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Bowlin resigns from

Wednesday, November 21, 2001 by

Aquifer district position

Board avoids acrimony in unanimous vote

By Beth Nelson

The Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District Board voted unanimously last night to accept the resignation of General Manager Stovy Bowlin, who has served as GM since February 1999.

The board also voted unanimously to hire Bowlin as a consultant to help with the change in management. BSEACD Community Services Program Manager Gail McGlamery will serve as interim general manager until a new GM is hired.

During the long executive session when the board met privately with legal counsel several district staffers joked with Bowlin, who seemed in good spirits under the circumstances. Although there was no discussion of the reason for his abrupt resignation, a majority of the board has been critical of Bowlin’s management of the district staff.

Bowlin’s handling of district growth issues has been another sore spot between the general manager and three of the five board members. Board Members Jim Camp and Jack Goodman and Board President Craig Smith generally have been more critical of Bowlin, while Board Members Bill Welch and Don Turner generally have been supportive. “We’ll miss his advice and counsel greatly,” said Welch.

Precinct 2 residents Jackie Glomb and Debbie Bates voiced concern over Bowlin’s pro-development temperament. Especially troubling to Bates was Bowlin’s perceived willingness to attend meetings of growth-related organizations, but not those of conservation groups.

Bowlin declined to comment on why he was resigning, but promised he would, at a later date, provide In Fact Daily with documentation of his accomplishments and reasons for leaving.

Smith said that the district agreed to pay Bowlin his regular, bi-weekly salary of $2,405.65 while he works as a consultant. This consulting contract will terminate either when Bowlin takes another full-time job or after five months and one week. Smith said he expects that the district will begin advertising for a new General Manager next Monday. McGlamery does not wish to be considered for the permanent position, he said.

Secretary of State's opinion no

Help to incumbent council members

Slusher, Griffith, Goodman must gather thousands of signatures

The Texas Secretary of State has responded to the City of Austin’s request for a ruling on whether three City Council incumbents must gather the signatures of five percent of the city’s registered voters—approximately 18,000—to overcome term limits approved by voters as a City Charter amendment in 1994. Because the charter provision differs from state law, the city’s lawyers thought that the Secretary of State might find a conflict between the two. If such a conflict did exist, Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman and Council Members Daryl Slusher and Beverly Griffith would only have to produce one-half of one percent of the number of votes cast for Mayor in May, 2000—or 177 signatures.

However, the letter says, “(In) situations where there is a clear conflict between a home rule city charter or ordinance and state election law, the Secretary of State will offer an official opinion . . . In this situation, it is not clear that there is a conflict between state election law and the Charter.”

Asked what he thought of the response, Assistant City Attorney John Steiner, an expert on election laws, said, “I think they just didn’t answer the question.” Here are some excerpts from the four-page letter written by Assistant Secretary of State Geoffrey S. Connor:

“Although we decline to state that there is a definitive conflict with state law, we must point out that the plain language in the Charter provision is troubling and could certainly be challenged as in conflict with state law. The term limit petition is explicitly tied to the candidate’s application for a place on the ballot. In order for an affected Council member to run after a second consecutive term, his or her application must be ‘accompanied’ by the term limit petition ‘at the time of filing the application to be a candidate for Mayor or a place on the Council’ . . . It could be argued that because the city’s term limit petition is required to be submitted at the same time as an affected candidate’s application for a place on the ballot, the petition is subject to (state law).

“To opine that the Charter amendment is inconsistent with state law would be to render the term limit provision legally adopted by the voters of the City of Austin as practically meaningless . . . Because a home rule city may validly impose term limit restrictions, we decline to overturn the term limit restriction adopted by the City. Our best advice to the City is to amend the Charter in order to clarify the original intent and remove any concerns that a conflict exists with state law. For example, the Charter amendment could be amended to require that the term limit petition be filed no later than the deadline to file as a candidate, rather than simultaneously with the candidate’s application for a place on the ballot.”

Slusher, who is serving his second term, was the first of the three to start a petition drive. He said Tuesday, “I’m just going to press ahead with what I’m doing, working to get the signatures.” He said that the response to his initiative has been good, but “the volume is a challenge.”

Goodman, who was first elected in 1993 before the charter was amended, said the response to her efforts has been positive, but that she is having trouble keeping up with the many petition forms her supporters are circulating. She told In Fact Daily she believes she has gathered about 3000 signatures so far. Griffith, who is serving her second term, could not be reached for comment. However, she attended Monday’s Save Barton Creek Association party and asked members for help in gathering the required number.

Stratus stakeholders meeting

Brings diverse opinions together

Area residents, environmentalists have predictable opinions

As Stratus Properties continues its discussions with environmentalists and other stakeholders who want a say in what happens at Circle C, a proposed a public-private partnership to buy up almost 500 acres of land near the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has been put on the table.

Key players in Austin’s environmental community, as well as local homeowner associations, were on hand for the first of four meetings to discuss the 1,253 acres Stratus owns at the intersection of State Highway 45 and MoPac in far southwest Travis County. Stratus has promised to consider input before it takes site plans to the city’s Zoning and Platting Commission (ZAP). Stratus CEO Beau Armstrong said he was open to suggestions, but that he also had to answer to shareholders.

Robert Breunig, director of the Wildflower Center, threw the purchase option on the table during the discussion. The Wildflower Center and Stratus, Breunig said, had agreed on a number of points during discussions: following the impervious cover numbers set out by the SOS Ordinance, using a “cluster” development approach, trying to follow a tighter construction envelope and maintaining native plants. Stratus also agreed to state-of-the-art water controls, defined setbacks, Hill Country architecture and green building. The company additionally agreed to prohibit the placement of “big box” retail on the property.

Other points, however, were still in contention: the sheer size of the office complex, the increased traffic outside the area and the stimulation of further sprawl to adjacent sites. Breunig suggested that a public-private partnership purchase 80 acres of impervious cover—between 396 and 465 gross acres—to significantly reduce the negative impact of the development. That would reduce impervious cover on the project to 8 percent.

“I need to do my best to get a just return for my shareholders. That’s the reality I have to deal with,” Armstrong told a crowd of about 40 in the auditorium at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center last night. “I’m trying to make a good faith effort here to minimize the impact on the environment while still getting fair return on my investment for my shareholders.”

The discussion was calm and the comments constructive last night, with little grandstanding from either side. Armstrong outlined his goals for various tracts of the property, pointing out the areas that he expected would draw the biggest opposition. Bill Bunch of the SOS Alliance got up to make his case for water quality and reduced density. Jim O’Reilly of the Circle C Homeowners Association told the group that homeowners were eager to see retail and even office space added to the area. The expanded lanes and freeway flyover lanes that were so distasteful to SOS were just what Circle C residents wanted, O’Reilly said.

Landowner Ira Yates, whose family owned the Circle C Ranch, drew some of the loudest applause of the meeting. He told the group he understands the frustrations of the Circle C residents and the needs of the developer, but it was his opinion that the city ought to draw the line for development at SH 45. That’s where development in Austin ought to stop, he said. The city had committed substantial sums to Proposition 2 and the city should stick to that commitment.

“My perspective is that we can continue to engulf Mother Nature if we don’t take any other options or we don’t take any other steps,” Yates told the group. “I don’t think that’s wise.”

The original plans for the area were seven single-family “villages” and a single civic-retail “village,” Yates said. Add retail to serve the local residents, Yates said. Don’t add another 2 million square feet of office space. Yates, like others who spoke, stressed the need for a regional plan for the southern portion of Travis County.

Residents along FM 1826, in particular, were concerned about new development in the area. Rob Baxter, president of the coalition of homeowner associations along FM 1826 known as the Friendship Alliance, said his member associations were already reeling with the knowledge that another 3,000 homes were being added along the two-lane road.

Projects on the Stratus property are expected to roll out over the next 20 years. The timeline was a concern for SOS member and political consultant Mike Blizzard, who said that he hoped one aspect of any agreement with Stratus would include limits on the time between zoning approval and execution of a site plan. Blizzard said he, too, had worked for Proposition 2, but didn’t consider such a purchase to be the only answer for the property. He said the community needed to take another look at density and at the cost of development. He wondered how much the expanded roadways and water/wastewater extensions would cost taxpayers in the end.

Armstrong's plans

Armstrong foresees the biggest battle over plans for Tract 110, which is the 250 acres immediately across the street from the Wildflower Center. Initial plans are to put 2.5 million square feet of office space on the property, although Armstrong admitted that the figure might be reduced.

Another 500-acre tract at the intersection of FM 1826 and SH 45, often referred to as the Motorola tract, was proposed for development as a research facility. Instead, Stratus intends to ask for zoning changes that would put between 650 and 800 residential units on the property, from one-acre lots to higher-density townhomes in the $125,000 to $150,000 price range.

Initial plans on the 106-acre tract at the corner of Brodie and Slaughter have been shelved, Armstrong said, because of concerns over the Blowing Sink Cave. Stratus is looking to swap development rights while maintaining the western edge of the tract for something like a Walgreen’s. Stratus intends to donate three other tracts totaling 100 acres west of MoPac to the Wildflower Center. A 50-acre tract on Slaughter Lane west of MoPac is being set aside for a 400-unit apartment complex to include some retail in a type of “new urbanism” development. In addition, Stratus intends to donate acreage to the city to ease access to its adjacent Prop. 2 land.

Stratus will hold an additional three meetings with stakeholders between now and Dec. 5. The input, said Stratus consultant Chuck McDonald, will be incorporated into plans taken to the ZAP and the City Council.

In an earlier conversation with In Fact Daily, Armstrong said, “Even though we believe we have these (HB) 1704 (grandfathering) rights, what we are trying to do is to avoid a confrontational posture with the city and sit down with those who are really the stakeholders out here—and determine what really is best for the property, given the geography, the existing road grid and what makes sense—keeping in mind that we have a tremendous amount of investment out here in the form of SH45, MoPac, and the city’s investment in utility infrastructure. So it is not as though we are looking to extend the services any further into the watershed. We are just utilizing what is already out here.”

When the existing plans for the property were approved, Armstrong said, the impervious cover limit was 55 percent. He has reduced that amount to 18 percent overall.

As to Breunig’s proposal, Armstrong said that there are some who believe it would be a good idea, and part of Stratus’ proposal would be to offer it. “We’re not asking for a bailout. We don’t need a bailout,” he said emphatically.

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Goodman wears many hats . . . Jack Goodman, longtime member of the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District Board of directors, and husband of Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman, has been attending chef school at Austin Community College. We hear that Goodman will soon be an intern at Jeffrey’s. Perhaps Goodman, a staunch Democrat, will be asked to whip up a dish for President George W. and Laura Bush next time they make it to Austin, since Jeffrey’s is one of their favorite restaurants . . . Hold that tiger . . . Travis County has set Dec. 3 for a public hearing on banning the ownership of exotic animals in the county. Austin has banned the ownership of such animals for years and County Judge Sam Biscoe predicts the county will likely follow suit. The California-based Animal Protection Institute says it’s no surprise that half of all large cat attacks it tracks have occurred in Texas, since an estimated half of the 15,000 tigers in private hands in the nation are in Texas, mostly in rural areas . . . Happy Thanksgiving! . . In Fact Daily will return next Monday.

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