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More city parking seen as unfair to private lots

Monday, June 10, 2002 by

The city’s Aviation Department encountered unexpected opposition last week from the Zoning and Platting Commission on the rezoning of land at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

The department wanted to rezone two large parcels of land from Interim-Rural Residence District to Aviation Services District (AV). One 924-acre parcel, located at the intersection of Burleson Road and FM 973, will be the new location for a second terminal and the Texas National Guard. A second 76-acre parcel across State Highway 71, the site of two former Del Valle schools, would be used as airport reserve property.

The commissioners’ major objection was that the change would facilitate additional public parking. Chair Betty Baker, joined by Commissioner Keith Jackson, immediately raised the specter of rezoning the property for public parking. Private parking vendors, Baker said, were losing significant money at the airport because of competition from the city’s own facilities.

“The private vendors are crying because of the competition,” Baker said. “That bothers me that they have to compete with a municipality. That’s primarily my concern at this time.”

Commissioners raised a similar objection last month. In a memo to the ZAP, Executive Director of Aviation Jim Smith said a conditional overlay prohibiting construction of additional parking was not acceptable to the Aviation Department.

“The City of Austin Department of Aviation cannot endorse such a recommendation because of the Airport Master Plan Update and the planned Texas Air National Guard-Army Aviation Support facility,” Smith wrote.

Smith added that the Guard facilities site plans could not be finished until rezoning was completed. Funding on the project must be committed by the end of the fiscal year. The bottom line, Smith wrote, is future development.

Assistant City Attorney David Peterson, who represented the city’s Aviation Department at the hearing, said failure to rezone the property could put the airport master plan in doubt and jeopardize federal grant funds used to build the airport. All land acquired with FAA grant monies must be used for aviation purposes.

The 924-acre property on Burleson Road, which backs up to the Colorado River, is the intended location for the airport’s future south terminal, and will include surface parking for that terminal. Parking arrangements are likely to mirror the parking at the existing “north” terminal, Peterson said.

But, without a master plan presentation, Jackson was not comfortable voting on the issue. And Baker was not comfortable giving up land so soon so close to the Colorado River. Much of the southern and eastern portions of the property are located in the 100- and 500-year flood plain, according to city documents.

“Without seeing a full-blown master plan with a demonstrated need for parking, I can’t support this zoning,” Jackson told Peterson and Shane Harbinson of the Aviation Department.

Completion of the revised 20-year Airport Master Plan is still a number of months away. A second terminal is intended to serve a forecasted 18.4 million passengers annually by 2020. The airport’s current traffic is 7.2 million annual passengers.

Commissioners eventually agreed to recommend AV zoning with the exception of surface parking. They approved a similar motion on the 76-acre parcel, which is also intended to be the home of the new Del Valle EMS/Fire Station on the north side of Cardinal Loop. Commissioners also agreed to maintain a portion of Development Reserve, or DR, zoning on the 76-acre property. Commissioner Joseph Martinez was absent. .

Owners' attorney reaches agreement with neighborhood

The Zoning and Platting Commission (ZAP) voted last week to recommend a zoning change to accommodate an apartment complex in far South Austin after the owner’s representatives and neighborhood leaders reached an accord on the density of the project.

Developers John and Joyce Harmon originally proposed a 60-foot height on buildings to offset a significant portion of the 30-acre property that cannot be developed. City staff was ready to recommend MF-4-CO zoning for the property. The conditional overlay would have limited the development to MF-3 standards, or 311 units. Just to the west of the site, on West Slaughter Lane between Brodie Lane and West Gate Boulevard, developers are constructing a new shopping center.

A tributary of Slaughter Creek crosses the southwestern boundary of the apartment complex site, creating a Critical Water Quality Zone under SOS development standards. The property is also within the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone, limiting impervious cover to 15 percent of the net site.

Neighbors initially balked at the proposed density on the property, despite its location on a six-lane developed roadway. The zoning application was postponed by the neighborhood in April and by the developer in May. During some last-minute negotiations, however, the developers and neighborhood reached a compromise. Attorney Michael Whellan of Graves Dougherty Hearon & Moody presented the agreement to the commission.

Under the conditions approved by ZAP, the apartment complex would be MF-4, or medium density, with a conditional overlay of MF-3 development standards. In addition, the developer agreed to SF-6 density, which would cluster the buildings. The maximum height is 45 feet. The developer will also leave a 300-foot vegetative buffer on the north side of the property between the apartment complex and the neighborhood and replant a comparable number of trees to those lost in the land clearing.

President John Larkin of the Cherry Creek on Brodie Neighborhood Association said the compromise was acceptable because the density would minimize the size of the development, preserving as much of the property as possible.

Chair Betty Baker, who visited the site, said she needed to take nitroglycerine with her to revive herself when she thought of MF-4 density. The density would create four-story apartments on what Baker described as a “fantastic tract.” Baker said she could, however, support SF-6 clustering. Commissioner Jean Mather agreed, saying she would vote for the higher density to accommodate the compromise between the developer and the neighborhood.

ZAP Task Force has heard little from homeowners' group

Representatives of the Circle C Homeowners Association (CCHOA) could choose to weigh in on the 14 different Stratus zoning cases when those cases go before the Zoning and Platting Commission later this month. The CCHOA held a meeting on May 30th at Kiker Elementary to discuss the proposed settlement between the City of Austin and Stratus Properties, and has also held meetings to discuss the specifics of each tract. While representatives of the CCHOA have attended some of the ZAP’s Stratus Task Force meetings, they have not commented extensively during those meetings.

Circle C resident Amy Rupp has been outspoken during those meetings, but does not represent the CCHOA. She is a member of a separate organization, the Circle C Neighborhood Association. Rupp has been quite critical of the CCHOA, referring to it at one meeting as a “developer-controlled” group. CCHOA president Jim O’Reilly disputed Rupp’s claims in a letter to In Fact Daily. “There are no developer voting rights, only lot owners are eligible to vote. Gary Bradley has no votes in the Association, nor does anyone from Stratus Properties,” he wrote. Rupp told Task Force members she had an extensive e-mail list of Circle C residents that were sympathetic to her concerns about the CCHOA. However, she declined to reveal exact figures or names of members and cited fears of retaliation.

In May, the CCHOA told ZAP Commission members they had several concerns about the proposed settlement between the City of Austin and Stratus Properties. They wanted details on proposed heights, setbacks, buffers, and uses for the 14 tracts in question. Many of those details have been provided in subsequent Task Force meetings and are

available on the city’s web site at . The group also called for the establishment of a Commercial Property Owners Association to enforce deed restrictions, protective covenants and architectural guidelines in the same manner as the Homeowners Association . And the CCHOA also wants single-family resident units next to the main body of Circle C to be included in the CCHOA.

Unlike a neighborhood association, which is the title Rupp has given her group, membership in a homeowners

association can be mandatory for residents of certain developments. Homeowners Associations are frequently found

in unincorporated areas or in cities without zoning, and usually have enforcement powers similar to those held by city-employed code enforcement officials. A Homeowners Association can also set more rigorous standards than city code for the appearance of a house, ranging from the height of grass in the front yard to the permitted colors of paint on a home.

The task force will meet this evening at 5:30pm and have a final meeting on June 17, with a commission vote scheduled for June 18, according to Betty Baker, chair of the commission.

Environmental Board Stratus meeting today . . . The Environmental Board is scheduled to meet at 11:30am today to continue discussion of the proposal by Stratus Properties for development of 1,253 acres at Circle C . . . Board of Adjustment to hear El Taquito complaint . . . Neighbors of El Taquito and other mobile fast food stands along Riverside Dr. will appear before the Board of Adjustment tonight to appeal an administrative decision allowing the stand to operate as a limited restaurant. Last week, the Zoning and Platting Commission voiced concern about lack of regulation of various area vendors. Charges against El Taquito were pending at that time. (See In Fact Daily June 5, 2002 ) . . . Art Commission . . . The advisory commission on arts matters will hold a public hearing at 6:30pm tonight at the Dougherty Arts Center to hear from the public on proposed cultural contracts for the 2002-2003 budget year. The CAMPO Policy Advisory Committee is also scheduled to meet tonight . . . Travis County protests waste application . . . Travis County Commissioners have sent a 10-page letter to the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, protesting a composting and land use application by CAPTEX. Commissioners cited a history of compliance problems at the company’s Burnet County site. Having been approved by TNRCC staff, the CAPTEX application is now in the hands of TNRCC Executive Director Jeffrey A. Saitas . . . Deregulation story . . . The Ft. Worth Star Telegram reported yesterday that electric deregulation in Texas is not going well—and things are probably going to be worse, especially in the DFW area. For a full accounting of the problems, see

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

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