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Council postpones decision

Friday, March 2, 2001 by

On Hyde Park Church garage

Decision set for next Thursday

After six hours of public hearings, City Council Members decided they needed more legal advice in order to resolve the question of whether the Hyde Park Baptist Church can build a five-story parking garage despite vehement neighborhood opposition.

At 12:35 a.m., Mayor Kirk Watson asked if the Council wanted to take the matter under advisement. “If any Council Member has questions of the legal staff,” he said, “it would be better to wait until next week.” He said no lobbying or ex parte discussions on the matter would be allowed. However, Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman said she wanted to ask questions that both sides could answer in writing.

Council Member Will Wynn said he had specific questions for staff. Since it would likely be an issue for a lawsuit, he wants an executive session. The Mayor said Council Members could submit questions to attorneys for the parties at noon Monday, with answers required by noon Wednesday.

The church had filed a lawsuit against the city to try to prevent Thursday’s hearing. However, a judge declined to issue the temporary injunction that would have stopped it. ( In Fact Daily, Feb. 26, 2001) Watson pointed out last night that “the very calling of the public hearing would be making a determination that the appeal was legal.”

Former Council Member Bill Spelman, who lives in Hyde Park, told the Council that their decision would have a significant impact on any future court decisions about the garage. “If you side with the church, it means, ‘We want the burden of proof to lie with the neighborhood’ . . . You’re not making a final decision, but you’re having a big effect on the decision (that will be made in court).” Richard Suttle, attorney for the church, has said his client would continue the lawsuit if the Council rules in favor of the neighborhood.

Council Member Daryl Slusher expressed every Council Member’s wish—that the church and the neighborhood would come to an agreement within the week. “Let’s just assume that you’re in the right legally. I just can’t understand why you’d want to do that to the neighbors.”

Throughout the dispute, the Baptists have argued that they had made a deal and that the City Council should enforce the deal. Neighbors have argued that the church was, in fact, misinterpreting the agreement reached between Hyde Park Baptist and its neighbors in 1990.

Thomas can't muster support

For changing street names

Hearing reveals deep divisions in community

After four hours of sometimes-emotional testimony last night, Council Member Danny Thomas made a motion to rename Rosewood Avenue Dorothy Turner Boulevard, but his motion died for lack of a second. The Conley Guerrero Senior Activity Center was jammed with mostly Eastside citizens interested in the fate of the proposal. Some came to praise Turner and urge the renaming of Rosewood after her. Others came to make sure the City Council understood the depth of their attachment to the existing name. Of those present, 162 had signed up to speak on the item. Fortunately, many of them decided to forego their chance to address the Council. Turner was the longtime president of the Black Citizens Task Force. Activist Velma Roberts died recently.

In attendance were Thomas’ two predecessors in office, Willie Lewis and Eric Mitchell, supporting opposite sides of the question. Mitchell unsuccessfully petitioned the Council to rename the street after Turner in 1998. Mitchell supported Thomas’ campaign against Lewis last year.

After Thomas’ motion failed, Council Member Raul Alvarez said, “There wasn’t consensus in the community . . . It’s true Ms. (Velma) Roberts and Ms. Turner were warriors. But there were warriors before them . . . In the process of making history we shouldn’t destroy history.” Alvarez said that in his culture it is important to respect the wishes of community elders. “We should not diminish that, we’d be doing wrong by them and wrong by ourselves,” he said. “When elder after elder after elder comes to talk about the tradition of Rosewood Avenue, we can’t ignore it.” Alvarez said he likes the Native American tradition of looking seven generations in the past and seven generations in the future before making a decision. “Don’t just focus on the here and now.” He said the community needs ”a proposal everyone can get behind.”

Thomas urged citizens to come together and focus on serving the community.

Council Member Daryl Slusher said, “This is a symbol and symbols can be important.” But he wants to work with substance, he said, noting projects such as improving water and wastewater infrastructure, a new bridge for elementary school children that was recently built and Springdale Park. “Five or six years ago that was a dumping ground, now it’s a beautiful city park,” he said. “We will all work on (these issues) together and I’m willing to work on them with anybody.”

Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman asked, “Why should we have to take away to give?” She said if the city really wants to honor these women, then choose another way, adding that she has never thought naming streets was a good way to honor someone. “I would rather do something more significant,” she said, “more monumental.”

Council Member Will Wynn said, “I too, like other Council Members, would like to honor Dorothy Turner and Velma Roberts . . . but frankly, there was too strong an opposition.”

Thomas earlier withdrew an item from the agenda that would have allowed the City Council to consider renaming the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex after Turner. At about 1 a.m., after Hyde Park residents and church members had departed, the Council considered whether to rename Hargrave Street after activist Velma Roberts. At that point, only the minister of a church on Hargrave complained. Again Thomas made a motion, but no Council Member provided a second. Goodman and Council Member Beverly Griffith both said, however, that they would support efforts to honor Turner and Roberts through other means than changing street names.

Precedents for renaming Austin streets are limited. Nineteenth Street was renamed Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. First Street was renamed after Cesar Chavez and 26th Street was named after legendary University of Texas Law School Dean Page Keeton.

Hearing on new Subdivision ordinance postponed

The long awaited revision to the city’s subdivision ordinance will have to wait three more weeks for a City Council hearing. When the hearing on renaming East Austin streets ran long, with more than 160 citizens signed up to speak, Mayor Kirk Watson suggested postponing the hearing to March 22.

Paul Hilgers, head of the city’s Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Office, was probably happy to wait. Hilgers had written a memo asking that SMART Housing subdivisions be exempted from requirements of the proposed new ordinance. He said that staff had not recommended making the changes mandatory because those changes would increase costs by $1,310 per lot in new subdivisions.

The major thrust of the subdivision proposal would cut block lengths, prohibit cul-de-sacs and promote the traditional grid pattern of older neighborhoods, such as Hyde Park. Dave Sullivan, a former member of the Planning Commission who spent many hours working on the new ordinance, reports that “a high level of street connectivity improved traffic flow on arterials,” according to a Portland study. Sullivan predicts that the higher costs will be offset by narrower street widths and a reduction in urban sprawl.

Appointments to boards and commissions

The City Council made the following appointments at yesterday’s meeting:

Board of Adjustment Barbara Aybar reappointment Consensus Betty Edgemond reappointment Consensus Hans Herman Thun reappointment Consensus Laurie Virkstis reappointment Consensus Leane Heldenfels reappointment (alternate) Consensus Leroy Vaughn appointment (alternate) Consensus

Sign Review Board Barbara Aybar reappointment Consensus Betty Edgemond reappointment Consensus Hans Herman Thun reappointment Consensus Laurie Virkstis reappointment Consensus

Bond Oversight Commission Mike Clark-Madison appointment Consensus

Community Development Commission Derrick Norris reappointment Thomas Karen Paup reappointment Goodman Margarita Flores reappointment Consensus Cristina De La Fuente-Valdez reappointment Mayor

Downtown Commission Beatrice Fincher reappointment Consensus

Environmental Board Karin Ascot appointment Wynn

MBE/WBE Advisory Commission Warigia Bowman reappointment Consensus Pilar Avalos appointment Consensus

Music Commission Kevin Connor reappointment Mayor Theresa Ferguson reappointment Consensus Charlie Jones reappointment Consensus

Urban Renewal Board Cristina de La Fuente-Valdez reappointment Mayor

Urban Transportation Commission Michael Dahmus reappointment Slusher Scheleen Johnson Walker reappointment Wynn

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

Man of the year . . . Council Member Will Wynn, named Austinite of the Year under 40 last night, attended the Council meeting but didn’t make the celebration. Mark Nathan, executive assistant to Wynn, said Lee Walker nominated his boss for the government service category. However, Nathan said Wynn, 39, won the overall award for the group’sAustinite of the year. Wynn was elected to the Council last May . . . No further objection . . . Mayor Kirk Watson, trying to move last night’s heavy agenda, suggested postponing several contested zoning hearings. When a member of the public asked if he could speak last night, Watson told him he might have to wait along time. The case was proposed for postponement to March 8. “You might be hear ‘til the 8th,” the Mayor said. The item was postponed without further objection . . . Amateur lobbyists. . . The ACLU and like-minded organizations are planning to swarm Capitol halls with lobbyists on Monday. The Texas Criminal Justice Reform Coalition will offer training from 10 a.m. to noon and a rally is planned for 12:30 p.m. in front of the Supreme Court Building. For details, you can visit http://www.protex.org/criminaljustice/events.shtml or call coordinator Eva Owens at 441-8123 . . . Chilly Cowboys. . . Beginning at 6 a.m. today, as part of the Star of Texas Rodeo, families are expected to run for 4 miles along Auditorium Shores. Although no streets will be closed for this event, traffic could be disrupted . . . Texas Independence Day . . . is today! The Congress Avenue Bridge will be closed from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for the parade. On Saturday the bridge will be closed from 6-11 a.m. for the Star of Texas Rodeo parade.

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