their lives. I want to make sure that none of the police think that this in any way is reflection on them."

Council Member Willie Lewis said, "As we all know there is a blue code and it's hard for a lot of policemen to bring charges on a bad policemen. The good ones greatly outnumber the bad ones."

Goodman added, "When we take (customer satisfaction) surveys about our departments, APD is always at the top."

Slusher praised outgoing Council Member Bill Spelman, who championed formation of the Police Oversight Focus Group. (See In Fact Daily June 7.) Slusher said Spelman showed great courage and leadership.

Spelman said, "The real courage is not proposing this process, but actually getting it implemented. The real courage will be on the part of the city staff and police department."

Save Our Springs benefit…An SOS Benefit will be held today by Waterloo Records, with a percentage of sales to be donated to the Save Our Springs Alliance. In addition, today has been proclaimed by Mayor Kirk Watson as Barton Springs Day. In celebration, Saturday, June 10, will bring free swimming at Barton Springs Pool. And of course the Soul of the City Bash will be held Sunday at La Zona Rosa. For info call 477-2320… Beware the bikers…The Republic of Texas Hill Country Classic 2000 Biker Rally and Parade will trigger closure of 6th Street beginning at 3 p.m. today from Brazos Street to the I-35 frontage road. In addition, the 500-700 blocks of San Jacinto, Trinity, Neches, Red River and Sabine Streets will be closed before the parade because of the large number of bikers to be in the downtown area before the parade starts, and will remain closed until 3 p.m. Saturday, June 10. The parade starts at the Travis County Exposition Center at 7 p.m. and travels to downtown via FM 969 west to U.S. Highway 183, south to Levander Loop, west onto East 7th Street to Brushy Street, south on Brushy Street, and west on East 6th Street to complete the parade. Streets along the parade route will be closed as the parade approaches and reopen when it has passed. For more info, call Garry Silagi at 499-7024 or Celeste Cromack at 499-3099… Gus gets a park…At Council Member Gus Garcia's final meeting Thursday, he was honored by fellow council members who approved a plan to name a Northeast Austin park and recreation center after him. That was no surprise. However, Garcia probably was surprised when City Manager Jesus Garza and Parks and Recreation Director Jesus Olivares carried a huge sign into the Council Chambers proclaiming the park the Gustavo "Gus" Garcia Park and Recreation Center, the actual sign for the future facility. The park will be on Rundberg Lane. Garcia lives in Northeast Austin… City buys ranch land… City Council authorized execution of a contract to buy Sky Ranch, 1739.29 acres in Hays County along Onion Creek between FM 967 and FM 150. The tract is part of the old Rutherford Ranch. Council Member Daryl Slusher said 15 percent of the recharge of Barton Springs takes place on this tract. Council authorized the city's real estate specialist, Junie Plummer, to spend more than $10 million on the property. The Nature Conservancy will receive $118,000 for its services in protecting the property. Plummer said the property was "No. 2 on our matrix of all the properties" that might be purchased for preservation. Hays County Commissioner Susie Carter congratulated the council on the purchase and said the Commissioners Court applauds the city's efforts. Slusher said he is still waiting for the private sector to respond to the city's challenge to get involved in the purchase of environmentally sensitive properties.

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