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Neighborhoods Council takes

Thursday, October 26, 2000 by

No position on Light Rail

ANC votes to oppose city's road bonds

The Austin Neighborhoods Council declined to endorse Light Rail last night but had no trouble voting down the city’s proposed $150 million road bond package.

Leaders of the neighborhood association umbrella group have been frank about the difficulty reaching consensus on the light rail referendum, saying the group might end up taking no position on the issue. In a precursor to what Capital Metro is likely to see at the polls on Election Day, the opinions expressed last night ranged from strong endorsement to outright rejection. When the issue came up for a vote, Jim Walker of the Mueller Neighborhoods Coalition said too many questions remained.

“I wish we could come up with a positive endorsement… but there are a lot of sticky details that haven’t been worked out,” Walker told representatives from two dozen neighborhood associations. “Maybe next week we will see some movement on it from Council and Capital Metro, but it’s still only two weeks from the election.”

Capital Metro General Manager Karen Rae unveiled a list of mitigation measures that will be taken to the transit agency’s board next Monday. It includes pledges to work with neighborhoods on mitigation issues and transit station design.

Neighborhood representatives agreed they wanted to see viable mass transit solutions. The city’s proposal to sell $150 million in bonds for roads and bike trails, on the other hand, got a swift thumbs down from ANC. Joyce Basciano told the group it didn’t take long for the West Austin Democrats to refuse to endorse the bonds when they learned the city’s computer analysis indicated Windsor and Enfield should be widened to six lanes.

Others at the meeting voiced concerns that too much of the $90 million set aside for right-of-way acquisition was devoted to roads outside the city. If light rail is intended to reduce sprawl, said Jeff Jack of the Zilker Neighborhood Association, then what was the point of endorsing road bonds that only exacerbate the same problem?

“It seems disingenuous to use Light Rail to try to stop sprawl and then pass road bonds that do nothing but encourage it,” Jack said.

Many neighborhoods passed on rail because of the mitigation issue. Capital Metro’s neighborhood commitments—a companion document to the business mitigation pledges unveiled by Capital Metro last month—were endorsed by the ANC in a separate motion. But members were clearly split on the light rail vote. When asked to take no position on the issue—yet encourage Capital Metro to seek feasible transit solutions—seven neighborhood representatives voted in favor of the motion. Another five voted against it and six abstained.

Neighborhood representatives had been asked to poll their membership, if possible, before the ANC meeting. The North Austin Civic Association was split before the Capital Metro presentation, but voted it down after talking to transit authority representatives. Southwest Austin decided to “hold their nose and vote for it.” Downtown intended to vote for it but stay active to work through the issues. Old West Austin clearly favored the plan and Hyde Park voted for it with the assumption mitigation would be in place.

Bouldin Creek was evenly divided and made no endorsement. Crestview, which will be impacted by the rail route, voted 3-to-1 against the referendum. El Concilio said support for the measure came down to Capital Metro.“What they never answered for me is, ‘Why doesn’t Capital Metro practice this now with the bus system?’” asked Gavino Fernandez of El Concilio. “We’re very much involved in neighborhood planning… Why isn’t Capital Metro coming to the table for neighborhood planning? This goes to the very point of our discussion, and that’s accountability.”

ANC also voted in support of the $13.4 million bond proposition to purchase open space, although Fernandez said he could not support the expenditure in light of the needs of East Austin. The group also decided to vote down the proposition to turn acreage at Walter E. Long Park over to a developer. Instead, the group urged the city to help the developer find a more suitable tract of land away from the city’s dedicated parkland.

Environmentalists outline

Recommendations for Stratus

SOS Alliance wants public hearings delayed

The Stratus Information Committee, a group including members of the Save Our Springs Alliance, Save Barton Creek Association, the Austin Sierra Club and the Austin Neighborhoods Council have made five recommendations to the City Council regarding the proposed deal with Stratus Properties. Those are:

• No deal without full compliance with the SOS ordinance. • No extension of city sewer into the Barton Springs zone beyond that required by law. • Comprehensive neighborhood planning for neighborhoods in the Barton Springs zone and Mueller Airport. • Separate the question of reimbursibles for the Municipal Utility Districts (MUD) from the land planning aspects of the agreement. • “While legislative threats are a factor, they should not be an overriding concern.”

Richard Suttle, attorney for Stratus, said the group’s recommendations ignore the fact that Stratus has rights under HB 1704, the state law which allows developers to build under older water quality and land use provisions than are currently in place. He said extension of the sewer to Stratus’ property is important “to the extent that it helps compliance with SOS.”

The SOS Alliance also has requested that two public hearings on the proposed settlement between the city and Stratus Properties not be scheduled for Nov. 2 and Nov. 9. Today’s City Council agenda lists those items for action. Bill Bunch, executive director of the SOS Alliance, sent a memo to the Council Wednesday asking that the hearings be delayed because no information beyond the term sheet has been made public. In addition, Bunch says, board and commission hearings were supposed to occur before the Council hearings.Bunch further requests that all future discussions about the settlement be done in public.

Richard Suttle, attorney for Stratus, said a hearing at the Water and Wastewater Commission is scheduled for Nov. 1. He said no other negotiations have taken place since the term sheet was presented two weeks ago.

Mayor: Use sustainability measures

To design future city spending

Watson says Council committee to tackle project

Mayor Kirk Watson said Wednesday that a City Council committee will begin to “methodically analyze” the city’s budget and start planning for future budget years, based on regional sustainability indicators. Watson spoke at a luncheon gathering of the Real Estate Council of Austin (RECA).

The Sustainability Indicators Project of Central Texas released its first report in March, providing data on 42 different indicators, from community safety to commuting time. A 50-member advisory board of community activists, academicians and elected officials from Travis, Williamson and Hays Counties selected the indicators.

The Council Audit and Finance Committee—which includes Watson, Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman and Council Members Beverly Griffith and Daryl Slusher—will begin analyzing the budget and bonds next month, Watson said. He said he wants to use the sustainability indicators as a tool, not only for future budgets, but also for bonds.

Watson talked about the Austin area’s incredible boom, and predicted that the boom would not stop “unless we kill the goose that lays the golden egg.” To insure the goose’s survival, he said, “we have to make sustainable investments for the long run.” If the Council committee can make plans based on the indicators, he said, “we can, maybe, reduce some of the politics.”

The mayor urged his audience to vote for bonds, not just the City’s road and greenspace acquisition bonds, but also road bonds put up by Travis and Williamson Counties, as well as Capitol Metro’s light rail proposal.

Answering a question about the Stratus Properties deal and how a huge development in southwest Travis County plays into the idea of a compact city, Watson said, “First of all, you have to always live in the real world. Real world, real time, you can’t say nothing’s ever going to happen out there. . . . It is not fair, nor is it appropriate for those who may not want to have anything happen out there to act as though any decision that is made is assuring development that otherwise wouldn’t occur.”

In response to a question about the possibility of the city changing to single-member districts, Watson re-affirmed his support for the idea. However, he said a vote on the matter would not be possible before August or November 2001. In addition to the city needing to wait for the most current census data, he said, the city also has to wait for pre-clearance of any plan by the federal Department of Justice. He said he hopes that any charter election should also include an opportunity for “real campaign finance reform.”

©2000 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Aquatic world planning . . . The Capital of Texas Aquarium will host a meeting of local educators today to get help designing educational programs for the Aquarium’s proposed Aquatic Science Center. Allen Monroe, executive director of the planned aquarium, said “Together we can design a world class education facility that showcases the wonders of the aquatic world and incorporates the latest in technological advances that will facilitate learning.” Initially, the aquarium will focus on the aquatic habitats of the Colorado River and the Gulf of Mexico. Aquarium boosters are looking for a downtown home for the project . . . The Austin Neighborhoods Council elected new officers last night . . . Jim Walker, president; Vice Presidents Rene Barrera, Gavino Fernandez and Mark Stine, and Treasurer Joseph Martinez.. . Steiner Ranch settlement . . . The City Council is scheduled to take up the proposal tonight. Planning Commissioners Jim Robertson, Robin Cravey and Jean Mather wanted the Council to know they do not oppose the deal—even though they voted against the commission’s recommendations. They just have some requests and recommendations. These commissioners want a traffic impact analysis for RM 620 and FM 2222, elimination of cul-de-sacs and long blocks, as per proposed new subdivision regulations, among other things. . . Wynn to support moving Central Booking . . . Council Member Will Wynn released a statement Wednesday saying he must support the move from 7th and I-35 to the new Travis County facility. He said he is sensitive to neighborhood concerns but could not vote to take the entire police cadet class of 50 officers, plus 50 off the street, to handle duties currently being done by sheriff’s deputies. Wynn wants to establish a task force to study whether to renew the contract in 2002.

© 2000 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

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