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Council takes some cases from

Friday, November 30, 2001 by

ZAP Commission, gives to Planning

Downtown zoning process change removed from ordinance

The City Council last night approved revisions to the Land Development Code that will take zoning cases away from the Zoning and Platting Commission (ZAP) and give them to the Planning Commission in areas designated by the Council for neighborhood planning. The sticky issue of jurisdiction over downtown zoning was postponed.

Council Member Beverly Griffith tried to assist ZAP Commission Chair Betty Baker and Commissioner Jean Mather explain their suggestions for modifying the changes sponsored by Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman. A very upset Baker told the Council, “Now I think I know why I’m on the ZAP Commission. I feel like I’m being zapped . . . The Zoning and Platting Commission suggested that those cases should go to the Planning Commission only after the first public hearing at which a Neighborhood Plan had been presented.” Baker estimated that her commission’s suggestion would speed up processing of cases by about six months, as compared to sending the cases to the Planning Commission.

Consultant Sarah Crocker told the Council she is concerned that cases filed for processing may “get shuffled off to a side for 30 or 45 days before a determination is made.” During that time period, the Council could designate an area for a Neighborhood Plan, but the applicant might not know about it. “If you file a zoning case, you have to work with the neighborhood in any case. It would be nice if you could count on being able to go forward during that time period.”

Council Members Danny Thomas, Daryl Slusher and Raul Alvarez all complained that the language before them was confusing and Council Member Beverly Griffith apparently was not in favor of the changes. Slusher attempted to modify some of the language, but Assistant City Attorney Marty Terry told him that his suggestions would not help staff and he did not press his point. The vote in favor of the ordinance change was unanimous, if tepid.

Jurisdiction over zoning within the Robert Mueller area will lie with the Planning Commission. Both commissions supported that change.

ZAP Commissioner Angular Adams also spoke against the proposal. Planning Commissioner Dave Sullivan was in the audience watching, but did not address the Council. After the vote, Slusher followed the unhappy commissioners and development representatives into the foyer to ask, “What harm does it do?”

Baker responded that her commission is already getting done by 8:30 to 9pm, and with the changes, “We aren’t going to get any cases.”

Attorney Michael Whellan said he believes more than 50 percent of the zoning applications will now be sent to the Planning Commission. “Why should they have their case held up until it goes to the Planning Commission? You could hold up a zoning application for 18 months.”

Crocker said, “We’re back where we started,” before the two commissions were created. We will review options for downtown zoning Monday.

Council approves Prop 2 land

Sale; Hyde Park plan postponed

Bunch objects to process for land sale

The City Council voted 7-0 to postpone until December 13 the third and final vote on the Hyde Park Neighborhood Conservation Combining District. Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman had wanted to put the item on the agenda for December 6. But Marty Terry, with the city’s legal department, said if the neighborhood group is meeting on December 3, as planned, then her department will have to scramble to get everything prepared by December 13.

“It has been a logistical nightmare for us,” Terry said, since only two staff personnel are able to work on the ordinance. “We don’t want any more mistakes, so I’m kind of begging” for more time, she said. “It’s simply a function of time.”

Council Member Daryl Slusher suggested postponing the vote to December 13. “I don’t always respond to public begging,” he said, but he thought staff definitely needed more time.

The Council also voted 7-0 to allow City Manager Jesus Garza to accept or reject sealed bid offers for the sale of three tracts of land the city bought as part of the May 2, 1998 Proposition 2, Barton Springs Clean Water Project, to be sold with conservation easements. The tracts, in southwestern Travis County near the Hays County line, are known as McClure(182.9 acres), Bending Oaks (361.9 acres), and Paschall (143.4 acres).

Real estate specialist Junie Plummer told the Council the bidding on the properties had been open for six weeks and that the bids now up for acceptance, though sealed, are for more than the city’s asking price. She said if the tracts were to be developed, they would be subject to SOS impervious cover restrictions of 25 percent. However, with conservation easements, the amount of impervious cover allowed will be even less—far less—than the strict SOS ordinance.

The city borrowed money from the Water and Wastewater Department to buy the land, so proceeds from the sale of the tracts will be paid back accordingly.

Bill Bunch, executive director of the Save Our Springs Alliance, told the Council the bidding process did not provide for enough public input. “The process has been wrong,” he said, and the timing was bad. Instead of using smart business practices of buying low and selling high, he said the city bought the land at a high price, when the market was inflated, and is selling at a time when the market has gone down.

“These are public trust lands and the citizens have a right to provide input,” he said. “The process has been completely exclusive.” When there is not enough public input, it “ends up a huge fight and clash with the County,” he said, noting the wrangling over Frate Barker Road as an example.

“We don’t want to discourage conservation buyers, but this process needs to be addressed,” Bunch said.

Council Member Will Wynn said, “If we burden this process even more, I think we might discourage conservation buying.”

Slusher said he thought the overall idea of buying land to resell it with conservation easements to raise money to buy more land was a good concept and it appears to be working. “I feel really good and confident about this program because of the city staff that’s working on (it),” he said. “They really thought it through.”

Bunch said, “if there is going to be a vote on this today . . . this should not happen again.” In the future, he suggested, there should be more public input when Prop 2-type lands with conservation easements are offered for sale. “The public can help shape those terms so it’s not just the staff determining (the outcome),” he said.

Council Member Raul Alvarez said he would like to see more public input in the process in the future, but he was pleased with the deal. “I think it’s a good investment,” he said, with “very quick turnaround.”

The Council also voted unanimously to give a green light to the city manager to amend the Land Development Code and Neighborhood Planning regulations to allow the creation of subdistricts within a Neighborhood Plan area. Goodman said this move would be the first step in a process that will eventually develop criteria for subdistricts. (See In Fact Daily Oct. 9, 2001.)

Northside neighborhoods win

Fight over Blood Plasma Center

Planning Commission had approved permit

Neighborhood opposition has scuttled plans for a conditional use permit at 5335 Burnet Road that would have allowed the site to be used as a collection location by the Blood and Plasma Center. Representatives of the property asked for their previous CU request to be withdrawn from consideration. The City Council was set to hold a hearing on an appeal of the Planning Commission's decision to approve the conditional use permit. (See In Fact Daily, Aug. 13, 2001.)

Some neighborhood groups had initially supported the facility, but later reversed their stance. Representatives of the Brentwood, Allandale and Rosedale Neighborhood Associations all emailed Council members opposing the Blood Plasma Center because they felt it was not compatible with the surrounding area.

The Center’s representative, Amelia Lopez-Phelps, who successfully argued the case at the Planning Commission, told In Fact Daily that her client did not want to operate in a manner that would be considered unfriendly to the neighborhood. However, Lopez-Phelps said she was personally angered by the neighborhood opposition, noting that she had received early assurances from neighborhood leaders that they would not oppose the facility.

Attorney Jim Nias wrote to the Council on behalf of Brougher Partners, Ltd., requesting that the application be withdrawn. In his letter he said, “While we are very disappointed at the opposition to this medically important facility, which appears to be largely the result of the dissemination of misinformation and unfair stereotyping, we have appreciated the balanced and impartial approach of the City staff.” Lopez-Phelps said that donors are carefully screened and that they receive only $15 per visit. Visits are limited to twice a week, or less, she said, so no one could make a living through such donation.

2001 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Slow down Ms. Brown . . . Having adjusted to the rapid-fire pace of Mayor Kirk Watson, City Clerk Shirley Brown was probably surprised yesterday morning when Mayor Gus Garcia told her she should read the consent agenda more slowly. But she adjusted to his style quickly too . . . Longhorn Pipeline Meeting . . . Longhorn and its opponents will present updates tomorrow from 2-5pm at the Bedichek Middle School Cafeteria at S. 1st & Wm Cannon. Those invited to speak include Don Martin for Longhorn, State Rep. Ann Kitchen, Mayor Gus Garcia, Gary Mauro, Lauren Ross, Chuck Lesniak and representatives from the LCRA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and PODER . . . Planning ahead for lights . . . Round Rock will light downtown on Friday, Dec. 7, for the Christmas Family Night. Events in the city’s historic downtown district will include Santa on a fire truck, strolling bell ringers in Victorian costume and plenty of games for the kids. The event starts at 7pm . . . No 24th Street fight this week . . . Probably sensing a total lack of Council support for the plan, city staff postponed indefinitely its request to take .16 acres of city parkland from the Caswell Tennis Center at 24th and Lamar to construct a northbound turn lane. Several city commissions had expressed opposition to the idea.

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