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Council moves on road, bike,

Friday, May 11, 2001 by

Pedestrian and bridge budget

Lamar extension still undecided

The City Council spent most of the morning Thursday discussing roads, bridges and bikeways, voting unanimously to amend the operating budget of the General Fund and the capital budget of the Transportation, Planning and Design Department to move forward on various mobility projects.

The Council and staff discussed various options on how to extend the Lamar Pedestrian/Bike bridge, with Mayor Kirk Watson seeking clear answers from unclear figures related to the cost of the project. Assistant City Manager Marcia Conner told him the overall cost was $6.5 million with $2 million of that coming from federal grant money. Funds collected by Capital Metro will cover the balance, she said.

The original cost projected for the bridge was $2.7 million, Conner said, but the price went up when it was determined an extension was necessary, with a possible tunnel and second, spiral helix ramp, to accommodate wheel chairs and better serve the area.

Council Member Will Wynn said, “we can’t lose sight of the fact that . . . our goal is to get pedestrians across to Sandra Muraida (Way).” Sandra Muraida Way is the connector street from Lamar Boulevard to Cesar Chavez Street.

Watson agreed, saying it was important to “keep an eye on the long-term goal, and the long-term goal is to get to Fifth Street.” Feeling further discussion was warranted, Watson pulled the subject from the agenda for future review before the vote.

Later in the day, Slusher suggested speeding up construction on pedestrian and bicycle improvements along Shoal Creek in conjunction with connecting Lamar and Cesar Chavez. After more discussion, the Council voted 7-0 to instruct the city manager to study the idea. Council will consider alternatives for the area on May 24, when they make decisions on which projects should be submitted for funding through state and federal grants.

When the Council discussed possibilities for enhancing the Congress Avenue Bridge, Council Member Daryl Slusher suggested a railing between vehicle traffic and the pedestrian walkway. “It seems a little dangerous to me to not have (a) railing,” he said.

Watson joked, saying he thought Slusher was making a proposal for light rail across the bridge. Slusher said in this case, his initiative was for “rail-ing.”

Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman said she wanted to ensure bike lanes and paths were included in current roadway planing. She asked, “How do I make sure bicycle travel is accommodated in the Great Streets plan?”. Austan Librach, director of Transportation, Planning and Design Department, said the purpose of the Great Streets program is to create a more pedestrian-friendly downtown, so there was no question that bicycle and pedestrian use will be incorporated.

Goodman said the current plan did not accommodate bicycles and she wanted to give it a “nudge.” Council Member Beverly Griffith agreed, noting that the Great Streets program forecast for 2005 doesn’t call for bike paths as outlined in the Austin Bicycle Plan.

Librach said the plan has not yet been drafted and “we certainly have the ability to build into that, bicycle paths.”

Griffith brought up the subject of Smart Growth when she questioned the wisdom of the city waiving $1.2 million in development fees for the 23-story, CarrAmerica office tower at 300 W. Sixth Street, for complying with Smart Growth Matrix criteria. In light of recent changes in the city's economic climate, she said she wasn't certain it was appropriate or necessary.

“It's a tough time for that,” she said. “This is not a good time to get money out of the General Fund, this is a good time to be thinking about how to get more money in.”

Granting $1.2 million in fee waivers is keeping money out of the General Fund, she said. “The fee is characterized as money we would not get otherwise,” she noted, but in this case she was not in agreement. “This is real money, these services are being performed,” she said.

“Times have changed,” she reiterated, expressing concern about the city's income and economic future. “If we keep doing this the pain is going to be worse than it would be otherwise,” she added, with a comment on social and protective services suffering.

Slusher pointed out his view of the larger role of Smart Growth. “The thing a lot of folks tend to forget is Smart Growth was designed to steer growth where we want it,” he said. Though it had been ignored for years, this policy, established in 1979, was set up to keep growth off of the Edwards Aquifer. “All those buildings downtown could have been built over the aquifer,” he said. “This is a successful policy, some think even too successful.”

Watson said Smart Growth was also about better design. “We get the benefit, as citizens, from that change in planning,” he said.

The Council approved granting the fee waivers, 6-1, with Griffith dissenting.

Valid petition leads church

To reconsider negotiation

Neighbors say church is noisy, too big for site

The valid petition is still king in zoning territory. Members of the Iglesia Evangelica Latina Inc. (Latin Evangelical Church) asked the City Council yesterday to change the zoning on church property at 8600 Guadalupe from SF-3 (single-family residence) to LO (local office), but a valid petition from more than 20 percent of nearby landowners defeated that request.

Eric Langhout of I.T. Gonzalez Engineers told the Council that the community wants to redevelop the church and pave its parking lot. For the addition, the church needs the 70 percent impervious cover afforded by office zoning. Langhout said his clients are willing to accept a conditional overlay so that if the site were used for something other than religious assembly, the zoning would roll back to single-family.

Mayor Kirk Watson pointed out to Langhout that he needed six votes from the Council, but at least two Council Members would vote no because of the valid petition. “What this would mean is if you don’t work out something with the neighborhood, your zoning change would fail.” Langhout said he was hoping neighborhood members would change their minds during the meeting.

Nana Hairston, president of the Georgian Acres Neighborhood Association, complained that the church generates “loud music, loud talking, car lights and (the parishioners) purposely blowing their horns to annoy the neighbors.”

Jim McCarn, another resident of Georgian Acres, told the Council the church “has already grown too large for the site.” McCarn described the organization as “not a typical church. Members are there almost every day for long periods of time,” he said. “The neighborhood appears to be in the early stages of revitalization,” and church expansion could have a negative impact on it.

Watson left the dais and Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman took over. She told the audience she was sure she could not vote for the zoning change, adding that she thought other members of the Council would agree with her. Council Member Beverly Griffith said she too would be unable to vote for the change. Council Member Danny Thomas asked members of the congregation if they had tried to work out a compromise with the neighbors. Watson suggested a two- week postponement, with the city providing a facilitator. The church representative agreed and the case was postponed.

Aquifer board will give

Technical aid to city

City Council will consider Brodie Springs tract in two weeks

At the urging of Texas Cave Management Association speaker, Julie Jenkins, the Board of Directors of the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District last night agreed to provide technical and scientific assistance to the City of Austin as it considers a request for a zoning change on small portions of the Brodie Springs tract. The property, a 97-acre tract south of Slaughter Lane, has numerous recharge features and caves that significantly effect Barton Springs. Jenkins and other environmentalists are concerned about the negative impact of development too close to those features. The City Council Thursday granted developer Larry Niemann a two-week postponement to reach a compromise with those who want more protection for the recharge features.

The BSEACD board also passed a resolution to support the development of a Travis County Aquifers and Groundwater Conservation District to help protect the part of the county not in the district. Those other county water resources would include portions of the Trinity Aquifer, northern Edwards Aquifer and the Colorado River Alluvial Aquifer. John Davis and David Fowler with Travis County are leading this effort in the early stage its development.

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

Sign wars continue . . . Federal Judge James Nowlin refused to grant a temporary injunction requested by Reagan National Advertising against the City of Austin Thursday. The billboard company tried to stop the city from issuing permits to rival sign companies, claiming that the city’s action amounted to a taking of Reagan’s property. Assistant City Attorney David Smith said Nowlin told Eric Taube, attorney for Reagan, that he could see no taking on the part of the city. Smith said the plaintiff had dismissed a suit earlier filed in state court in order to file the federal suit . . . Political action on water continues. . . The House Natural Resources Committee voted out the Cypress Realty bill, as amended yesterday ( SB 1771, by Sen. Ken Armbrister). The amendment was not immediately available, but the bill now moves to the Calendar Committee for placement on the House General Calendar. . . More on water and politics . . . The Clean Water Fund is hosting a fundraiser next Friday, May 18, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Austin Children’s Museum, 201 Colorado. If you’re not familiar with the fund, you’ve probably heard of its parent organization, Clean Water Action, an active environmental lobby. The fund is an educational non-profit, so contributions are tax-deductible. Sponsors of the event include Robin Rather & David Murray, and Congressman Lloyd Doggett, as well as State Rep. Ann Kitchen. State Rep. Elliott Naishtat is scheduled to be the guest speaker. For more information, call 474-0605 . . . Lonely instruments and needy kids . . . The Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Brook Mays Foundation for Music Education are sponsoring a drive to bring musical instruments to children who cannot afford to purchase their own. Brook Mays will clean and repair any old instruments donated to them. The donation drive begins today with a press conference featuring Tejano music star Rick Trevino at 1 p.m. at the Brook Mays Music Co., 4211 S. Lamar. Instruments can be dropped off at the Austin Visitor Center, 2nd and San Jacinto, either Brook Mays location, suite B4 at Skyridge Plaza in Round Rock or at Waterloo Records at 6th and Lamar . . . Garza named Public Administrator of the Year . . . City Manager Jesus Garza has been selected by the Central Texas Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration as the year’s top public administrator. He received the award last night at the organization’s annual banquet . . . Austin hosts new festival of Korean Culture . . . Austin’s newest sister city, Kwangmyong, Korea, has sent 20 dancers and singers to entertain Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Richard Moya Park in southeast Austin, off Burleson Road. This event is the First Annual Arirang Festival of Korean Culture. The performers will also entertain at Samsung Austin Semiconductor and at the Asian American Cultural Center next week. For more information, call Paul Kim at 452-2701.

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