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Goodman proposes parking

Thursday, February 15, 2001 by

Study for Hyde Park

Hyde Park Baptists parking on streets too

Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman will ask City Manager Jesus Garza to study the feasibility of a residential parking program in the Hyde Park neighborhood at today’s’ City Council meeting. Aide Jerry Rusthoven stresses that this is just a feasibility study and doesn’t guarantee a program—but he does admit the move is a direct reaction to Hyde Park Baptist Church’s proposal to build a second garage.

Of course, the Council is only a couple of weeks away from hearing the church’s request to expand its parking. But neighborhood residents are telling Goodman’s office that congregants aren’t using the parking garage they have, opting instead to park on neighborhood streets. That leaves many spaces empty in the church’s existing parking garage.

“What’s driving this is the fact that the existing garage is not being used,” said Rusthoven, adding that when people are given a choice they typically prefer street-side parking to driving up three or four levels in a parking garage. “Now they’re asking to make that garage twice as big.”

If Hyde Park Baptist Church intends to use not one but two parking garages, then it’s logical that parking on the street would open up, Rusthoven said. A residential parking program would make sure Hyde Park Baptist’s cars were kept in its garage.

The North University neighborhood to the south of Hyde Park is already using a residential parking program, Rusthoven points out. North University’s problem was University of Texas students who would park in the neighborhood and then walk over to Speedway to catch the IF shuttle bus. It left many of the North University residents without space to park in their own neighborhood, Rusthoven said.

While the church triggered the proposed feasibility study in Hyde Park, Rusthoven says it’s appropriate to look at the bigger context as well. The study, which should be completed in a month, will give council a better understanding of the overall parking problems and issues in Hyde Park.

Council to consider

Increased tow fees

Pilot program for rush hour proposed

If you park your car in the wrong spot and it gets towed, the price you pay to get it back may soon jump from a set $65 to $85. On Thursday, the City Council will consider an ordinance that would raise “non-consent” towing fees by 31 percent.

The ordinance would also initiate a 90-day pilot program to improve incident response time during rush hour. Wreckers would be required to reach the scene of an accident on IH-35, MoPac or US 183 in 20 minutes instead of the 45-minute limit stipulated in the current ordinance, according to Irene Neumann, executive assistant to Deputy City Manager Toby Futrell.

No new funding is needed for the ordinance. However, to comply with a recent federal ruling, the ordinance would abolish the city’s fee-based permitting system for towing companies, thereby reducing city revenue in fiscal year 2001 by $22,000.

The pilot program would establish a second, “rush-hour rotation list” for wreckers to improve response time, Neumann said. The current average response time is 46 minutes, she said, one minute more than the current ordinance stipulates. The proposed ordinance outlines penalties for tow trucks that fail to make it to an accident site within the 20-minute limit during rush hour on major highways. The penalty for a first-time infraction is a warning, Neumann said. The second infraction mandates a short-term removal from the secondary rotation list and the third late arrival warrants long-term removal from the rush-hour rotation list, she noted.

The proposed ordinance also calls for an additional $35 fee if a flatbed wrecker is used. Neumann said the higher fee would provide incentive for flatbed wrecker drivers to sign up for the program, and would create more balance, since tow trucks that use dollies already charge an extra $35. Plus, staff determined flatbed tow trucks remove disabled vehicles from roadways more quickly and take up fewer lanes of traffic in the process than trucks using dollies, she said. “This extra $35 fee would only apply during rush hour rotation.”

According to city documents, a fee increase of about $10, or 16.2 percent, would proportionally match the increase in inflation from 1994 to 2000 (the Consumer Price Index for that period was 16.2 percent). To explain why staff is instead recommending an increase of 31 percent, Neumann said, “We’ve got this huge problem we’re trying to tackle,” noting there were basically two reasons for an increase in fees.

“In looking at other cities, particularly major Texas cities, we took into account what other cities were charging,” she said. Considering Austin’s current fees relative to other cities, and considering the higher cost of living in Austin, not to mention worse traffic congestion in Austin, staff determined the higher rates were necessary. “We’re a little bit low compared to our peer cities,” she said, “even our neighbor Cedar Park is starting to charge $90.” On top of that, “we have one of the highest congestion rates in the nation.”

She said the goal is “to make rush-hour rotation work.” Increasing fees should increase incentive for towing companies to sign up for rotation, she explained. “We’ve got to get our response time down. It’s a very challenging goal—twenty minutes.”

The proposed ordinance also calls for stricter qualifications for tow truck operators. In addition, it would raise the fee for towing vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds by 31 percent, from $300 to $393.

Car Wash promoter gets

Bath at Commission

Better development desired for Hwy. 71

Woe be to the developer who needs a zoning change to build a car wash in Austin.

That’s what architect Stuart Alderman learned at the Planning Commission last week. He brought the plans for a full-service car wash on a site off Highway 71 that had been zoned for a nursery. Alderman wanted to keep the Commercial Services-Conditional Overlay (CS-CO) zoning. He just wanted to amend the overlay at 730 West Highway 71 to allow for a car wash and have Rural Residential zoning for a second tract on the site. The site plan for AAA Grass and Nursery was released in 1993 and expired in 1996.

Planning Commission Chair Betty Baker, while polite, came out swinging on the zoning change. Baker’s immediate question was whether an attendant would be on duty at the self-service car wash.

“Our experience in the past in different locations of the city is that car washes seem to draw groups in the evening,” Baker said. “And sometimes there are activities that are not related to car washes.”

Commissioners moved quickly to add stipulations to the restrictive covenant on the property that would limit the hours of operation from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. They also asked, and owner Trey Wyatt agreed, to keep an attendant on the site during the hours of operation. Even then, Commissioner Ben Heimsath pointed out the problem was not just the covenant but the enforcement of that covenant.

Alderman assured the commissioners the car wash would be well lit and properly attended. He admitted the neighborhood association had not liked the initial look of the car wash and that the design had been adjusted “to design it with a residential feeling.”

Baker moved to approve the car wash with the following amendments: a limitation on operating hours, the attendant on site during operations, and the zoning in the flood plain as Rural Residential. But Commissioner Jim Robertson proposed a substitute motion to deny the zoning change. His motion drew a second from fellow Commissioner Robin Cravey, who was concerned about the flood plain.

Robertson pointed out the original zoning had a purpose, and that purpose was not an automatic car wash. He added that a car wash in the neighborhood—even next to a convenience store, as this car wash would have been—would deter better development along that stretch of Highway 71.

That clinched it, and the Planning Commission voted to recommend denial of the zoning change. The vote was unanimous with Commissioner Lydia Ortiz off the dais.

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

Changing faces . . . After eight years, Trail of Lights aficionado and Parks and Recreation Department PIO Jim Halbrook has taken flight for a job as a PIO at Austin Bergstrom International Airport. Mark Wieland, who served as a marketing coordinator for PARD, is now acting spokesman . . . Also changing jobs . . . Assistant City Manager Jim Smith will become executive director of the Austin Bergstrom-International Airport on March 1. Chuck Griffith, who has held the top spot since the airport opened, is retiring . . . Meeting postponed . . . The Solid Waste Advisory Commission will meet next Wednesday, after canceling last night’s meeting. The panel will consider recommendations to the City Council concerning Waste Management, Inc. Neighbors of the northeast landfill have complained that WMI’s study of hazardous waste migration was insufficient.

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