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Planning Commission recommends approval of zoning changes, NCCD, for East Cesar Chavez Neighborhood

Wednesday, July 12, 2000 by

Plan to go to City Council in August

Planning Commissioners voted 5-2 last night to recommend that the City Council adopt staff-recommended zoning changes for the East Cesar Chavez Neighborhood and make the area into a Neighborhood Conservation Combining District (NCCD). Commissioners Susana Almanza and Betty Baker voted against the recommendation, but for widely divergent reasons. Commissioners Robin Cravey, Ben Heimsath, Ray Vrudhula, Jim Robertson and Chair Art Navarro voted in favor of the plan. The commission’s newest member, Sterling Lands, has not been sworn in and was out of town Tuesday, according to Dora Anguiano, Planning Commission coordinator. Commissioner Jean Mather was absent. Baker said she would support the plan if it did not call for the rollback of zoning on properties currently zoned LI (limited industrial). She said she had been involved in the same kind of rollback when she served on the city staff. The property owner sued the city over the rollback in that case, she said, and the property owner won. Almanza said she supported the neighborhood plan but could not support the NCCD. She questioned a number of individual zoning decisions made by staff, saying she is worried about Cecilia Williams of the Planning, Environmental and Conservation Services Department said that several of the neighborhood’s requests, including small lot amnesty and building of “granny flats” could not be granted without the NCCD. Gavino Fernandez of El Concilio, as a leader of those opposed to the rezoning, was given five minutes to make a case against approval. A full hearing was heard on the matter three weeks ago( See In Fact Daily June 21, 2000). Fernandez said, “The economic impact—that’s the one thing that we’re the most concerned about and the most uncertain about. It is in our best interest to encourage even more homeowners in the area to come forward—so staff, please do not say that (our participation) is not valid because we did not participate in the (neighborhood planning) process.” Before the vote, Cravey, who made the motion to recommend the zoning changes to the City Council was explaining why he favored the requested changes. When Neighborhood Plans got started, he said, “One of the things people asked for was that something would happen. I think that we have a duty to implement those plans and I believe this zoning case does implement that plan.” He characterized the opposition’s attempts to prevent zoning changes as “attempts to reopen and rewrite that plan,” but added that “there are a lot of really valid points that folks have made..I think you should work for those things in the neighborhood. But if we were to reopen this plan and ask you to address all those things that were brought up, we’d just be here in a year or two…I think it’s time for us to make a decision.” Will Bozeman, president of the Austin Neighborhoods Council told In Fact Daily that he shared the following concerns with those questioning the zoning changes: 1. Will zoning changes increase gentrification and escalation of property values? 2. Will re-zoning maintain residential affordability? 3. Will long term effects of zoning changes end up displacing residents? Bozeman said removal of industrial zoning must be carefully managed as the long term effects of that change will make the neighborhood that much more attractive for gentrification. He said the zoning proposed by staff need fine-tuning and more public input. At some point during Cravey’s remarks the El Concilio contingent decided to walk out. As they got out into the hallway, one of them yelled back, “You talk too much!” Two police officers, who had been sitting through the entire meeting up to that point, ran from the meeting to the corridor and told the crowd members they were being disruptive. Several of those leaving started taking issue with the officer, in effect saying, that they were on their way out. At that point, the Officer Williamson said, "No one will leave until I'm finished. Your conduct inside the public meeting is against the law and giving me attitude out here is as well." He was apparently referring to the "You talk too much" comment, as the crowd up to that point had only mumbled protests and only once was asked by Navarro to let Cravey finish. At that point Williamson directed his comments to Fernandez because he had been the main speaker for the group, and had clearly not been the person who yelled out. Fernandez listened to the officer's scolding without protest and the crowd left the building. .

Planning Commission recommends ok for

New Milburn Homes project with parkland

Trust for Public Land to help facilitate deal

Far South Austin will be gaining a 300-acre neighborhood park, but one of the neighborhoods closest to the park— Shady Hollow—is not at all happy that yet another housing development will be funneling traffic onto Brodie Lane. Tuesday night the Planning Commission approved SF-2 zoning for more than 523 acres of land for the Bauerle Ranch development. About 700 homes are planned for the development. Both Milburn Homes and the Trust for Public Land (TPL) were trying to buy the property last year, according to Valerie Bristol, state director of TPL. Milburn bought the property and is selling 300 acres to TPL, which in turn will sell the land to the City of Austin for a public park. Bristol told the Planning Commission she was there to support the zoning change, from AG (agricultural) to residential because of the great effort put in by Terry Mitchell, Vice President of Milburn Homes, to work with TPL and the city’s parks department. The address of the property is 2700-3300 Squirrel Hollow. Mitchell said, “We’ve been trying to follow what the city has been telling us. We are residential developers that develop in the Austin metropolitan area,” which he described as a five-county area. He described the project as “infill,” which is generally vacant land in between developed tracts within the city. Mitchell is also chair of the Community Action Network working group, which looks for ways to promote affordable housing. In line with that, Mitchell said, the development would offer “three different product lines,” with the lowest priced homes at $140,000 and the most expensive at about $400,000. “This is an area that supports that price range,” he said. “We are promoting and trying to follow the city’s street interconnectivity standards, …trying to promote pedestrian access,” Mitchell said. Cindy Nettles, appearing on behalf of the Shady Hollow Home Owners Association said connecting Squirrel Hollow to Brodie Lane would cause more cut-through traffic in the neighborhood. The Commission did not prohibit the access she and other neighborhood representatives requested. Following the vote, Nettles said she had “steam coming out of my ears. Every time we come here, it’s the same thing. We never get any assistance. They all acknowledge that Brodie (Lane) is a mess,” but every vote adds more traffic. Nettles said staff had given her information on how to create a valid petition against the zoning change. She gathered signatures of more than 20 percent of the adjoining homeowners, Nettles said, only to be told that the land outside the city is not subject to such petitions. Mitchell said he expects the zoning case to go before City Council in early August. He said he would work with the neighborhood to install traffic calming devices recommended by the city’s Public Works Department. The vote was 6-1, with Commissioner Susana Almanza voting no. Commissioner Jean Mather was absent.

Ailing Commissioner…Planning Commissioner Betty Baker, who rarely misses a vote, let alone an hour of commission meetings, took herself home early last night, after apologizing to those whose cases she could not hear. Baker suffered a heart attack on July 2 and had angioplasty the following day. She told In Fact Daily that she has to go through another procedure and do some stress management. Light rail, pro… Round 7 of Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Light Rail will happen at 9 a.m. Thursday when Rob Harrison, executive director for the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Texas at Austin, speaks on the cost-benefits of light rail systems. The task force will meet at in the Chamber Board Room, Plaza Level, 111 Congress Ave. The public is invited. The task force will develop a position paper for the board, which will decide the chamber’s position on the upcoming Nov. 7 ballot issue. For more info, call Saralee Tiede at 322-5649 or e-mail… Light rail, con…Former City Council candidate and sore loser Vic Vreeland may have gotten beat up in the political arena but he’s not backing off his anti-light rail crusade. He continues to issue a steady stream of negative publicity about light rail elsewhere in the country. The latest mentions an episode of ABC’s 20/20 television show covering the Los Angeles subway system. For more info, see Vreeland’s web site at

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