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Ordinance would be enacted as building code requirements

Thursday, October 24, 2002 by

County commissioners will take a closer look at the City of Austin’s proposed hazardous pipeline ordinance, which is slated to be presented to the City Council in November.

House Bill 1445, which combined the city and county’s subdivision platting process, makes regulations outside the city limits more complicated. As the city goes through the process of getting approval for the ordinance by city leaders, it also needs the concurrence of Travis County. Complexities within the state code mean some parts of the ordinance on pipeline easements will apply inside the city limits, while other limits will be applied in the Austin’s extra-territorial jurisdiction.

The city is looking for more accountability from gas and oil pipeline owners—assurances that they know the exact locations of those pipelines on a map and that those they hire take proper care when building or excavating. Under the proposed ordinance, major pipelines must be noted on subdivision plats and a builder must get certification from a professional engineer that development plans will not disturb the pipeline.

Holly Noelke of the City of Austin and County Environmental Officer John Kuhl presented an outline of the ordinance to county commissioners. The pipeline guidelines would be a building code requirement, rather than a subdivision platting issue, which makes the shared approval process even more complicated.

County Judge Sam Biscoe said the county had three tasks ahead: deciding whether county staff and leaders had significant issues with the ordinance itself; deciding what changes make need to happen under House Bill 1445 and Senate Bill 873; and determining what a position on the issue may mean for interlocal agreements with Pflugerville and Lakeway.

Commissioner Margaret Moore raised the issue of Senate Bill 873. House Bill 1445 means Austin and Travis County have agreed to a single set of guidelines for subdivision platting. Senate Bill 873 gives counties many of the same rights as municipalities—a first. Drafting ordinances based on Senate Bill 873 could give “uniformity, to an extent, county-wide.”

“We have some new authority we haven’t actually used yet,” Moore told Noelke. “This might be an instance where we might want to take a look at it, as we go through the hearing process.”

All those changes must be considered in light of interlocal agreements with Pflugerville and Lakeway. The two smaller cities may thus have to consider adopting the hazardous pipeline ordinance as well.

Commissioner Ron Davis wanted to be assured that any changes to the ordinance, if it were approved, would come back through the county. Assistant County Attorney Tom Nuckols told him that House Bill 1445, by its very nature, would put the city and the county on the same page. If two governments shared a single code, both sides would have to have the same changes, Nuckols said.

Commissioners agreed they would revisit the specifics of the pipeline ordinance on Nov. 12. The last two hearings on the hazardous pipeline ordinance are Monday at Langford Elementary School, 2206 Blue Meadow Dr., and Nov. 4 at Bowie High School, 4103 Slaughter Lane.

The ordinance will be discussed at the city’s Environmental Board on Nov. 13, at the Planning Commission on Nov. 20 and at the Building/Fire Code Board on Dec. 4.

Task Force wants city to increase

Efforts to encourage Green Building

Johnson says more homebuyers need to know about program

The Green Building Task Force presented its recommendations to the City Council on Wednesday for boosting participation in the program ( http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/greenbuilder/), which encourages builders to adopt new standards for environmental sensitivity and energy efficiency. The program is recognized as a leader in the nation. Task force members praised the city’s efforts, but said more could be done to make builders and homebuyers aware of the program.

The program would grow in popularity, task force members said, if more homebuyers were aware of the economic benefits it offers over the life of a home. “A ‘green’ building, in almost all cases, reduces long-term maintenance and operations costs,” said Task Force Chair Scott Johnson. “There is a tangible savings there for the homeowner.” Johnson and Task Force Member Jim Walker also stressed the need to market the program to building industry and trade groups.

Austin Energy officials are already working on placing advertising in a specialty TV shows for homebuilders and realtors. And Council Member Will Wynn said he has an agreement to make a presentation about the program to the Real Estate Council of Austin at a future meeting.

The Task Force also recommended studying new incentives for speeding up building-code approvals for commercial Green Building projects. The current building code gives no special treatment or incentives for projects that meet the Green Building standards. While City Manager Toby Futrell said an expedited review process would likely be an incentive to builders to meet those standards, she warned that the city might not be able to provide additional resources to speed up the process. “This is where I know we are really struggling,” Futrell said. “At some point, almost every project is asking for expedited review—there is no normal review then. What it gets down to is: How much time does review take? And what can we do to smooth that along?” Futrell said she would be working with representatives of Austin Energy and the Watershed Protection and Development Review Department to see if there are ways to improve the review process.

The new City Hall is being built in accordance with the Green Building principles, as are several other city projects. The task force asked the City Council to make all municipal construction projects adhere to some Green Building standards, as well as projects supported by bond revenue. The task force recommendations also extend to projects that receive financial incentives from the city, as well as the redevelopment of Robert Mueller Airport.

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Wednesday, Thursday,

Friday.

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

Austin City Council meeting today . . . In Fact Daily is expecting a few controversial items to be postponed due to the expected absence of Council Member Betty Dunkerley. So, likely candidates for a Halloween hearing are the historic zoning case for the MexicArte Museum property and consideration of an ordinance relating to amendments for Neighborhood Plans . . . Voters enthusiastic . . . More than 19,000 Travis County voters had cast ballots at the end of the day on Tuesday. Juan Campos, spokesman for the Elections Division of the Travis County Clerk’s Office said the number is three times what it was in the 1998 gubernatorial election and represents 3.43 percent of the county’s voters. Statewide, the Houston Chronicle reported, voting has nearly doubled over results four years ago. Generally speaking, a big turnout bodes well for Democrats. But apparently voters in Republican-leaning counties like Montgomery and Fort Bend near Houston and Colin near Dallas have also been eager to get to the polls. The counties with the biggest increase in turnout so far are Travis, Bexar and Hidalgo. Early voting continues through Nov. 1 . . . Cap Metro to meet with East side residents . . . Capital Metro is hosting a Town Hall Meeting for East Austin residents interested in deciding guidelines for the development of certain parcels of land for transit-oriented development in East Austin. The meeting is tonight from 6:30pm to 8pm at Nuevo Leon Restaurant (1501 E. 6th Street) . . . Soul of the city party tonight . . . The 12th annual SOS Soul of the City concert begins at 7pm this evening at La Zona Rosa. Performers include Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and the Gourds. Proceeds will support the work of the SOS Alliance . . . Final forum tonight . . . This evening residents of the Wells Branch Neighborhood can compare candidates for County Commissioner Pct. 2 and for State Rep. Dist. 50. Democrat Karen Sonleitner faces off against Republican challenger Sheri Perry Gallo and two newcomers, Republican Jack Stick and Democrat James Sylvester vie for the new seat up north. That’s at 7pm at the community center at 2106 Klattenhoff Drive . . . No Lowe’s group meets . . . Residents concerned about the possibility that a new Lowe’s store will spring up next to the Home Depot superstore met to plot strategy at the Sunset Valley City Hall last night. They discussed the hard realities of high-priced land on Brodie Lane and the possibility that Lowe’s could be convinced that locating a store there would be unprofitable.

©

2002 In Fact News, Inc. All rights

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