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She seeks in Stratus proposal

Thursday, July 11, 2002 by

She wants change in provision for downzoning payments

Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman on Wednesday set forth her proposals for improving the agreement between the City of Austin and Stratus Properties. For the veteran of many land use decisions, there are a couple of deal breakers. Stratus has already agreed to Council Member Daryl Slusher’ s request that no gas station be located over the recharge zone of the aquifer, but Goodman said Stratus must refrain from putting a service station anywhere on its property.

In addition, Goodman said she objects to a provision that guarantees Stratus compensation for any diminution in value of tracts that are downzoned in the future, plus 33 percent of the diminution in value (see draft of agreement p. 13). Stratus contends that it is spending money to plan, design and build infrastructure for anticipated development.

Goodman had some suggestions for ideas put forth Tuesday by Slusher (See In Fact Daily, July 10, 2002. ) Slusher noted that he and Hays County Judge Jim Powers would be co-hosting “a regional planning summit focused on protecting the aquifer.” Goodman said a new plan is akin to “inventing a wheel that’s already three-fourths done” because the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) has already done much of the work and is planning more.

The district is seeking contributions from various Central Texas groups and governmental entities, including the City of Austin and the LCRA, Goodman said. Goodman explained that the district has applied for a grant that requires the recipient to match $90,000 per year for three years for habitat planning. Goodman’s husband, Jack, is on the board of directors of the BSEACD and he told the Save Barton Creek Association on Monday that revealed that the developer has agreed to “some form of funding mechanism” for permanent monitoring and maintenance of all water quality controls on their property. The Council member also hopes to enlist the assistance of the conservation district in inspection, monitoring and enforcement of best management practices for the water quality controls.

The hearing on the Stratus-City settlement agreement is scheduled to begin at 5:45pm today, with 104 persons signed up to speak on the subject. The SOS Alliance has protested the fact that the Council has limited input to those who signed up at the June 27 meeting but did not speak.

Variance for seven-story tower

Neighborhood negotiations will continue

Developers of Sixth + Lamar went back to the Board of Adjustment this week to seek a variance for the height of the project. But after making their presentation to the board, representatives of Schlosser Development again requested a postponement to allow for further negotiations with the Old West Austin Neighborhood Association (OWANA) . Plans for the site call for a new Whole Foods market and seven-story office tower. (See In Fact Daily, June 12, 2002.)

OWANA is opposed to allowing an extra 12 feet of height for the proposed office building, which would normally be limited to 120 feet under DMU zoning. The developer is seeking the variance because of the slope of the site, which is 17 feet from Lamar to Bowie. “DMU zoning normally assumes a flat site,” said attorney Richard Suttle, who is now representing Schlosser Development in the case. “A strict application of the 120-foot rule wouldn’t allow a full use as compared to other DMU sites. This one tract has 17 feet of fall . . . and we’ve got a lot of competing design pressures on this. Adjoining property owners have their idea of what they’d like to see—the Old West Austin Neighborhood Association, we have the West End Alliance, we have the Downtown Alliance and we have the city. We’re trying to balance all of those competing interests, and they’re all unique to this property.”

Suttle told board members he thought the company had reached an understanding with neighbors after negotiations with OWANA, but members of that group said they still had objections. OWANA had initially drafted a statement saying the group would not oppose the variance request, provided certain conditions were met, but later withdrew that statement. The extra 12 feet for an additional story on the proposed office tower is only one of several concerns, according to OWANA member Nancy Toelle. “We haven’t helped the developers to understand that just the fact that it’s 120 feet is a lot for us to take,” Toelle said. “To go over 120 feet we’d like to have some solid reasons why that has to happen . . . and we haven’t heard that yet.”

The group had been trying to secure some concessions from the developer on the other portions of the project, but had not reached a satisfactory arrangement by the time of Monday’s Board of Adjustment meeting. OWANA would like to lease some of the parking spaces associated with the development and is seeking certain design elements in the surface parking lot for the proposed Whole Foods store. The group would also like for either the city or the developer to commit to certain traffic marking measures designed to make the intersection more pedestrian-friendly. Another item the group wants before lending its support to the variance is a guarantee that the highest point of the office tower will be set back a certain distance from Lamar.

Suttle told commissioners that the developers would have difficulty meeting some of the conditions, but was optimistic about the rest. The members of OWANA were unable to commit to any document drafted by Suttle that evening without first submitting it to the group’s steering committee for a vote, so Suttle agreed to postpone the case to allow time for an additional review.

Second Street retail back on

Track with Amli, Cencor

First residential units could be ready by early 2004

Retail and residential development is back on track in downtown’s Second Street corridor, the city’s redevelopment department told Council members yesterday.

Jan Hilton, who is the city staff member coordinating the Second Street Retail Development project, said she had learned that AMLI has re-bid construction of its residential/retail project in Block 20, across from the CSC/City Hall complex on Second Street. The project has been a lynchpin in the development of the Second Street corridor, Hilton said, and will be under construction by July 22nd.

“We’re still excited about the city’s retail project,” said Hilton, who works in the city’s Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services Department. “The retail needs in that sector of downtown are still strong.”

Yesterday’s work session was devoted to analyzing 15 recommendations the Transportation Planning and Sustainability Department made to balance downtown mobility goals. The list of recommendations, which includes $5.2 million to implement the Great Streets program on Second Street, will cost a total of $17.2 million over the next 5 years if approved.

Changes to Second Street would include narrowing the four-lane one-way street to a two-way avenue with wide sidewalks and one lane in each direction. The Second Street corridor, which leads from San Antonio to the expanded Convention Center, would be devoted primarily to pedestrian traffic and focus on residential and retail development.

AMLI’s participation is a key to attracting other retail tenants, Hilton said. AMLI and Bonner Carrington had committed to the development of roughly 60,000 square feet of retail in the CSC/City Hall complex, but progress on a development agreement has stalled. One of the partners in Bonner Carrington left the company, leaving AMLI to search for a retail partner to assist them in their developments.

That, combined with a weakening economy, also froze the Block 20 AMLI residential development in the same six-block area. Hilton said AMLI was close to signing Cencor Realty as its retail partner on the two residential projects. Cencor, ironically, was one of the partners in the failed bid to redevelop the former Mueller Municipal Airport. If the City Council agrees, Cencor would also participate in the planning, leasing and managing of the CSC/City Hall retail spaces. AMLI could have the first units on its residential project in Block 20 ready by January 2004. The new City Hall is expected to follow shortly thereafter in the spring of 2004. The twin project, on the city-owned Block 22, would come after that.

Council Member Will Wynn said the city had made a substantial investment in the nine-block corridor to guarantee successful retail development.

Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman has signed a declaration officially asking the state and federal government for financial help to deal with the damage from recent flooding. While residents and businesses in the city have already been declared eligible for federal assistance, the “Declaration of Local State of Disaster” puts the city government on the waiting list for federal funds.

“It’s letting the state know that Austin is facing substantial physical and economic losses, and we are asking for supplementary state and federal assistance because we don’t have the funding available to make the needed repairs,” said Lindy McGinnis, the Emergency Plans Officer with the city’s Office of Emergency Management. “We have a number of roads and culverts that need to be repaired. There’s erosion in some of our creeks. We lost manhole covers, we had tree limbs fall on electric lines . . . that’s the kind of damage that we have to repair.”

The most recent estimate calculated it would cost $770,000 to repair storm-related damage and clear debris in Austin. But that figure could change, since some areas are still being affected by flooding and cannot be accurately surveyed. The last local disaster declaration was made after the heavy rains of November 2001. The city’s request for federal aid will be routed through the state to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The agency could decide to award money to the city, or it could determine that the local need is not severe enough to warrant federal funds. The city’s request for federal aid in November of last year was turned down.

In Fact Daily was on vacation last week. For news from June 24-June 28, click here. Click here for

Kirk Mitchell and Bill Bunch working their email lists . . . Former City Council candidate Kirk Mitchell has invited all those on his email list to “come join the spectacle of a chorus of citizens in our fight against corporate welfare and environmental irresponsibility.” His friend Bill Bunch, executive director of the SOS Alliance, sent out emails and recorded a phone message to supporters. Not surprisingly, he once again attacked Council Member Daryl Slusher . . . Vintage strikes a deal with neighbors . . . The developer of an apartment complex on Town Lake east of I-35 has reached an agreement with the South River City Citizens, who had previously opposed the upscale development. SRCC members voted last week to approve a zoning change to allow the building to be built at MF-6 density, with only a portion rising to 90 feet. The remainder would be limited to 60 feet, according to consultant Sarah Crocker. Street Development has also agreed to a number of other conditions, including constructing the hike and bike trail across the property. The project has been on hold since last August when the City Council approved MF-4 zoning and told Street to work out a deal with the neighborhood. Crocker said the development would be constructed as apartments, but property owners hope to later convert to condominiums. The Council is scheduled to consider the zoning for the second time today . . . Lineman Rodeo cancelled . . . The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority announced yesterday that the 7th annual Texas Lineman Rodeo, previously scheduled for July 20 in Seguin, has been cancelled. Flooding along the Guadalupe River affected the park where the rodeo was to have taken place . . . Transportation projects blessed . . . The Planning Commission endorsed, with some qualifications, the list of suggested “near-term” transportation projects for downtown Austin. The list ranges from smaller, inexpensive proposals such as restricting left-turns on Lamar at 5th and 6th to larger, more controversial proposals such as converting some one-way streets downtown into two-way streets. The proposals represent two years of work by city staff, including consultations with stakeholder groups. The comprehensive project list and “big picture” approach to downtown traffic won praise from Chair Ben Heimsath. “I'm seeing a ‘sea change.’ This is not the way we have normally done business around here,” he said. “It’s welcome, and it’s what this commission in particular has been pushing over and over again.” The proposed changes are tentatively set to go before the City Council next week. A full list is available on the city’s web site at http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/downtown/cbdtran.htm . . . Zoning impact task force . . . Planning Commissioners Lydia Ortiz and Cloteal Haynes will serve on the task force formed to study the impact of historic zoning on gentrification in East Austin. Commissioner Haynes agreed to continue on the task force even though she will soon be stepping down from the Commission.

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

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