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CAMPO approves two proposals

Tuesday, October 9, 2001 by

From Mopac technical advisors

Proceed with northern extension, delay SH 45 South

The CAMPO Policy Action Committee agreed Monday to approve a subset of the recommendations made by a Mopac technical team last month and set a public hearing on Nov. 19 for all the other recommendations.

Two members of Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization—State Rep. Mike Krusee (R-Round Rock) and Travis County Commissioner Karen Sonleitner—were behind the push to approve two aspects of the technical team’s recommendations.

The first was to recommend the Texas Department of Transportation proceed with proposed construction to extend the north end of Mopac, since it was not expected to put undue pressure on Loop 1 south of US 183.

The committee also unanimously supported a recommendation that State Highway 45 South not be completed between I-35 and FM 1626 until the State Highway 130/State Highway 45 bypass is completed from I-35 North to I-35 South. Travis County Commissioner Todd Baxter briefly questioned the idea, since the highway is in his precinct. Mayor Kirk Watson told his colleagues the recommendation was intended to avoid making an already congested roadway worse.

“Don’t act like you’re going to cure all the problems by tying it into I-35,” Watson said, explaining the recommendations. “You only exacerbate what you’re saying you’re trying to fix.”

Passing the recommendations was important, Council Member Will Wynn said, because they acknowledge the regional community. A big piece of the political consensus gathered by the technical team, Wynn said, was that State Highway 45 should be delayed.

Additional recommendations yet to be discussed by the CAMPO PAC include highway concepts, expanded commuter rail and a comprehensive east-west traffic plan. A special committee will take up those recommendations and make their own recommendation to the board on Nov. 19.

The motions last night will also require some housekeeping by the CAMPO PAC. The board will have to amend the existing CAMPO 2025 Plan in November.

In other business, CAMPO heard from those who wanted to address projects to be presented to the Texas Transportation Commission for funding. Those projects include a proposal to underwrite 80 percent of a $500,000 regional transportation study being proposed by the Central Texas Regional Visioning Project.

Supporters, including Mark Hazelwood of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, urged CAMPO to consider funding the study. Other supporters also included those who favor the expansion of Bee Caves Road, as well as proposed road projects in Cedar Park and Pflugerville. Extending the frontage roads for US 290 West through Oak Hill continues to be the top priority for CAMPO.

The public hearing process on the recommended projects will remain open another 10 days, although the vote has been delayed until December. Executive Director Michael Aulick recommended the delay to allow all member cities and counties to consider the proposal and to determine whether, and if, the bids for Koenig Lane construction will require more CAMPO funding. A final vote on candidate projects will take place on Dec. 10.

BOA grants big variance

For little UT area bistro

How much parking is needed if most customers walk?

The Board of Adjustment last night granted a variance to allow a neighborhood bistro in the University of Texas area to operate with only seven parking spaces, instead of the 37 spaces normally required of such a business.

Melissa Whaley of Austin Permit Service appeared on behalf of Travis Vickery, who owns the property at 102-104 E. 31st St. Whaley said her client would keep the existing convenience store and add a 1,856 square-foot restaurant. Whaley said her client expects patrons to walk to the bistro. “There are 405 multi-family units in a four-block area,” she said. The restaurant could seat 35 people and some could walk from UT.

UT area businessman and property owner Mike McHone, said he was appearing for the owners of “residential housing units across the street,” who would be happy to welcome the bistro to the neighborhood. “This is in keeping with adaptive reuse (of property) in the city,” he said, praising the idea of letting a local entrepreneur reuse the building rather than tearing it down to build something else.

Whaley also promised that her client would add 15 bicycle spaces as a condition of the variance. She noted that the site has functioned for more than 50 years with minimal or no designated parking.

Three neighbors of the property argued that the business would generate more traffic, competing with residents for scarce on-street parking. But members of the BOA had a hard time with that idea since the variance being sought was for fewer parking spaces.

Doug Roberts, who lives on Helms St. directly behind the proposed restaurant, described the area as already congested with “too much traffic coming in on this corner. As a resident who lives in the area, a bistro is not something we need right there.”

Will Bozeman, former president of the Austin Neighborhoods Council, lives on Helms Street, about a block and a half from the site. He said, “The applicant has not appreciated the gravity of what they’re asking.”

Whaley said, “I understand their concerns, (but) there are built-in patrons,” living close to the restaurant. She said there was no space available to rent parking.

Board Member Frank Fuentes said he was having a hard time understanding a connection between the granting of the variance and increased vehicle traffic. Bozeman said he and his neighbors were concerned about exacerbating “the on-street parking problem that already exists.”

Fuentes made the motion to grant the variance and Board Member Barbara Aybar seconded. The variance was approved on a vote of 4-1 with Board Member Betty Edgemond voting no.

Council approves Central East

Austin Neighborhood Plan

Goodman, neigborhood leader, say plans need sub-districts

The City Council approved the Central East Austin Neighborhood Plan on first reading last week after listening to concerns about proposed zoning changes and the in-fill development provisions of the plan. Many of those same concerns had been voiced before the Planning Commission, which approved the plan by a vote of 8-0. (See In Fact Daily, Aug.29, 2001.)

The Central East Austin Neighborhood Plan covers an area bounded by MLK Blvd. on the north, Seventh St. on the south, I-35 on the west, and Chicon and Northwestern streets on the east. That area includes territory covered by the Austin Revitalization Authority, which will take precedence over the neighborhood plan on those lots. The plan promotes the installation of improved pedestrian lighting in some areas, new traffic signs and streetlights, the study of traffic calming measures in the Blackshear/Prospect Hill area and the addition of bike lanes along Rosewood Avenue. It’s also designed to increase the availability of affordable housing in the neighborhood.

Those affordable housing measures include language to encourage the preservation of existing housing, to promote in-fill development, to allow housing on lots that would normally be considered too small for construction and to allow construction of secondary apartments on some single-family lots. The so-called “granny flats” provision sparked the most debate among members of the neighborhood planning team. Some neighborhoods within the planning area support the concept while others, specifically the Blackshear and Prospect Hill neighborhoods, do not.

Neighborhood Planning Team Chair Mike Clark-Madison told the Council the solution would be to change the rules for the neighborhood planning process. “Staff is reticent to recommend it, but I’ll recommend it,” Clark-Madison said. “Change the ordinance, allow for sub-districts.” Clark-Madison said the diversity within the assigned planning area warranted a variation in the rules from one block to the next. “I can articulate very well why Blackshear and Prospect Hill are different enough from Guadalupe and Swede Hill that you might want to view them differently when considering whether they should have secondary apartments,” he said. “Ultimately, the position of the team is (that) we didn’t draw the planning area boundaries.”

Although the Council did not take any action to change the rules to allow sub-districts within a neighborhood plan, Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman expressed an interest in the idea. “I think the sub-district concept is going to be very useful,” said Goodman. “Only a sub-district is the easy mechanism to define culture and character for different areas within one planning boundary.” Goodman’s comments were primarily directed at city staffers, referring to the sub-districting issue as “my next cause and project,” telling members of the Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Department, “you’re all forewarned.”

The Council voted 6-0 (with Mayor Kirk Watson absent) to approve the plan. Zoning changes recommended by the plan will be handled separately.

2001 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Ballot changes possible . . . Travis County Commissioners will consider pulling Frate Barker from the November ballot at Tuesday morning’s meeting. One commissioner says the action—or lack of action—might depend on just who shows up to talk about the controversial road project . . . Special meeting . . . The City Council will hold a public hearing tonight at 6:30 p.m. on annexation of the Onion Creek area. The meeting will be at the clubhouse of the Onion Creek Country Club, 2510 Onion Creek Parkway . . . Final day to file for Mayor . . . At least one new candidate has plans to announce for the post today. Greg Gordon, the 29-year-old owner of Waterloo Catering, has notified local media that he will be announcing at 12:30 p.m. at the Omni Hotel. His campaign spokesman, Phillip Spellman, said Gordon was a volunteer in President George Bush’s campaign, but is not affiliated with either party. Gordon moved to Austin to attend UT more than 10 years ago, Spellman said. Former Council Member Eric Mitchell may also be announcing his platform today, but he has not let us in on his plans. The grapevine said he would be on the front steps of City Hall at 6 p.m. John McPherson, who filed earlier with an invalid petition, presented a new petition to the City Clerk’s office Monday . . . Mayor Pro Tem and foster mother . . . Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman was taking care of four kittens in her office Monday afternoon. She explained that someone who was supposed to be providing feline care had been deemed unsuitable for the job. Overall, about 40 cats and kittens needed a new home immediately. Goodman is looking for homes for her four orphans. Her office number is 974-2255 . . . No parking here . . . Those handy parking spaces right in front of City Hall are now designated “By Permit Only.” There are also police guards inside the building and in the parking garage. The officer on duty inside said the extra security would last for “at least a week.” An anonymous caller pointed out to In Fact Daily yesterday that spending on public safety had increased by nearly $25 million in the FY 2001-2002 budget over the previous year. The total increase for the budget as a whole is about $11.4 million . . . In late news . . . The Austin Lesbian Gay Political Caucus last night endorsed former Council Member Gus Garcia for Mayor. In a statement released by the ALGPC, Co-Chair Allan Baker said, “Gus knows and values the cultural diversity of Austin and understands, at a deep and abiding level, the need to preserve tolerance and respect for all the citizens of our city.”

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