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Half a Historic designation

Tuesday, December 19, 2000 by

Not helpful, buyer says

Goodall-Wooten house to become office building

The proposed purchaser of the Goodall-Wooten historic house at 1900 Rio Grande was hoping to make renovation of the property easier by removing the historic designation from everything but the house itself. Bill Gurasich told the Historic Landmark Commission last night that he wants to convert the house and the recently built annex into professional office space. Gurasich, who is on the board of the Austin Recovery Center, explained that the alcohol and drug rehabilitation organization has recently moved from the house to the Walnut Creek Business Park. He said Mayor Kirk Watson had urged the group to move from its Central Austin location more than two years ago.

Amelia Lopez-Phelps, representing Gurasich, asked the commission to remove the historic designation from a courtyard between the grand mansion and the annex, but offered a restrictive covenant or a conditional overlay to ensure that no future owner would build anything that would restrict views of the home.

Barbara Stocklin, city historic preservation officer, said the courtyard is part of the historic area. She said the conditional overlay proposed by Lopez-Phelps could limit the height of anything built on the property. However, a future landowner could get the zoning changed on that part of the lot without coming back to the Historic Landmark Commission.

Commission Chair Lauretta Dowd said, “It makes sense to remove the historic designation from the (non-historic) building. But it is not the goal of this commission to unzone property. The historic zoning carries tax abatements and you will give up your opportunity to have tax abatement on that property.”

Commission members voted unanimously to recommend that only the annex and a 10-foot buffer around it be rezoned non-historic.

Following the vote, Gurasich said he would prefer that all of the property retain the H designation. Having part historic and part not historic “is an impossible place to be,” he said. One problem the developer is facing is trying to do renovations without disturbing the courtyard that surrounds it.

Stocklin explained, “Removing the designation from the courtyard is really problematic. (Commissioners) view things in the very long term. They try to imagine every single scenario that might happen,” and do their best to ensure that the historic property is protected, regardless of who owns it.

Reimbursement resolution reminds

Slusher of budget disagreements

Council Member urges good faith dealing

The City Council last week voted 6-1 in favor of a reimbursement resolution to assist the Hill Country Conservancy (HCC) in its quest to buy the 2,700-acre Rutherford Ranch. Junie Plummer, real estate specialist for the city, explained that Austin would provide up to $750,000 of the $1 million earnest money which is to be paid to Cypress Realty on Dec. 31. The City of Austin owns the 1,325-acre Hays County Ranch next door.

Plummer said the conservation group has raised $250,000 and is attempting to raise additional funds before Dec. 31. The city will receive acreage in proportion to the percentage of the purchase price the city pays. The anticipated price on the property is about $7,000 per acre. If the city pays $700,000, for example, the city would get about 100 acres, she said.

Mayor Kirk Watson said, “While I favor the potential for purchasing this property, I’m not going to vote for reimbursement resolutions, except under extraordinary circumstances.”

Council Member Daryl Slusher said “I have a similar reservation, but I’m going to support the motion and accept the good faith of council members that no one is going to come back and try to keep from paying this back or try to divert the funds to something else. A couple years ago some community groups tried to get us to locate a high school for AISD somewhere other than over the aquifer,” which involved extending South 1st Street. “We had to do it through reimbursement resolution,” (i.e., a pledge to repay the money back to the city). City Manager Jesus Garza set up a “sustainability fund” in this year’s budget with money from the Water and Wastewater and the Drainage utilities, as well as the Transportation fund and the General Fund. Part of the fund was to pay for that road, Slusher explained.

“Some members of the City Council tried to get that put off,” he said, referring to Council Members Beverly Griffith and Danny Thomas. Griffith and Thomas proposed diverting part of the sustainability fund, including about $9 million to repay costs of the street extension, to pay for improvements in Colony Park and other similar projects in East Austin. “But this is an important part of the trail going down to Hays County. I would hope that community groups that support this sort of thing would deal in good faith as well,” Slusher said. “We also had on the South 1st Street (project) people who were lobbying very hard for the AISD. But when it came time to pay that money back, the same people said we were spending too much money on roads,” he said, referring to certain, unnamed environmentalists. The total purchase price for the Hays County property is $19 million. One-third of that, or $6.5 million, is due on June 1, 2001, Plummer said. The remainder is due on June 1, 2002. If the HCC does not make its payments in 2001 or 2002, the conservation organization will owe the city whatever amount the city pays.

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

Travel season . . . Austin Bergstrom Airport officials are encouraging folks to take a cab, a van or a bus to the airport this holiday season. Travelers who insist on driving may have trouble finding a parking space. Capital Metro has doubled service on Route 100, which runs from 26th Street and Speedway to the airport. That bus also stops at San Jacinto and 21st Street, and Congress at 11th and 7th Streets. Ted Burton of Cap Metro said, “For a month we’re doubling the service, so the airport bus runs every 35 minutes.” The bus company is running extra buses through Jan. 16 as a test, he said. He said the route had a “significant increase” during the Thanksgiving holiday . . . Planning Commission. . . The commission is holding a special called meeting tonight because last week’s meeting was cut short by the ice storm. Whether there will be a quorum is another question. Several members indicated last week that they could not make tonight’s meeting . . . Also meeting . . . Members of the Robert Mueller Plan Implementation Advisory Commission will also meet at 6 p.m. tonight at One Texas Center, Suite 1300.

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

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