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Goodman tells Planning Commission

Wednesday, February 28, 2001 by

About plans for second zoning body

Goal is to speed up development process, Goodman says

Mayor ProTem Jackie Goodman presented the planning commission with her vision of a two commission proposal to expedite decisions about development and land use last night. She told the commission one of the most important prerequisites for achieving the city’s goals in planning is a commission for visualizing and crafting the mechanics of sustainable urban development.

Goodman said she recognized that both city staff and the Planning Commission are overloaded with tasks mandated by state law. Because of the burden of those tasks, she said planning efforts initiated by the City Council have been forced to take a back seat. Goodman proposed that a commission designated either as the Zoning and Platting commission or as the Land Development review commission take over making recommendations to the Council on land development application decisions.

City Attorney Andy Martin told the commission, “The idea behind this is to free up your time and energy and intellectual resources to permit you to focus on those longer-range issues.”

Martin laid out the powers of each commission in a memo, which says “The simplest way to describe the respective powers and duties of the existing, charter-established planning commission and the proposed, ordinance-created zoning and platting commission is to note that the Planning Commission retains all its current powers and duties except for those specifically assigned to the zoning and planning commission. These are the proposed duties of the Zoning and Platting Commission:

• Review and make a recommendation on proposed zoning changes and recommend or act on certain other land use permits (e.g., variances, site plans, appeals, etc.) for land not within the boundaries of an adopted neighborhood plan.

• Approve or deny preliminary plans and final subdivision plats for land not within the boundaries of an adopted neighborhood plan.

• Any other duties established by ordinance that are not Planning Commission duties established by Charter.

Martin said that “within the boundaries of a City Council-approved neighborhood plan, anything and everything related to land use and development will continue to be acted upon by the current planning commission. Outside those boundaries however, the zoning and platting commission will consider zoning and platting issues, variances and site plans.” Goodman said her proposed ordinance would include a sunset provision so that the new commission might be done with its work in five years, if neighborhood plans are adopted citywide. She said, “The platting commission would do what you primarily do now—the nuts and bolts everyday work.” Chair Betty Baker commented that finishing all those plans in five years would be a major undertaking Commissioners wanted to know if the two commissions would meet simultaneously. Martin said they would meet on different nights to allow staff to attend both meetings.

Commissioner Sterling Lands said “The objective is to move toward a comprehensive plan. We would be in a better position to discuss the nuances after we’ve had a chance to read (the document presented to the commission). We’re not able to see the depth of the proposal at this juncture.” He suggested, and other commissioners agreed, that the group should schedule a work session to look at the proposal.

In an off-the-record comment, one commissioner promised Goodman’s executive assistant Jerry Rusthoven, a fight over the proposed changes.

Parks board gives blessing to

Move historic house to Congress

Susanna Dickinson's home to sit next to Old Bakery

Those who want to save the Austin home of the Alamo’ s heroine won the first small battle last night—if not the war—when the Parks and Recreation Board approved a new potential site for the Dickinson-Hannig House.

Of course, it wasn’t much of a battle. The board vote was unanimous, albeit with some strings attached. The vote could clear the way to move the modest historic limestone structure from the site of the future Hilton Convention Center Hotel on Fifth Street to a location next to the Old Bakery at Tenth and Congress. The relocation and rehabilitation effort could cost up to $800,000, more than could have been imagined when the house was home to The Pit Barbeque Restaurant.

City Council Member Will Wynn, who has championed the relocation efforts, spoke to the Parks Board last night and introduced a new non-profit partner in the move. That partner, the Texas Historical Foundation, will help preservationists raise the endowment that will maintain the building.

“We believe that the house will have quite a bit of city-wide and state-wide interest,” Wynn told the panel. “By allowing a group such as the Texas Historical Foundation to be our private fund-raising and restoration partner, they are prepared to then have the house available for limited (historical) interpretation.”

Board members were concerned that the move be done successfully. Chair Rosemary Castleberry pointed out that other historic structures had been moved with less fruitful results. Board Member Mary Ruth Holder, who visited the house over the weekend, emphasized it would be her preference that the fragile house be moved once, rather than twice.

Ruben Rodriguez of the Landmark Organization told commissioners that the temporary move could be made without damage to the house. “I can assure you it won’t be plunked down,” Rodriguez said. He estimated stabilizing the house would take two to three weeks.

The motion to approve the site did come with conditions. The site was approved, but only if it involved no financial assistance from the city. The partnership with the Texas Historical Foundation—including the relocation of the offices of the foundation to the main house—must be evaluated and approved. The city legal department and the Old Bakery board must also sign off on the agreement. In addition, the Texas Historical Foundation board must give final approval to the deal.

Wynn will take the Parks Board decision to the City Council on March 8, clearing the way for the Landmark Organization to organize an effort to move the house to a site in Brushy Park. From there, the home and its separate kitchen facility will be moved to a permanent site next to the Old Bakery. Landmark has said it would like to begin construction on the hotel in the next six to eight weeks.

Tom Meadows of the Texas Historical Foundation said the preservation of the Dickinson-Hannig House meshes well with the foundation’s mission and would be a “crown jewel” of preservation efforts. Under the foundation’s early plans, the back-kitchen structure would be open to the public and house presentations on women in early Texas history, as well as the story of early Austin.

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

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