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Members discuss discord

Tuesday, September 24, 2002 by

Barkan says it's time to move on

Members of the Arts Commission heard from two City Council Members on Monday about the Council’s recent decision to reject commission recommendations for cultural arts funding. (See In Fact Daily, Sept. 10, 2002, Sept. 18, 2002. ) The commission had recommended that some applicants receive funding nearly equal to that of the previous year, while other applicants would have received more significant cuts or outright rejections. Instead, the Council chose to go with an across-the-board cut for those community arts groups and artists that receive city funding.

Both Council Members and Commissioners agreed that each group would need to improve communication to avoid future mishaps. “I was wondering if you could tell us . . . why weren’t we informed?” asked Commissioner Eduardo Benavides, referring to the Council’s preference for across-the-board cuts. “We have struggled so much . . . our recommendations were not cavalier. No one else got debunked, just us.” Commissioner Sue Graze agreed, saying the group had serious questions going into the next fiscal year. “We feel like we’re in a quandary,” she said. “We don’t want to volunteer more time only to have it thrown away.”

Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman explained that she had been working for the past two years to get information from the Commission, but had been stymied. “This is not something that just popped up this year,” Goodman said. She told commissioners several times that she had attempted to work through channels to get updates on their status and also relay information, “but I was not responded to. On virtually every attempt, there was no response . . . it’s been very frustrating for the past two years.” Council Member Betty Dunkerley was less critical of the commission, reminding commissioners that she had spent the first few months in office focused on issues not related to the arts. “The first day I came on the Council was the first day of Stratus,” she said.

Commission members defended their actions in rejecting some applications, while Goodman stressed that the number of complaints received by Council members was a sure sign there was a problem with the existing system. “I believe in the arts,” Goodman said. “I used to believe in the process for cultural arts funding . . . but I no longer believe in that.” An outside consultant has been reviewing that process and is scheduled to present an update to the Council at their Oct. 2nd work session. The consultant will likely help the city draft an interim arts funding process for use this year, with more significant and permanent changes in store for next year.

While not all of the issues brought up by either Council members or Commissioners were resolved at the meeting, both sides did pledge to attempt to work more closely in the future. “I think it was cathartic for all of us,” said Commissioner Maxine Barkan. “It’s time now to move on. I’ve been energized and I’m grateful for your presence here,” she told Dunkerley and Goodman.

New owner opposes Historic designation; promises not to demolish

The Historic Landmark Commission last night agreed to pull its application for historic zoning on the Bitter End Brew Pub, but only after the owner assured members that the building would not be demolished.

The one-story brick building, located at 311 Colorado in the Warehouse District, was built in 1923 and served as the original Coca-Cola Bottling Plant in Austin. Later, the bottling plant was moved to San Jacinto Street and the Colorado block served as the home for Capital Ice and Cold Storage Co. Andrew Zilker, for whom Zilker Park and Zilker Elementary are named, owned the entire block.

The announcement of the new owner’s possible plans to replace the brew pub with a hotel alarmed the Historic Landmark Commission enough to initiate historic zoning on the property in July. Despite the property meeting eight of the city’s 13 historic landmark designation criteria, the zoning case was pulled last night upon the recommendation of Historic Preservation Officer Barbara Stocklin.

Stocklin told commissioners the owner was both willing to consider historic preservation of the building and had agreed to sign a restrictive covenant on the property. That restrictive covenant would require Hixon Properties to give the HLC 60 days notice if the company intends to demolish the property.

In a letter to the Historic Landmark Commission, Hixon Properties Vice President William Shown said Hixon is a family-owned real estate company located in San Antonio. Hixon’s projects, Shown wrote, include the South Bank mixed-use project on the Riverwalk and the Westin Riverwalk Hotel. The company is also a partner in the restoration of the Pearl Brewery. Stocklin affirmed to commissioners the company had a good reputation with the historic preservation office in San Antonio.

Hixon has assured the city it has no immediate plans for 311 Colorado. Shown said Hixon could not support historic zoning on the building while it was still considering its options. He told Commissioner Jean Mather the zoning would restrict those options.

“We want to stress we are opposed to historic zoning,” Shown told commissioners. “We do not yet know what we intend to do with the property. In concept, we will try to incorporate this building into our project, but that could be years . . . We may very well come in when we have more concrete plans and request historic zoning on this property.”

The Downtown Austin Alliance also vouched for Hixon. Executive Director Charlie Betts said the DAA board of directors agreed with the staff recommendation to withdraw the historic zoning case, especially in light of Hixon’s stated intention to refrain from demolishing the building.

Commissioners then unanimously agreed to withdraw the historic zoning case. As part of the motion, city staff also agreed to make sure the restrictive covenant was filed on the property.

The zoning on the Bitter End was only the first step for the Historic Landmark Commission. Most of the warehouses in the 4th Street area were built in the 1920s. Stocklin said the city is currently exploring creating a historic register district in the area. The designation would create additional protections for those historic buildings. Stocklin promised to report back monthly on progress toward creation of the National Register Historic District .

Asked whether the DAA could support such a measure for a portion of downtown, Betts said he could agree that the area was distinctive but could not speak on behalf of the DAA because the group had not yet discussed the issue.

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

Recommendation from Historic Landmark Commission . . . The Historic Landmark Commission last night approved a resolution that encourages the city to pursue criminal and civil penalties against those who demolish or remove buildings in National Register Historic Districts. Illegal demolitions in the Clarksville neighborhood will be the first target of the resolution . . . Appointment planned . . . Council Member Betty Dunkerley is planning to name Rodney Madden to the Water & Wastewater Commission this week. He is expected to take the seat of former Commissioner Lanetta Cooper. Cooper was noted for asking hard questions of city staff, particularly about extensions of service lines into new areas. Madden is president of his own firm, which he describes as a real estate development and construction management company . . . Zoning and Platting Commission meets tonight . . . Stratus Properties is asking for approval of a subdivision on Barton Creek Blvd. at Wimberly Lane, with 47 lots proposed for single-family homes on a little more than 120 acres. The area, of course, is not part of that covered by the agreement between the developer and the city, but meets all applicable requirements, according to city staff . . . Groundbreaking today . . . The Austin Housing Finance Corp. will celebrate groundbreaking for Heritage Village at 10 am. today. The development on Parliament Drive is planned to offer affordable housing to Austinites. For more information, call Julie Beggs, 974-3121 . . . Bentzin changes his mind on tax reform . . . Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos has proposed a penalty on businesses that fail to render their personal property for tax appraisal. Barrientos made the proposal at a Sept. 10 candidate forum at Steiner Ranch. According to an audio tape of the event supplied by Barrientos’ campaign manager Brian Dupre, Bentzin said he agreed with the incumbent’s proposal. However, he told the American-Statesman last week that the tax should be eliminated and business real estate should be taxed instead. He suggested that the business tax rate could be higher. Since the state is facing a budget shortfall of at least $5 billion this year, it seems likely that businesses will face some additional taxes next year, regardless of who is elected . . . Haiku for computer users . . . We received a message regarding irritating messages from Microsoft. Whether true or not, the suggestion that the Japanese have turned those messages into clever Haiku is too appealing not to share. Haiku has strict rules requiring that each poem have only 17 syllables, with 5 in the first line, etc. Here are a few favorites:

Chaos reigns within.

Reflect, repent, and reboot.

Order shall return.

Windows NT crashed.

I am the Blue Screen of Death.

No one hears your screams.

Stay the patient course.

Of little worth is your ire.

The network is down.

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

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