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Goodman crafts innovative

Friday, October 12, 2001 by

Solution for Brodie Tract

Slusher, Griffith vote no, hope for more changes

On a compromise worked out at the last minute by Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman, the City Council gave preliminary approval yesterday to a zoning change that would allow development on a sensitive piece of the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. But developer Larry Niemann may be called upon to give up more impervious cover and reduce pollutants further on his tract at 10400 Brodie Lane.

Council Members Daryl Slusher and Beverly Griffith voted against the change and Council Member Raul Alvarez warned that he was not really satisfied with Niemann’s environmental protection efforts.

Niemann requested that zoning on portions of his property at 10400 Brodie Lane be changed from IRR (interim rural residential) to SF-2, standard lot single-family zoning. The property contains a number of features, such as sinkholes, which are important avenues of recharge for Barton Springs. The tract has an approved site plan from 1995, which allows for slightly more impervious cover and considerably less water quality protection. Because of HB 1704, Niemann, like other developers who have old approved site plans in the recharge zone, could build something that would neither meet SOS Ordinance requirements nor use the best management practices currently available. However, one member of the Watershed Protection staff told In Fact Daily that the 1995 plan would be very costly to build because it requires that storm sewers be built into hard, rocky soil.

After consulting with Niemann representatives and representatives of the Texas Cave Management Association (TCMA) during a break in the meeting, Goodman announced that the parties had reached an agreement. Although arriving at the legalese will take several lawyers an unpredictable number of hours, Goodman outlined the plan she described as “out of the box.”

“In the past, we have put forward an idea for some developers of posting a performance bond in perpetuity to make sure that the maintenance (of water detention structures) is always there.” In this instance, Goodman explained, the homeowners association will be responsible to the city through a contractual agreement for maintenance, in the same way that commercial enterprises are now. TCMA and the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District will be allowed to check on the sinkholes during rainstorms.

Connie Heyer, attorney with her father’s firm, Niemann & Niemann, said, “There is not a much stronger power you can have. The city would, in essence, have a subordinate lien.” The city, she said, would have the right to go after the association, which has a perpetual responsibility to care for the homes and maintenance.

Julie Jenkins, vice president of TCMA, told the Council, “We’re withdrawing our vote against. We feel we got some things that will be positive for the property.” After her public statement, Jenkins said she thought the association had gotten the best deal that it could from the developer. One of the problems in the past, Jenkins said, was that Niemann wanted seven days written notice before the cavers could inspect the property.

Goodman said the aquifer district would “also have access for purposes of monitoring runoff and recharge . . . I want to make it really clear what an incredible precedent this is; because in the past, developers have not wanted to put their engineering solutions (up for testing) . . . This is the first step after all these years that if something breaks, having been designed not to break, it is their intent that it be fixed and the homeowners association has the intention to fix it before it enters the aquifer. In addition, they’ve offered to be monitored by two prestigious agencies.”

The mayor pro tem said the developer has also offered to go with the city to CAMPO to seek funding for mitigation of water quality degradation done by Brodie Lane. Finally, Goodman told her colleagues, “We cannot have SOS, but this is better than the approved plan. If you vote ‘no’ you are not doing something for the aquifer. It may be very politically satisfying, but by doing so you do not make it better for the aquifer.” Goodman, Slusher and Griffith are all up for reelection next year. All seem likely to seek another term.

Niemann has been negotiating with the US Fish & Wildlife Service, but admits that his plan does not meet the non-degradation standard the agency insists is required to win its approval. A letter from local FWS chief David Frederick to Alan Glen, an attorney assisting Niemann, says, “The Service cannot concur with a determination of ‘not likely to adversely affect’ the (Barton Springs) salamander. Additional information from Mr. Niemann and the project consultants could change this determination.”

Slusher said, “I think the mayor pro tem makes some good points.” He then discussed the situation and problems caused by HB 1704. “So we end up choosing how bad we want it to be polluted. None of these are easy; but I wouldn’t say if someone votes differently than me they’re trying to protect the aquifer or not protect the aquifer. I’m having a hard time deciding on this. This has been before us for a long time and I haven’t seen the applicants move at all except for the monitoring plan the mayor pro tem has set forth.” He then talked about changes made to the Bradley agreement during its evolution to “almost SOS, but not quite, while this one is just barely below the pollutant level of ’95. If I thought there could be some movement between first and second reading, I could vote for it.

Alvarez said, “I want to echo what Council Member Slusher said, but I would like to see some improvement on pollutant loads and . . . mitigation . . . otherwise I won’t be supporting the proposal (in the future).”

Griffith said, “I wish I had met a lot of engineering proposals I had a lot of confidence in.” But she hasn’t. She said she hopes to see “meaningful progress” in pollutant loads and impervious cover levels before the next vote.

Slusher announces he'll

Seek third Council term

Number of petition signatures required still in doubt

Council Member Daryl Slusher announced Thursday that “after lengthy and thoughtful consideration, I have authorized volunteers to begin collecting petition signatures to qualify me as a candidate for reelection on May 4, 2002.” He will, of course, also be collecting signatures on his own behalf.

Voters approved a charter amendment in 1994 that requires council members to collect signatures from five percent of registered voters in order to run for a third term. That is currently somewhere between 15,000 and 17,000 people. However, state law would only require the collection of 178 signatures. The city is still waiting for a response to a request from the Secretary of State as to which law is applicable.

In a press release, Slusher said he had discussed the matter with a wide variety of local citizens, most of whom had urged him to stand for reelection. He said he had thought about the matter and the impact of his service on his family and finally concluded that he should offer his services to the city for another three years. Obviously, those running for a third term do not have the luxury of waiting until next spring to make a decision, since so many signatures may be required.

“I feel that my colleagues and I over the last five years, working with city staff and many citizens, have made significant accomplishments for Austin. There is still a lot of work to do, however. We face serious budget years, critical public safety and security issues, major transportation challenges, a shortage of affordable housing and ongoing dangers to our beautiful central Texas environment. Even in recent days and weeks there has been progress on these fronts. For example, during the just completed fiscal year the city manager and Council worked together to avoid any major service cuts even as sales taxes came in well below projections.” He noted the addition of police officers and firefighters, as well as Travis County Commissioners dropping Frate Barker Road from its bond ballot, as important wins for the city. Slusher took a leadership role in striking the road from the city’s projected road plan, leading the county to remove it from consideration.

Aquifer board facing more

Requests for greater pumpage

Jack Goodman warns of dangers to current users

The Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District Board voted yesterday to approve increasing pumpage by 16 million gallons a year for the Ruby Ranch subdivision off County Road 967 in northern Hays County. The current permit for the subdivision allows four million gallons of water a year to be pumped from the aquifer.

Though the vote was unanimous—4-0 with Vice President Bill Welch absent—it was not without some contention.

In an emotional outburst, Board Member Jack Goodman said the steady stream of requests for pumpage increases could not stand. “There’s something emerging here that really disturbs me,” he said. People keep coming into the area to build more homes, they ask us for more pumpage and expect us to give it to them, he said. “This madness has got to stop! People keep coming in here and just expect us to give them water!”

He said it’s his job as a board member to protect this finite water supply for existing residents of the area, yet “people continue to come in here and ask us to dole out more water . . . three million gallons here and 20 million gallons there . . .. ”

Board Member Jim Camp said one of his constituents would soon be making a request to increase pumpage from 200 million gallons a year to 617 million gallons a year. He said he was concerned about pumpage increases, especially considering the scenario of a future drought.

Goodman said it might be a good idea for the board to base granting permits on the merits of conservation measures developers could potentially implement in order “to live lightly on the aquifer.”

In an effort to quell his frustration, Goodman refrained from further discussion with developer Michael Thames of TWC Enterprises Inc., about growth above the Edwards Aquifer. Thames suggested that the problems of growth and development related to water restrictions could be eliminated if more surface water were brought in. Goodman made clear his point that the idea was to limit growth over the aquifer because it is a sensitive environmental feature and it’s imperative to avoid increased degradation.

TWC Enterprises is developing Ruby Ranch, a subdivision of 300 platted lots, which is located between County Road 967 and Onion Creek. Thames said when the old ranch was first subdivided his company was selling five-acre lots with individual wells. Now, however, he is building homes on 2-acre lots with a shared water system. About 80 homes have already been built.

Smith asked him if the 20-million gallon request would be sufficient for the entire build out of the subdivision, and Thames said no. His company has 30 homes currently under construction and needs at least 15 million gallons to get caught up with those homes and current demand, he said. He estimated the 20-million gallon allotment would be good for maybe two years.

Before voting, Goodman said he would support an increase this time but “I want people to be put on notice that they’re not going to be able to count on my vote in the future.” He said people cannot continue to convert ranch land into subdivisions for a profit at the expense of the aquifer. .

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2001 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Postponed once more . . . The City Council postponed a second and third reading and vote on the Hyde Park Neighborhood Plan, despite reservations expressed by Mayor Kirk Watson about whether separate votes are legally required by city ordinance. In postponing the case, the Council also put off a separate vote on whether to override valid petitions from the Hyde Park Baptist Church and some individuals who want to be left out of the plan. Members of the neighborhood planning team are still working on changes to the legal language of the ordinance . . . Controversial Planning Commission ordinance also postponed . . . A hearing on the proposed ordinance to take cases in areas where a Neighborhood Plan is being contemplated from the Zoning and Platting Commission and give them to the Planning Commission was also postponed. Betty Baker, chair of the ZAP Commission, told In Fact Daily she has requested that staff make a presentation on the ordinance to her commission next week. The ordinance could dramatically affect the workload of both commissions… Holly plan postponed too. . . Since the Planning Commission has not acted on the Holly Neighborhood Plan, staff recommended that the City Council put off consideration until Dec. 6, which was done . . . Gone to war . . . Bill Welch, Vice President of the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District Board, was not at yesterday’s meeting because he had “been called to the Pentagon for active duty.” Board President Craig Smith said Welch, a Lt. Colonel with the Air Force Reserves, was expected to return on November 17. BSEACD General Manager Stovy Bowlin said, “He told me to sleep tight . . . he was on watch” . . . Fun in the country. . . The Green Corn Project urges you to learn how to “Cook Globally, Grow Locally.” That’s the theme of their third annual autumn fundraiser on Sunday from 11am to 5pm at Boggy Creek Farm. The non-profit group helps people grow organic food at home for personal consumption. Local chefs from Barr Mansion, Curra’s Grill, Cooking by Design and Jean-Luc’s Bistro will each present a 45-minute cooking demonstration. Complimentary sample dishes from a variety of restaurants will also be available. Tickets for adults are $25 pre-event or $30 at the door. Tickets are available at Barton Springs Nursery, Big Red Sun, Boggy Creek Farm, Curra's Grill, The Great Outdoors, The Natural Gardener, Smith & Hawken and Wheatsville Co-op; or contact Green Corn Project for more information at (512) 833-7446.

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