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Stratus Committee quits,

Tuesday, March 6, 2001 by

Suggests clarification

Mueller RFQ due March 22

Members of the Planning Commission’s committee for studying the Stratus proposal declared themselves out of business Monday and asked the City Council to clarify the role a larger committee might play in moving the agreement forward.

Robin Cravey, chair of the committee, and Commissioners Ben Heimsath and Silver Garza agreed to ask the City Council to set forth a specific task and set a deadline to create a committee that was loosely described in a December Council resolution. At that time, the Council said members of the following boards and commissions should select three members each to serve on the giant committee: Planning, Environmental, Water & Wastewater, Parks & Recreation, Urban Transportation and the Mueller task force. In addition, Mayor Kirk Watson said, “Once that is done, the Council will be able to determine whether it is balanced among environmental, development, business and neighborhood interests and be able to appoint up to three additional people.”

Members of the Planning Commission’s committee agreed that a 21-member committee would prove unwieldy and expressed the hope that the Council could reduce that number. Heimsath made a motion asking for a streamlined committee that would include members of the City Council, such as a Mayor’s task force.

Cravey said, “Also, if we want to move this development out of the Barton Springs Zone, what is it worth?” Cravey didn’t mention Mueller, but Jim Walker, a leader of the Mueller Neighborhoods Coalition and a member of the Mueller task force, said he is still worried that Stratus would be perceived as the favored bidder in the request for qualifications (RFQ) process. Walker said March 22 is the deadline for ROMA Design Group to finish the RFQ.

Laurie Swan, vice president for community affairs for Stratus Properties, said her company did not start the conversations about the swap. “We kind of get vilified, like it was our idea,” she said.

City Attorney Andy Martin pointed out that the City Council could not consider the committee’s recommendation before March 22 because there will not be a Council meeting next week.

RECA not supporting

Keel's attack on Cap Metro

Recent resolution on road funds misunderstood

The real estate industry is trying to walk the line between rail and road, not wanting to offend supporters of either and still hoping for solutions from Capital Metro.

The Real Estate Council of Austin (RECA) passed a resolution on regional mobility Feb. 21 urging Capital Metro to dedicate a quarter of its sales tax for ten years to area road projects. Many who read the resolution interpreted it as selling out light rail. This impression was exacerbated when RECA declined to comment on Rep. Terry Keel’s (R-Austin) House Bill 749. HB 749, one of four bills Keel has filed regarding Cap Metro, calls for a November election to strip the transit agency of half its sales tax revenue.

“There have been suggestions that RECA wants Cap Metro to give up a quarter cent in addition to the half cent suggested by Representative Terry Keel in HB 749,” RECA President Jerry Winetroub wrote in an e-mail late last week. “Let me put that fear to rest. RECA does not support taking a half-cent away from Cap Metro. If such had been true, we would have put that in the Resolution.”

Cap Metro’s board already has voted a quarter cent—the money being set aside for light rail—toward regional road projects. At the current tax rate, that means $30 million annually is being earmarked for road projects.

“We’ve taken some criticism by allocating the quarter cent. Some say that would do away with rail for 10 years, but that’s not our intention,” Winetroub says. “I think that Cap Metro can find a way to do both. I think you can do both road and rail with what’s left over after running a bus company.”

An estimated 81 percent of the $163 million Cap Metro will collect in revenue this year will come from sales tax revenues, compared to 6 percent derived from fares. Approximately half of the funds will pay for operating expenses, which Capital Metro labels as bus and rail. Approximately 30 percent will be put aside for an operating reserve and long-term mobility planning.

Winetroub wants to show the Texas Legislature that Austin can solve its own problems. There’s some irony, Winebtroub says, in being considered “too rail” prior to the November election and now “too road.” Winetroub adds that few rail systems are successful without a strong system of roads.

A new coalition is forming to address the regional mobility issue, Winetraub says. RECA, in particular, has a vested interest in addressing the issue because of its impact on the real estate market. Austin traffic has thus far not had an adverse impact on real estate, but Winetroub predicts that it eventually will.

“At some point, a major employer is going to come to look at Austin and if they do their homework they’re going to determine it’s going to take entirely too long for their employees to get to work and for various goods and services to be delivered to them, and they’re going to look elsewhere,” Winetroub says. “That’s really the reason we’re involved in this.”

South 1st Street neighbors

Worry about city's intent

Some fear eminent domain for library

By Doug McLeod

Some citizens of south central Austin are worried that the city might exercise eminent domain to acquire a tract of land at South 1st Street and Herndon Lane owned by the Catholic Church. It’s true that the city has been searching for land in the area to build a new library, and there was some dialogue between the city and the diocese about acquisition of the property, but at this point the city is negotiating on another tract for the library site, according to city officials.

John Gillum, facilities planning manager for the Library Department, said the city is seeking land to build a new library to replace the Twin Oaks Library, 2301 S. Congress Ave., by 2006. The city has entered negotiations for a tract of land in the area but not the lot at Herndon and South 1st, which is owned by the San Jose Catholic Church, he said. The church is at 2435 Oak Crest Ave.

The city canvassed the area when it first started looking for a site, he said. When the church responded to the city’s inquiry with interest in the possibility of negotiating a deal, there was some discussion, Gillum said. But the city did not pursue the site and has since entered negotiations on another tract, he said, noting he cannot mention the location until a deal is struck.

Tina Bui, Council Member Daryl Slusher’ s executive assistant, told In Fact Daily she sent an e-mail in January to a concerned citizen to clarify the situation. “I spoke with Joe Canales, Chief of Staff for the City Manager, and he let me know that no city departments are currently filing eminent domain on the property at South 1st and Herndon,” her message said. “The Library Department is looking for a suitable site for a new Twin Oaks Library in that area but again, no eminent domain has been filed in regards to this matter or any other,” she wrote.

The e-mail was sent to Rolando Pina, president of the Galindo Elementary Neighborhood Association and a member of the San Jose Church. “The city mentions eminent domain in a form letter they sent to our church,” he said. “We don’t want eminent domain to scare the people,” he added. “The city is denying they’re doing any proceedings,” he said, “but just by the mention of eminent domain they’re getting people to talk about the possibility of selling the property and discussing property values,” he said. However, he noted, the church already has specific plans for the site.

Bui said the city typically mentions eminent domain in such letters as a sort of legal disclaimer, not to imply action is underway. “At the end of the letter, the City notes that eminent domain could be an option if the landowner and the City cannot come to an agreement. These letters however are not notification of eminent domain filings. They merely notify a landowner that eminent domain could be a possibility but only in last resort cases should the City and a landowner not come to an agreement,” she wrote to Pina.

Scott McClain, chair of the Bouldin Creek neighborhood planning team, said members of the neighborhood were concerned about development of the site.The group will be discussing a number of issues, possibly including the library site, at a meeting on Wednesday night at the Austin Lyric Opera facility. Pina said he would attend the meeting, along with other members of his church, the neighborhood planning team and Council Member Raul Alvarez.

McClain said he thinks the new library site under consideration is next to Green Pastures restaurant, 811 W. Live Oak St. Gillum said the schedule for the new library, according the bond election in 1998, calls for design funding to become available in 2004 and construction funding in 2005.

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

Bennett tract coming back . . . The Development Review and Inspection Department has been trying since last April to move forward with a zoning case that would change a section of the E.11th Street corridor known as the Bennett Tract. The case has been postponed 10 times and parties are reportedly still at odds. Perhaps the commission will insist on hearing the case tonight. It’s at the top of the agenda . . . Southside news . . . Clarke Hammond was re-elected president of South River City Citizens last night . . . Appointees. . . Laura Ham and Kathy Kasprisin were reappointed to their posts on the Mayor’s Committee for People with Disabilities. Robert Walker was also reappointed to the EMS Quality Assurance Team and Dr. Mary L. Adams was reappointed to the Medical Assistance Advisory Program . . . Beep beep! . . . Roadrunner’ s email system had been down for more than 12 hours as In Fact Daily went to press. Condolences to those who didn’t get their daily fix. We sent it.

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