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Spanish Oaks moves toward

Wednesday, June 6, 2001 by

Road pact with Travis County

Residents uneasy about losing current roadways

Developers of a proposed 1,000-acre mixed-use subdivision outside the City of Bee Cave are close to clearing another administrative hurdle with Travis County.

CC&G Development has already started to tear up the roads in the proposed Spanish Oaks at Bee Cave under a development permit. The multi-phase development will be located south of Highway 71 at FM 620. Developer Daniel Porter wants to replat the subdivision—originally laid out in the 1980s—to include homes, office buildings and a golf course. He has now asked Travis County to abandon its interest in roads that were originally dedicated for public use but never accepted by the county for maintenance.

County commissioners held a public hearing on right-of-way issues yesterday. While homeowners on the big estates on Musket Rim Drive admitted they could probably negotiate an agreement with Porter, a number of them were still concerned enough with the lack of finality to protest at the hearing. Most who spoke expressed hope that a compromise could be reached.

“Our desire is to work an arrangement out with Spanish Oaks subdivision,” said homeowner Stephen Fain, who told commissioners that homeowners in the area had already spent $100,000 to improve the roads that Porter now wants to demolish. “We feel we have some precedent here, and we just need to work closer with them.”

Attorney David Armbrust, who represented CC&G Development, told commissioners the plans for Spanish Oaks meant the developer had negotiated agreements with the City of Austin, Travis County, LCRA, Travis County Historical Association and various environmental and neighborhood groups over the last two years. The new plats for Spanish Oaks at Bee Caves will double the density of the proposed development. All but six of 46 homeowners impacted by the abandonment have agreed to the negotiations, said Armbrust.

Porter told commissioners he had already agreed to extend one road by 400 feet out to Musket Rim Drive. He subsequently agreed to pay for another 500 feet of road to further satisfy homeowners. All that was left, he said, was to boil the details down to paper. The maintenance of the road, Porter said, was still an open issue. Fain said the written agreement had arrived Monday night, without sufficient time to review the document.

Travis County, Fain said, had never shown much interest in claiming the roads. Assistant County Attorney Tom Nuckols told commissioners the question the court must decide is whether turning public roads over to a developer would reduce access to existing homeowners. Other roads, Nuckols said, could provide equivalent access to homeowners. While Armbrust told commissioners homeowners would have access to the roads, he also said the developer did intend to place a guardhouse on the development.

An action item on abandoning the right-of-way was pulled from yesterday’s agenda. During discussion, Commissioner Todd Baxter asked the Musket Rim residents whether they thought turning the roads over to the developer might more evenly spread the cost of improvements among homeowners. County Judge Sam Biscoe said if an agreement could be reached between the developer and homeowners, and replatting the development could be accepted, “it’s best for everybody.”

If the roads are handed over to Porter, he will bring them back up to county standards and add a second bridge over Little Barton Creek as part of an agreement with Travis County. Maintenance costs would be assessed as a monthly homeowner’s association fee, divided among residential and commercial property owners, Armbrust said. The Barton Creek Preserve Owners Association will continue to pay current fees, rather than the fees that will be assessed to new development. The entire Spanish Oaks subdivision will actually be a combination of four subdivision plats.

Council to consider changes

To area roadway plan this week

Bennett Tract up for final consideration also

This Thursday’s City Council meeting at the Conley-Guererro Senior Activity Center, 808 Nile St., should not prove as heated as the previous meeting at that location, when the Council listened at great length to the pros and cons—mostly cons—of renaming Rosewood Avenue to honor Dorothy Turner.

The Council will take final action on rezoning for the eastside property previously known as the Bennett Tract, but now called Robertson Hill. Council Members Beverly Griffith and Daryl Slusher are expected to vote against the plan—as they did when the question came up two weeks ago. Council Member Raul Alvarez may not be entirely satisfied with the deal, but he brokered some changes to make the neighborhood happier, so it will be hard for him to vote against it. Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman is the swing vote, because with the profusion of petitions withdrawn, only four votes are needed for final approval.

Goodman is bringing back her proposal to split the Planning Commission into two separate bodies. The new commission would make recommendations to the Council on zoning matters and would make decisions on plats. The other commission would work on long range planning matters. Goodman’s previous attempt left the Council unconvinced about the need for new commissions. (See In Fact Daily, March 30, 2001).

Slusher will be proposing changes to the Austin Metropolitan Area Transportation Plan (AMATP), which has generated a considerable amount of controversy among environmentalist and neighborhood proponents. Slusher said Tuesday that he plans to ask fellow Council Members to revamp the plan in line with recommendations from the Environmental Board.

Slusher said, “We need to have a way for folks to get into and out of Hays County.” So he supports widening of US Highway 290—but only to FM 1826, not to the CAMPO (Capitol Area Metropolitan Planning Organization) boundary, which is what the planning group has proposed. “I think that was a tragic decision on the part of the (state) highway department to build that section over the aquifer and not improve that intersection (US 290 and FM 1826) but we need to finish what’s already there . . . I won’t say I’m for it, but I’m not going to try to stop that.”

He said he would not support widening Bee Cave Road to six lanes, as proposed, nor would he consider making FM 1826 into an eight-lane major arterial, as proposed. For all roads over the Drinking Water Protection Zone, Slusher suggests that changes be scrutinized for their potential impact on water quality. He said that such decisions should be postponed until the environmental studies determine that environmental impact would be negligible.

Slusher and Goodman are proposing that the department formed from parts of the Planning, Environmental and Conservation Services Department and the Public Works and Transportation Department be named the Transportation, Planning, and Sustainability Department. ( Austan Librach is the director of the department.) The police helicopter is once again on the agenda. Purchase of the helicopter and training for Austin Police Department is priced at $1,657,584. The city intends to issue contractual obligations to pay for 83 percent of the cost, or $1,382,584. The city will be buying the helicopter from American Eurocopter Corporation, which has supplied two similar planes to Travis County. APD is negotiating with Travis County to house the new helicopter with the Starflight helicopters. City staff identified “maintenance and operational compatibility” as reasons to accept the bid from American Eurocopter, rather than going out for competitive bidding.

The public portion of Thursday’s meeting begins at 1:30 p.m. A hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. on using $706,508 from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development outside the boundaries of the E.11th and 12th Streets Urban Renewal Area. These funds are available from current and prior years’ federal block grants.

Planning Commission blesses

Zoning for North Bluff apartments

Area streets described as "country roads"

The Planning Commission approved a zoning change for 6.4 acres on North Bluff Drive near William Cannon Tuesday night. If approved by the City Council, the change from SF-3 to MF-2 will allow the construction of apartments on the now-vacant land at a maximum density of 23 units per acre.

Property owner Richard Beguelin requested the change, telling commissioners, “Our original intent was a limited office use, but we came to the realization that more of a low-density residential-type use was certainly better for the neighborhood.”

South Austin neighborhood activist Betty Edgemond argued against the zoning change, noting that the tract is close to Pleasant Hill Elementary School. She also expressed concern about traffic on North Bluff Drive. “If you try to turn from North Bluff Drive left onto William Cannon, it’s almost suicide,” she told commissioners. “This is on two country roads (North Bluff Drive and Crow Lane). The bicyclists love to ride on North Bluff Drive because it’s like an oasis in the city.”

Chair Betty Baker shared Edgemond’s concerns, and offered a motion to limit the zoning change to MF-1 instead of the higher-density MF-2.“This is literally a two-lane country road, and there are no plans to improve it,” Baker said. “We’re going to give it the same density as has been approved on William Cannon? That, I think, is very difficult to rationalize.”

But Commissioner Robin Cravey offered a substitute motion to approve the original staff recommendation of MF-2. “Having more units on there is appropriate,” Cravey said. Commissioner Sterling Lands, who seemed skeptical that the maximum allowable number of units would actually be built on the tract, provided his second.

The motion to approve the change to MF-2 passed, with only Baker opposed.

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

Still pending . . . The Planning Commission postponed a hearing on Clayton’s Crossing last night. Fred Lockwood of Lockwood Engineering had been prepared to ask for a variance on behalf of Congressman Lloyd Doggett, who owns the property. But Chair Betty Baker convinced Lockwood to postpone the hearing until June 19 because three members of the commission had to leave the meeting early ( Sterling Lands, Jim Robertson and Ray Vrudhula). A number of environmentalists were waiting to testify against the proposed variance, which may have an impact on Bull Creek. Also postponed was discussion on updating the zoning for the Dawson Neighborhood Plan. . . Avoid Lamar on Thursday . . . The city will be making an improvement to the traffic signal at 5th and Lamar between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Thursday, with traffic reduced to one lane in each direction . . . Impervious cover mitigation . . . Council Member Beverly Griffith is proposing that homeowners who add impervious cover to their land be charged a fee per square foot of concrete added to the ground. Mitigation fees would be added to the city’s fund for purchase of open space and parkland..

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