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County gets 5-year extension on site plan

Monday, October 21, 2002 by

The Zoning and Platting Commission has put limitations on development of a piece of land Travis County has earmarked for the West Rural Clinic and Community Center.

The owner of the 11-acre property at 8656 State Highway 71 West requested a 10-year extension on the site plan approved in 1998. The extension was the condition requested by Travis County, which is under budget constraints and must develop the property in phases over the next decade.

Planner Susan Villareal said the property has had a long and complicated history. The parcel was platted in 1971, when the surrounding land was split up for a subdivision. But the current Land Development Code with the Save Our Springs Ordinance is much stricter now than it was back then. After some research, city staff decided the land is subject to House Bill 1704 and is bound to the legal restrictions in place in 1986. Those rules would hold the property to the less stringent requirements of the Williamson Creek Ordinance.

Travis County has plans to place five current county functions in two buildings on half of the site, Commissioner Margaret Moore said. The county has struggled for over a year to find the appropriate site for the rural clinic and community center, as well as office space for the precinct’s Justice of the Peace, Constable and Tax Assessor-collector. The county’s plans are intended to unfold over the next 10 years, with only an option of first refusal to purchase the balance, which is half of the 11 acres.

“We have been looking for a site for over a year, being budget-constrained, and like a miracle we found this site after a year of looking,” Moore told commissioners. “It sits behind a City of Austin fire station, and lo and behold, the two buildings planned on the site are almost the exact amount of space we need . . . over a long period of time.”

Commissioner Keith Jackson said he had a fundamental problem with a 10-year extension of a site plan, but he understood that county government is a little different “and moves a little slower.” After some discussion, a motion for a five-year extension on the site plan requiring the owner to meet current water and environmental controls failed to get a majority.

After further discussion, commissioners agreed to a five-year extension meeting the Comprehensive Watershed Ordinance water quality standards—stricter than the Williamson Creek Ordinance, but less restrictive than SOS standards. The owner was also asked to meet the tree replacement and landscaping ordinance— even though it was not in place in 1986.

Moore said a water quality pond that could meet current standards would cost $55,000, which was more than the county could afford. She said the shortened timeline was something the Commissioners’ Court would have to carefully weigh if they intended to buy the land. The county put aside $650,000 to purchase half the site.

“What we have to do is examine our options now,” Moore said. “What is the most effective way to proceed with this project? I’m determined to do what the most effective course of action will be to get this project underway. But I’m also committed to stay within budget.”

District 47 Democrat takes

Heat from Keel supporter

Argument erupts over Keel's professional choices

Retired Dell attorney Bill Martin was the only candidate for representative of House District 47 to appear at the Lakeway candidate forum Friday evening, but that didn’t make it any easier for him.

Democrat Martin said in his opening remarks that he hoped “to have a good time” at the forum, but a supporter of incumbent Rep. Terry Keel heckled Martin and disrupted the planned format

Martin criticized Keel for working as a criminal defense attorney and said that although he too is a lawyer, he’s different because he’s a patent attorney. Mac McGuire, who was seated in the audience, stood up and told the audience he wasn’t authorized to speak for Keel but that he had to reply to the “cheap shot.” He said Keel works as a criminal attorney because state law prohibits him from working as a prosecutor or judge. “He has to earn a living and feed his kids,” he said. McGuire added that Keel didn’t make it to the forum because he had a previous appointment.

McGuire called Martin a “carpetbagger,” and said Martin had rented an apartment in the district on the day he filed to run. Martin shouted back from the stage, “Terry Keel redrew it [the district] at his own convenience . . . I moved because the area is not represented.”

When asked if he was for school vouchers, Martin said it was moot question because the Legislature needs to fix the problems with school finance. He said the Republican Party has put off school reform and said adjusting the cost of education index is merely a patch. He said the state should never rely on a state income tax, but accused the “powers that be” of waiting for people to get so fed up that they would beg for a state income tax. He also said the state needs to implement a carbon tax to replace property taxes.

In addition to taking questions from the audience, Martin felt compelled to respond to McGuire’s charges, changing the forum’s format. McGuire asked, “Why did he move and why does he have a homestead exemption on a $300,000 house?” Martin said Keel cut him out of District 47 and that his wife, who is still living in the house, deserves the homestead exemption. He compared it to Vice President Dick Cheney becoming a Wyoming resident and the Vice President’s wife remaining a Dallas resident..

Art panel hears of need

For public art master plan

Goal of plan to preserve Austin's character

Last week, Austin’s panel on Art in Public Places (AIPP) heard Civic and Art Design Coordinator Janet Seibert explain the process for creating the Civic Art Master Plan for Downtown. The purpose of the master plan is to preserve the character and history of downtown Austin through art. Seibert described how the city could attract more businesses, residents and tourists by enhancing and enriching public spaces downtown.

Siebert is with the city’s office of redevelopment services, which is charged with the task of keeping “the Austin sense of place and cultural identity.” During the development of the ‘80s and ‘90s, Seibert said, many people complained that Austin was losing its character. The Civic Art Master Plan was proposed after the redevelopment services office and the Texas Commission of the Arts (TCA) convened a civic dialogue on art, artists and community in late May and early June.

Seibert said dialogue participants recommended making suggestions to developers based on a list of historical and community values and other important themes from Austin’s past. They also wanted to make sure the new art relates to the history of the area.

Members of the AIPP said they were concerned about how prescriptive the plan would be for artists, citing problems some artists had when they were commissioned to create art for Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Seibert told the panel the plan is to keep Austin’s character and history. She added that the city’s character is always unfolding and changing and that it’s a combination of people, places and activities.

The city drafted a list of downtown stakeholders to form an advisory group for input on the master plan. The list thus far includes various city offices, boards and commissions, Capital Metro, the TCA, Downtown Austin Alliance, Austin Visitors and Convention Bureau, Austin Park Foundation, Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association and other at-large community groups. Seibert said the city plans to put out a request for proposals in November.

The TCA plans to use the master plan as a model for other Texas cities.

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

Caucus to hold press conference . . . The Mexican American Legislative Caucus will hold a press conference at 2pm today to discuss the state’s appeal of federal redistricting decisions. The conference will be in the Speaker’s Committee Room . . . Farmers Market announcement . . . Mayor Gus Garcia will be holding a press conference at 10am this morning at Republic Square to announce plans for a downtown farmers market . . . ABIA plan faces review . . . The Airport Advisory Commission will review a final report of the ABIA Master Plan at a special called meeting on Nov. 7. The commission will look at the airport’s 20-year plan, review existing facility conditions and projected future traffic patterns, as well as development options . . . Point and counterpoint . . . The Todd Baxter Campaign sent out literature accusing opponent Rep. Ann Kitchen of being a “big spender.” Kitchen’s response has been phone calls to tell folks that Baxter’s mailer is “a deliberate attempt to mislead” voters and that Baxter’s reading of fiscal notes on legislation she sponsored is wron . . . SOS to celebrate Thursday . . . The Save Our Springs Alliance will hold its 12th annual Soul of the City Concert at beginning at 7pm Thursday at La Zona Rosa. Featured performers include Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and the Gourds. For more information, call 477-2320 or visit http://www.sosalliance.org

© 2002 In Fact News,

Inc. All rights reserved.

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