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Lame duck Commission

Thursday, July 26, 2001 by

Puts off Rosewood decision

Planners hear more complaints about notice

A bare majority of the Planning Commission decided Tuesday to postpone a vote on the Rosewood Neighborhood Plan until next week. But next week’s vote will likely only be on how much longer to delay the plan. Commissioner Sterling Lands voiced concerns about the level of participation in the planning process, but neighborhood activists were not surprised.

Commissioners Jim Robertson, Lydia Ortiz, Robin Cravey and Ray Vrudhula were absent.

The Rosewood Neighborhood Plan covers an area in East Austin bordered by Airport Blvd. on the east side, Manor Road on the north side and Webberville and Northwestern Roads on the south side. The western boundary is irregular, partly because of other neighborhood association boundaries. The goals listed in the plan include making the neighborhood a safer place to live, promoting reasonably priced housing and enhancing the character of the neighborhood. While commissioners indicated they supported those goals, they did have questions about the extent of participation of both neighborhood businesses and non-profit groups in the formation of the plan.

Citizens involved in the planning process expressed some of those concerns. “I think the Rosewood Plan looks very good,” neighborhood resident Clint Smith said. “But I don’t think you’re ready to approve it yet because of the lack of input from the many people that you still need to talk to. As of May 12th, of the 30 businesses in the neighborhood, only two had been involved. Out of the 15 churches, only two or three had been involved.” Bryan King, president of the South Lamar Neighborhood Association, echoed his concerns. “I’ve noted over and over that notification is the issue,” King said. “When the zoning notice goes up in your neighborhood and the little yellow sign goes up on the property . . . people drive by it and ignore it. Then a surveyor starts circling trees, and all of a sudden it’s like ‘the woods are on fire’. I think the notification process needs to have a re-vamp with a clearer message.”

Commission Chair Betty Baker agreed with King. “You really need something to get their attention,” she said. “I don’t want to take Mr. King’s idea, but perhaps a good headline on the notice would be ‘Your property rights are being changed.’ You need something so those people will respond.” Baker also urged city staff to seek out ways to improve communication with other city departments and also with Capital Metro during the planning process.

As for the Rosewood Neighborhood Plan, Lands was adamantly opposed to voting on it without further review. “There are too many open issues that need resolution,” said Lands. He asked for a delay in voting on the plan for at least one month. But Commissioner Ben Heimsath wanted to bring the plan up for a final vote sooner in order to get it to the City Council by the scheduled date of August 23rd. Since the commission was meeting with the minimum number of five members needed for a quorum, it was necessary to get all five to agree for any motion for postponement to be valid. Under the compromise measure, the item will come up for discussion again next week, at which time commissioners will decide whether to postpone it for another week or for an additional three weeks.

Bicyclists outline paths

Around Seaholm area

Underpass important to pedestrians too

Bike paths are the one key issue yet to be resolved in the Seaholm District Master Plan, Jim Adams of ROMA told a group of cyclist supporters on Wednesday morning.

A variety of city officials, led by Director Austan Librach of the Transportation, Planning and Sustainability Department, provided an overview of the Seaholm Master Plan’s bikeway goals, as well as alternatives for connections to the Pfluger Bridge. The original plan for the Pfluger Bridge was to provide cyclists with a connection back to Lamar Boulevard and Fifth Street, and thus a clear pathway to downtown.

The discussion between Adams and the cyclists came down to balancing practicality and aesthetics. The city’s alternatives for the plan include building out either a northeast or northwest arm off the bridge to reach Lamar across Sandra Muraida Way, straight up Lamar or along the crescent-shaped piece of land beside the Union Pacific line that will eventually be a parking lot.

Cyclist Chris Riley, also president of the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association, suggested that the northeast arm of the Pfluger Bridge be chosen. This path would direct cycle traffic out the curved pathway that would parallel the Union Pacific main line to cross under the south end of Bowie Street toward Fifth Street. Riley said he preferred the northeast arm because it moved bicycles into the district rather than “shunting them to one side” as would occur if the northwest arm of the bridge were built.

Adams agreed with Riley that the views from the northeast arm would be spectacular, but he had some concerns about what infrastructure the northeast arm would require. With a 5 percent grade, the structure would still be 20 feet above the ground as it entered the Seaholm District. One of the goals of the bike path, Adams said, was to keep it at grade as much as possible and low impact in nature.

“Can we solve this problem? Can we create good bicycle access without creating more intrusive infrastructure on Town Lake?” Adams asked the group.

Planning Commissioner Robin Cravey, on the other hand, simply wanted to get the job done with “the least cost and most direct route.” Cravey told the group he’d prefer to see the northwest arm get built over Cesar Chavez up to Sandra Muraida, and worry about the bypass of the street later. He did not want to wait to see the arms re-engineered and tens of millions spent on other projects before the city got back around to addressing the bridge.

“I don’t want to wait,” Cravey told city leaders. “Let’s get it done.”

The Lance Armstrong Bikeway—a six-mile path between US 183 and Lake Austin Boulevard—could take a number of routes, said Linda DuPriest, city coordinator for bicycle and pedestrian programs. The preferred route is to enter on Third Street and cross the pedestrian bridge over Shoal Creek and Union Pacific railroad tracks with an official gated crossing. The city has yet to get permission from Union Pacific, DuPriest said.

If the city is unable to get rights to cross the Union Pacific tracks, the bike path likely will come in on Third Street, go down the Shoal Creek trail and follow a path along the north side of Cesar Chavez Street. The path could also come down the West Avenue Extension.

Following the meeting, Riley said he was very encouraged by conversation with the Seaholm planners. Not only did the bicyclists get their point across about the Pfluger Bridge, he said, but staff recognized the importance of an underpass around the southern end of Bowie Street. Riley said the plans would also work well for pedestrians.

Groundbreaking on the Lance Armstrong Bikeway is not scheduled until next year. City Council consideration of the Seaholm Master Plan is set for August 30.

Council committee hears plea

For computer training funds

Program has provided skills to more than a thousand

Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman and City Council Member Will Wynn were the only members of the Council Committee for Telecommunications Infrastructure attending yesterday’s meeting, but the audience practically filled the room. Though nothing earth shattering took place, the two council members did give a hearty nod of approval for a two-and-a-half-year old program that receives city funding to provide computer training at no cost to low-income citizens.

The Community Technology & Training Center (CTTC) is a non-profit partnership between Austin Independent School District and the Capital Area Training Foundation (CATF). The City of Austin, the U.S. Department of Education and private sources fund it. John Fitzpatrick, executive director of CATF, said some of those private contributors include AMD, 3-M, Southwestern Bell and the Dell Foundation.

“We are essentially serving the working poor,” he told the Committee, noting that the average income of participants is $23,000 a year. The majority of participants are women, minorities and low-income residents of South and East Austin, he said.

The program has computer-training facilities set up at Travis and Reagan High Schools, used during the day by students from the school and at night by students from the community at large. This is one reason Mark Hazelwood, president and CEO of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, praised the program and said, “we get a double bang for our dollar.”

Hazelwood encouraged the Committee to support a fourth year of funding for the program. “The rising tide hasn’t lifted all ships,” he said. “We have more people under the poverty line than we did ten years ago.”

Fitzpatrick said the program is designed to teach people basic computer skills as well as more advanced training such as HTML, web design and various business applications. “Over the last two-and-a-half years . . . we’ve been able to serve over 1,000 adults,” he said, including disabled people, veterans and Spanish-speakers.

“Despite the tech wreck, since January, we’ve still been getting more support from the community,” he said.

Congressman Lloyd Doggett wrote Fitzpatrick a letter dated July 23, offering his support in securing funding from the city’s 2002 budget. “With the number of layoffs in Austin recently, there has been a high demand for CTTC training. This program strives to assist participants in acquiring better jobs or promotions, the confidence to pursue further education, and the technology skills to be more marketable,” the letter states.

“I urge the City of Austin to give every consideration to funding the CTTC initiative at Travis and Reagan to provide opportunities for free technology training and Internet access,” Doggett wrote. “Without support from the city, the CTTC initiative will be unable to sustain its current level of service and would be forced to close the Travis site,” he said.

CTTC accepted $540,000 of initial funding approved by the City Council for a three-year program and leveraged it, with donations and grants, into more than $1.4 million over the last two-and-a-half years. The Austin Telecommunications Commission adopted a resolution on July 11, recommending the City Council approve a fourth year of funding for the Travis High School site to the tune of $200,000.

2001 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Promoted to California . . . Carol Barrett, assistant director of the Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Department, has accepted the position of director of planning for Berkeley, California. Barrett, who has been in charge of neighborhood planning, has been with the City of Austin for the past 10 years. She said she expects to start her new job in September. Currently, there are 11 neighborhood planners, including Barrett. At one time, the department was authorized to have 16 neighborhood planners, but two of those positions are frozen, and recent resignations have whittled the staff further . . . Unusual venue. . . The Resource Management Commission didn’t have a quorum at its last meeting and needs to consider recommendations for a residential rebate program. The group will meet on Friday at 1 p.m. at Guero’s Restaurant, 1412 South Congress Avenue . . . County bond hearing . . . Travis County Commissioners will hear public comments tonight at Baty Elementary School. Members of the city’s 1998 bond committee are urging parks advocates to tell the commissioners not to extend Slaughter Lane through a proposed city park . . . Hays water woes . . . The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission yesterday ordered Roger Boyd and Rocket Water Co. of Hays County to correct more than a dozen chronic violations in a public water system that supplies water to Oak Forest. Boyd was ordered to pay an administrative penalty of $6,738 and remedy the violations. Those include using an unapproved well to supply drinking water and failure to disinfect water prior to distribution. Last week, the TNRCC issued a boil water notice for those served by the Oak Forest Water System. For more information, visit http://www.tnrcc.tx.us.

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