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Council unanimously approves

Friday, January 26, 2001 by

Apartments despite petition

Developer promises 5 percent affordable housing

By Doug McLeod

After a heated public hearing that lasted more than an hour, the City Council voted last night to approve zoning changes allowing the 400-unit Blackhawk Apartment project to move forward. Despite a valid petition filed by landowners adjacent to the proposed development at 1200 Slaughter Lane, the Council was unanimous in its decision. At least six of seven Council Members must vote to override a valid petition.

Before voting, Council Member Beverly Griffith asked one of the developers for a verbal commitment on affordable housing. Don Hammond, with D.J. Hammond & Associates, part of the development team, said yes, he would commit to making five percent of the project affordable housing and keep it that way as long as his team owned the project. Mayor Kirk Watson told Hammond he would vote for the project if Hammond would make such a commitment. This point was emphasized in light of a proposed private restrictive covenant between the developer and the neighborhood stipulating the property would not be used for affordable housing.

On Tuesday, the Planning Commission voted to recommend the zoning change after scolding the developer and neighborhood association for agreeing not to allow affordable housing.

The new zoning allows J.S. Davis Parents Limited Partnership to build apartments extending back into the 24.8-acre tract from Slaughter Lane, along David Moore Road, with two commercial plats on Slaughter Lane. The zoning shifts from single-family ( SF-1) and rural residential ( I-RR) to multi-family use ( MF-1-CO) on David Moore Road and ( GR-CO) for commercial development on Slaughter.

Slaughter Lane Neighborhood Association President Trey Wattinger said the issue of affordable housing had been misrepresented in this case. “I feel our organization was portrayed as against affordable housing,” he said, stressing that was absolutely not true. He noted some area residents painted a picture that didn’t hold true for all residents. “Our official viewpoint is in favor of this project,” he said.

Hammond seemed to feel the same way. “We are developers of affordable housing. We’ve done it all over the country and we’ve done it in Texas,” he said. His company rehabilitated a project in Ft. Worth riddled with rats and crime, he noted. What upset him was being undermined by the neighborhood late in the game with a valid petition, he said. “You can negotiate 11 months” in good faith and then have the neighborhood sign a valid petition in the eleventh hour, and they win, he said.

“We’re really disturbed at the kind of message that may be sent here to other neighborhoods,” Hammond said. “If that’s what it takes, then we’ll have to go back to Illinois, go back to Colorado and to those cities that have helped us develop affordable housing.”

But property owner Ron Carson said the valid petition was filed for good reasons. “Affordable housing is a red herring . . . density is the issue,” he said, noting the zoning change would go against city policies to such an extent that it calls for 700 percent more density on this tract than set forth by the city.

Residents T.J. and Sandra Greaney, who live adjacent to the proposed development and own property on David Moore Drive, expressed concern for safety due to an increase in density and traffic. Sandra Greaney said traffic was so heavy on Slaughter Lane it was already difficult and unsafe maneuvering onto the street. “What will happen when we add another 500 cars?” she asked. It’s not Smart Growth, she said, calling the proposal “dangerous, reckless and not responsible.”

Amelia Lopez-Phelps, with Lopez-Phelps, Vaughn & Associates, representing the developer, said “Throughout the entire process—up to five minutes ago—we’d been asked if the project would include affordable housing.” But this project was started in February of 2000, she said. “After we began the process the Smart Housing program was begun by the city.”

She said some of the neighbors used the affordable housing issue to shut down the process, even after the development team had reduced the number of units from 500 to 400 and made dozens of concessions and amendments to reach an agreement with the neighbors. “The petition process was not intended for this purpose,” she said, urging the Council to review the issue carefully. “This is not a solid, single-family neighborhood.”

Council approves new

Airport board ordinance

Sharp disagreements over purpose of commissions

The Airport Advisory Board took a new direction yesterday but not without a split decision among Austin City Council members on how it would happen.

The long-contentious advisory board had its final meeting last month, ending squabbles among factions over how involved commission members should be in the day-to-day operations of the airport. A rewrite of the ordinance creating the board crafted by outgoing Aviation Director Chuck Griffith was approved on first reading.

The ordinance provides for the creation of a board whose members represent the professional interests of the airport: a pilot, a civil engineer, an attorney, a real estate appraiser, a local resident, and someone with a background in finance.

Council Member Beverly Griffith offered a modified version that would have allowed for the various areas of expertise to be combined. For example, the attorney and the pilot could be the same person. Council Member Raul Alvarez proposed that the commission be authorized to review long-term plans for the operation and expansion of the airport. That amendment appeared to cause the most friction with city staff.

The ordinance was written with the board’s contentious history in mind, creating a body that is a clear arm’s length away from operations. City Manager Jesus Garza insisted that the interests of board members should not compete with the intentions and decisions of the professional staff of the Aviation Department.

“Should we have a disagreement with the board—if they vote on amendments or changes to any plans that we create—I will not pay attention to the board,” Garza said. “I don’t want the board supervising, in the end, the functions of the airport.”

Chuck Griffith added that an advisory board with too much power was like working for two bosses, something that he did not intend to do. Griffith assured her colleagues the intention was to create a board that made policy recommendations.

“That’s not out of line with what the 25 or 30 or 60 other boards that recommend policy (do),” Griffith said. “That’s the whole purpose of boards or commissions.” Only Griffith, Council Member Danny Thomas and Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman voted for the modified ordinance.

The suggestion was even made that a consumer advocate be added to the board—an addition that was struck from the final ordinance approved by the Council.

The ordinance finally approved by the Council was a substitute motion offered by Council Member Daryl Slusher. It made only slight changes to what was approved, on a split vote, by the sitting Airport Advisory Board last month.

Slusher did combine two categories: the person from the business community and the financial expert. That leaves three at-large positions on the board. Slusher and Griffith disagreed over how the members would be appointed. She wanted individual Council Members to nominate members. Slusher said he preferred to see the commission members appointed collectively as a group.

On the final vote, Griffith and Thomas voted no and Goodman abstained. In an apparently hollow gesture, Thomas re-appointed Leonard Lyons, one of the three board members most likely to argue with staff. Assistant City Attorney Dave Petersen said the re-appointment would have no effect unless Thomas re-appoints him to the re-constituted board. Petersen said it was up the the Council to decide whether board members would be nominated by individual Council members or by consensus.

City Council votes to

Settle lawsuit over SOS

Garza gets impervious cover while City gets cash

The City Council voted Thursday to settle a lawsuit stemming from the city’s enforcement of the Save Our Springs Ordinance on three tracts owned by Eli Garza at intersection of S. MoPac and William Cannon.

City Attorney Andy Martin said the agreement permits development of the northeast quadrant, which abuts the HEB Grocery Store at up to 60 percent impervious cover. The southeast quadrant will be developed at up to 50 percent impervious cover and the final tract, which is the largest at 13.64 acres, at up to 14 percent. The other two tracts are 5.4 acres and 4 acres, respectively, according to Assistant City Attorney David Smith.

For his part, Garza will contribute $300,000 to the city for purchase of nearby property, Martin said. “The resulting impervious cover (for the combined properties) will be less than 15 percent,” he said. The city plans to buy at least 25 acres, which would lower overall impervious cover to 15. “If we buy more, it will be even better.” The agreement prohibits Garza or a future owner from locating any business that engages in the sale of gasoline on the property.

Pat Murphy of the Watershed Protection Department said he was pleased that the city negotiated for “non-degradation water quality controls and money to buy land. (The landowners) get enough impervious cover to do what they had planned to do prior to SOS.” Garza had claimed he was not required to abide by the ordinance because of HB 1704, the state’s grandfather law on land use regulations.

©2001 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

The missing ordinance . . . Although Planning Commissioners requested city staff to bring the latest version of the Onsite Sewage Facilities Ordinance (OSSF) back to them for review this month, some commissioners now say they have been taken out of the loop and the item does not appear on next Tuesday’s agenda. Members of the Environmental Board, the Water & Wastewater Commission and the Planning Commission met and redrafted the rules for several months during 1999 and 2000, but a subcommittee of the Water and Wastewater Commission has changed the proposal significantly . . . Price of growth . . . Hays County Independent School District voters will be asked to approve $89.5 million in bonds for new schools and renovations on old ones on Feb. 17. Absentee voting begins Jan. 31. According to the Kyle Eagle, Hays CISD is the fifth-fastest growing school district in the state. Enrollment hit 7,440 in early January, reflecting a 10 percent increase in the past year . . . Bragging rights . . . The Texas Republican Party’s web site, http://www.texasgop.org was named best state party site by Campaigns and Elections Magazine. The current poll question on the site is: Considering Texas’ rapid population growth and aging transportation system, how can the 2001 state legislature best improve our transportation infrastructure? . . License battles brewing . . . Downtown civic leaders are ready to do battle with a number of Sixth Street clubs. They plan to oppose the liquor license renewals of at least four nightclubs in the Sixth Street area, saying that the venues attract too much crime and underage drinking.l

© 2001 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

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