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Anti-bond group shocked

Thursday, November 1, 2001 by

By YES! group's fundraising

YES! collects 10 times the money of NO

Campaigns for and against the four Travis County bond propositions are busy working to turn out the vote for both early voting and Election Day. Howard Falkenberg, the volunteer spokesman for YES! Travis County Bonds Committee, said he gave the campaign $5,000 in order to “show leadership.” Falkenberg’s contribution appeared on the committee’s recently filed contribution and expenditure (C&E) report, which became the subject of a press release from the Vote NO campaign.

Mike Blizzard of Grassroots Solutions, also working as a volunteer, pointed out that the pro-bond group has received more than $120,000 in contributions from developers, builders, engineering firms and construction companies, all of whom could benefit if the bonds pass. “They want us (taxpayers) to pick up the tab,” Blizzard said. “The Real Estate Council of Austin alone has made contributions totaling $50,000, making them by far the largest contributor . . . Other prominent large contributors include the Texas Capitol Area Builders Association, Milburn Homes and lawyers for controversial Austin development company Stratus Properties.”

Bill Bunch, executive director of the Save Our Springs Alliance (SOSA), said, “These bonds are corporate and developer welfare, pure and simple.” The Sierra Club has joined SOSA in opposing all the bonds. South Austin Democrats and the Travis County Democratic Women’s Committee are supporting parks, Prop.2, but opposing the road bonds.

Falkenberg, of Staats Falkenberg & Partners, told In Fact Daily, “I think the bonds have very broad support throughout the community, and it starts with groups like the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. So it doesn’t surprise me that people with large employee groups, like Motorola and AMD and Dell have contributed (and) engineers who hope to have a piece of the business and contribute. But underlying it, we have a group of citizens who want to improve safety and mobility.” After the election, Falkenberg said, RECA would start an initiative to get a reduced price or donated right-of-way to help the SH130 process get moving. Kirk Rudy of Endeavor Real Estate Group and vice president of RECA, will to take a leadership role in that, he said.

The Vote NO campaign has raised and reported about $6,000, Blizzard said, but more money has come in since the filing deadline for the C&E reports. He said he expects about twice that amount in total, but admits that the anti-bond campaign is “swimming upstream” with so much money being spent in favor of the bonds.

ZAP Commission rejects

Villas on Guadalupe zoning

City Council could decide case today

It was the same song, second verse for the backers of the proposed Villas on Guadalupe at the Zoning and Platting Commission (ZAP) Tuesday night. The developer’s request for MF-6 zoning near the UT campus had been turned down by the Planning Commission over the summer (see In Fact Daily, July 11, 2001), and was turned down again by the ZAP.

An error in the original posting and notification process sent the proposal back before the city’s land-use committee. (See In Fact Daily, Oct. 24, 2001.) Opponents of the project, lead by Rachel Rawlins representing the North University Neighborhood Association, asked commissioners to have the item postponed, in part to give neighborhood activists more time to work on their petition against the requested zoning change. But Richard Suttle, representing the applicant, argued in favor of hearing the case. “This applicant has been through the Planning Commission once,” Suttle said. “They’ve already been through the postponement process at the Council once . . . My client has been in the planning process for the better part of this year. The harm is, it’s not fair. He needs, at some point, to know if it’s a go or if it’s a not-go.” Commissioner Jean Mather moved to postpone the case, but that measure failed on a 4-4 split vote. Commissioner Niyanta Spelman was absent.

Arguments both for and against the project were little changed from the case made before the Planning Commission previously. “We are committed to doing a student project at this property,” said developer Brad Zucker. “This site, which is currently zoned for high-development use, is ideal for student housing.” Zucker received support from University Area Partners President Cathy Norman and a handful of UT students stressing the need for housing near campus. Attorney Richard Suttle summed up the argument in favor of the change to MF-6. “We’re asking for high density in the middle of high density,” Suttle said. “It is being designed and being proposed to house students next to one of the largest universities in the world.”

Opponents, including several residents of the Hemphill Park area, expressed concerns about the density of the project and the impact it would have on existing traffic and parking problems. “It is just excessive,” said Patricia Tang. “MF-6 is just, I think, too much for the area. It’s just a lot of people on a little bit of land.” In addition, Rick Iverson presented information to commissioners about the petition against the zoning change. While that petition has not been certified as valid, Iverson argued it should still be considered since the boundaries for inclusion were, in his opinion, unclear. “We’re not at twenty percent because we can’t agree where the line is,” Iverson said. Also of concern to neighbors is the prospect of a new, UT-owned dormitory just a few blocks away. The UT Board of Regents is working on plans for a dorm on property at the corner of 27th and Guadalupe as part of an effort to find housing for 2,000 more students on campus.

It was the second time that ZAP Chair Betty Baker and Commissioner Jean Mather had heard the case, and they again voted to deny the zoning change request. The move to deny came from Commissioner Diana Castañeda with a second from Commissioner Joseph Martinez. “It comes down to a creation of value,” Martinez said. “I definitely see the creation of value for the applicant, but I’m not quite convinced there’s value for the neighborhood.”

The vote to deny was 7-1, with Commissioner Vincent Aldridge the lone dissenter. He warned residents that the area north of campus would inevitably become more developed, and that the area along Guadalupe was ripe for more high-density uses. “UT is going to develop two to three thousand units just down the street,” he said. “It’s coming. You can’t change it. It’s going to happen. The biggest thing is that UT is one of the largest universities. The concerns that were stated are going to be there no matter what.”

The City Council is scheduled to consider the proposed zoning change at today’s meeting.

Chamber urges members

To adopt clean air strategies

Austin's problem is commuters

Early and voluntary rather than later and mandatory was the message at a Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce luncheon yesterday.

The chamber wants to recruit 200 businesses in the greater five-county Austin area to volunteer to reduce emissions by 10 percent over the next three years. The chamber’s drive is intended to be a good faith effort to reduce the area’s ozone levels before the region reaches non-attainment status.

The ozone reduction program was unveiled to business leaders at Thursday’s luncheon meeting at the Stephen F. Austin Hotel. Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission Chair Bob Huston told the crowd he was uncertain whether the volunteer drive could prevent the area from being declared non-attainment, but any efforts would indicate a good faith effort to the federal government if the region were declared non-compliant under the federal Clean Air Act.

“I think that when we get into the more pure regulatory realm . . . where the state has to adopt specific measures that would apply to this part of the state in order to reach attainment . . . my sense is that the commitment on the part of the business community to a program anything like what has been described to you will give us a tremendous amount of ammunition,” Huston told his audience.

URS Senior vice president David Balfour, who heads up the chamber’s Clean Air Task Force, outlined the program. Air pollution in Dallas and Houston is a smokestack problem, Balfour said. In Austin, it’s a problem of commuters.

Businesses that commit to the program will complete a checklist of questions that will provide a baseline, or profile, of the company. Then the company will choose from a menu of options to reduce emissions, from carpooling and telecommuting to delaying on-site repairs to the winter months. The choices are intended to be flexible, and chosen reductions will be quantified for the business so that the business can know just how much each individual choice will reduce emissions.

The goal, which will be monitored every six months, will be to reduce emissions by 10 percent over three years. Overall reductions will be translated into a measure of “daily commuters” that are cut from Austin’s roadways.

The software can be downloaded from the Chamber Web site at http://www.austinchamber.org/The_Chamber/. . . For more information about the Chamber’s Clean Air Task Force contact Sandy Hentges at 322-5638 or shentges@austinchamber.org

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2001 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Neighborhood makes offer . . . Karen McGraw, leader of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Planning Team told In Fact Daily that the neighborhood has made a proposal to the Hyde Park Baptist Church which neighbors hope will allow both sides to ask the City Council for its blessing of the Neighborhood Plan next week. The plan is scheduled for third and final reading at the Nov. 8 meeting. McGraw said the proposal would mean that part of the church’s property would be in the NCCD (neighborhood conservation combining district) and part would not, if the church accepts the proposal. “We’ve made that proposal because we want to move forward,” she said. The parties are scheduled to meet again next Monday . . . AMD first to join EPA Green Power Partnership . . . AMD Austin is now receiving 3.6 percent of its electrical power from green power, including wind and landfill methane. Its renewable energy use is equal to the electrical load for about 1,000 homes, according to Austin Energy, which supplies the power through its Green Choice program. AMD and Austin Energy are hosting an Energy Day for its employees from 10am to 2pm Friday. The event will include presentations on a variety of energy issues. The media is invited . . . LCRA receives peacemaker award . . . Travis County’s Dispute Resolution Center has given the LCRA a peacemaker award for bringing together opponent groups to create a recreational management plan for Lake Travis . . . Blood plasma center zoning to be postponed . . . The City Council evidently will postpone a hearing on zoning for a controversial relocation of the Blood Plasma Center to 5335 Burnet Road. The Allandale Neighborhood Association has opposed the planned move.The Council is also scheduled to consider changes to the city’s Land Development Code that would take more cases away from the Zoning and Platting Commission and give them to the Planning Commission. A hearing is scheduled on that idea for 6pm, as are hearings on annexation.

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