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Tract adjoins BCP land; owner is willing to sell

Tuesday, May 14, 2002 by

The Zoning and Platting Commission last week granted approval for the subdivision of land at Medway Ranch in western Travis County, despite objections from neighbors over drainage concerns and allegations of procedural improprieties. City staff had determined that the request for subdivision met all of the city’s requirements and therefore must be approved.

Attorney Amy Johnson, representing a group called “Concerned Citizens for Medway Preserve,” told commissioners they could reject the request for a final plat without a preliminary plan since the applicant had actually not met all the requirements. Specifically, she said the applicant had not provided proof that water service would be available to the proposed development, comprising 30 homes on 36 acres. The city’s Land Development Code requires proof of a contract between the landowner and the appropriate Water Control and Improvement District, in this case Travis County WCID No. 17. A letter from the WCID to the applicant promising service was insufficient, Johnson argued, because it had not been signed by the appropriate agent. “That’s signed by the secretary of the WCID, and I don’t think that she has the legal authority to bind the WCID to provide water service to this development,” Johnson said. “And I don’t think that’s the kind of contract that the City of Austin is talking about . . . I think you’re talking about a more specific kind of contract.”

City staff told members of the commission that the actual contract did not have to be provided. An employee of the Water and Wastewater Utility Department said the letter was consistent with the city’s standard practice in that area. Zoning and Platting Case Manager Joe Arriaga agreed. “It’s the staff’s past practice to accept the letter from the utility provider as a representation of contract to serve that development,” he said. “In all my review of applications dealing with subdivisions, and I’ve done probably over 500, this has never come up. We have accepted that as a representation of a contract.” The applicant’s attorney, Richard Suttle of Armbrust Brown & Davis, also provided a letter signed by the general manager of the WCID indicating that the area had been annexed into the service area of the district and that water service was fully available.

Neighbors also urged the commission to block the subdivision because it could change the drainage patterns in the area. “All the runoff from Medway Ranch Section One affects my property,” said Linda Jones, a nearby homeowner. She told the commission that runoff from the subdivision would flood her driveway in two places. Johnson said the subdivision should not be recorded until those drainage questions had been answered. “This is the moment in which the city code says you address drainage issues,” she said. “The drainage issues are of utmost importance to my clients because some of them live down-gradient, and in fact the engineers for the developer have been out to my clients’ land and have written that their driveway is going to be the one that gets flooded. You want the drainage easements on the final plat.”

But staff members told the commission that drainage easements could be acquired if and when the developer filed a site plan. Suttle, agreed. “This subdivision . . . there’s nothing being built,” Suttle said. “It’s simply putting lines on a map so it can be recorded. The drainage patterns aren’t being changed at this time.”

Opponents of the subdivision also cited the environmentally sensitive nature of the area in requesting commissioners to vote against the developer’s request. (See In Fact Daily, March 27, 2002) “Medway Ranch is the number one item on the city’s purchase list for the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve,” said Pam Murfin. “All it needs is the money, but the city staff continues to expedite the development of this land. To me, that doesn’t make sense. The city’s trying to purchase it and the city is expediting its development. There’s something wrong there.” Suttle said the land was available for purchase, but that the landowner should not be prevented from pursuing other options. “My client has what’s called a ‘willing seller’ letter out there, meaning that if they can put the money together, he will sell it. In the meantime, it didn’t say ‘I will stop everything while I wait on you.’”

Commissioners decided that the drainage issues had been satisfactorily resolved, and that the subdivision did have the required documentation of water service. The final vote was 7-1, with Commissioner Diana Castañeda opposed and Commissioner Vincent Aldridge absent.

In Fact Daily ran the following profile of Council Member-elect Betty Dunkerley before she had thought much about running for the City Council. We thought you might want to see what she had to say three years ago. There have been some changes, in addition to her title. She is no longer married and she is now 66:

She oversees the city's $1.5 billion operating budget and helps work out complex financial deals like the one between the city and Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC). She also sits on a multi-jurisdiction task force seeking a solution on how to fund emergency medical services for the metropolitan area. But she started her career doing the books for her husband's medical practice.

She was born in Ennis, near Dallas, and grew up there, she says. Betty Dunkerley married her husband, Garner Dunkerley, when she was a sophomore at Southern Methodist University. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in English, she taught school for three semesters, and then started raising a family, Dunkerley says.

By the time she was nearly 40, Dunkerley was the mother of three daughters and a son. The family had moved to the Beaumont area by that time, and she decided to pursue a medical career also. While taking pre-med classes at Lamar University in Beaumont, Dunkerley says, she decided to take an accounting class because she was already keeping her husband's books. After a time, Dunkerley says, she realized she could have a career as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in a relatively short period of time — as opposed to the 10 years it would take to become a doctor. Within a year of making that decision, Dunkerley says, she completed the course work required to sit for the CPA exam. She joined a firm in Nederland, and "did a lot of audit work nationwide on grant programs. It was just a fluke," she says, but all her work was for federal, state or local governments. Then, Dunkerley says, she worked for the City of Dallas for three years.

"In 1985, the city of Beaumont lost $20 million, about two-thirds of their cash, on bad investments," Dunkerley says. "I was asked to come down on a temporary basis to help them come up with a plan to get them out of those straits. It was a very terrible time for Beaumont. I went there in March, 1985, and stayed for five years," she says. In 1990, then-Austin City Manager Camille Barnett called Dunkerley and asked her to come to Austin. Dunkerley came to the city of Austin as finance director and has taken on more responsibilities over the last nine years.

Under City Manager Jesus Garza, Dunkerley's job has risen to the level of an assistant city manager. In addition to overseeing the budget, all the financial departments — including the Comptroller's Office, Treasury, and Purchasing — report to Dunkerley. She also manages Building Services, Channels 6 and 15, and Regulatory Affairs, a group that monitors city franchises, like the cable franchise and Internet services, Dunkerley says.

Dunkerley says she enjoys coming up with creative solutions to problems. She also enjoys the excitement of working on projects like CSC and the proposed Town Lake Park, she says. She is comfortable dealing with large numbers, and plays a key role in getting the budget balanced each year. So when Budget Officer Charles Curry says, "'I'm out of balance a million bucks,'…My job is to try to help him close that gap. It's like a bowl of Jell-O and you think you have it all done; and you find something you've left out here, and you put that it and then it squeezes out on the other side and you have to find something else to whittle off there," Dunkerley explains. Dunkerley says she also negotiates with the departments and with assistant city managers on budgetary items.

Obviously not ready for retirement, Dunkerley says, "I'm 63 and I feel like I'm 33. I like what I'm doing. I came to it late. It's been extremely exciting, and I'm at the stage now where I think I can really be helpful." Dunkerley says she treasures Austin for its intelligent and spirited people, and for the green environment. She enjoys bird watching, and still finds time to enjoy her children and seven grandchildren, she says.

Quiet week at City Hall . . . City Council staff has a little less to do this week—except for those who are still catching up after the May 4 election. There is the promise of a very short meeting on Thursday, so everyone can attend the Austin City Limits taping of Bonnie Raitt and friends at the brand new expanded Convention Center. Members of the media will have their own special sneak preview of the facility—which more than doubles the Austin Convention Center space of 411,000 square feet to 881,000 square feet—on Thursday morning. The expansion includes the largest ballroom in Texas, which the public can see after the facility’s ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11am Saturday . . . Todd has a new job . . . Former mayor Bruce Todd has joined the political consulting branch of Winstead Sechrest & Minnick. Todd has been president of his own company, Compass Consulting, since leaving the City Council in 1997. Winstead Sechrest is one of the largest business law firms in the state, with more than 330 attorneys, according to the firm’s press release . . . HLC changes vote on demolition permit . . . Last night the Historic Landmark Commission reversed its prior decision on demolition of the structure at 2211 Haskell, accepting the staff recommendation against initiating Historic zoning. Only Commisioner Lisa Laky voted against the motion, which allows the Holly neighborhood house to be demolished. The commission voted last month to begin the Historic zoning process, apparently because they misunderstood remarks made by a member of the El Concilio political organization. (See In Fact Daily, April 29, 2002) . . . Barrientos campaign kick-off fund-raiser . . . Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, who is facing a real challenge for the first time in years from Republican Ben Bentzin, will host a fundraiser Wednesday from 5:30 to 7:30pm at the Ballroom of the Four Seasons Hotel on E. Cesar Chavez at San Jacinto Blvd . . . Downturn hits Chamber . . . According to a report by the Community Action Network Austin’s “struggling economy has forced the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce to reduce expenses by cutting 20% of its staff and requiring remaining employees to take days off without pay.” The Chamber is also moving from the One Congress Plaza Building this fall in order to lower expenses . . . Beware of computer virus hoaxes . . . In Fact Daily hopes its readers didn’t delete anything important from their hard drives just because an email from out in the Internet universe said they should. Anything instructing the user to do things he/she really doesn’t understand should be viewed as suspicious, at best. The latest hoax is called jdbgmgr.exe. We don’t pretend to know what that means—but beware.This one is so widespread it comes in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese . . . Speaking of computer problems . . . Most of City Hall lost its computer capability for a while on Monday and members of Mayor Gus Garcia’ s executive team were concerned that they had lost his calendar forever. Alas, Mr. Mayor, they did not. No such excuses for you!

© 2002 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

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