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Slusher takes aim at

Monday, October 14, 2002 by

Randall's store over aquifer

Final action on zoning put off to allow for talks

Council Member Daryl Slusher and Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman slowed down a zoning change request by Twin Liquors at last week’s Council meeting to try to persuade the owners of a new shopping center at 9901 Brodie Lane to pay more attention to environmental matters. The owner of the shopping center is Hollow Retail Partners Ltd., but Slusher saved his harshest criticism for Randall’s Food Market.

After noting that the shopping center appeared not to be in compliance with the SOS Ordinance, Slusher said, “It got grandfathered . . . I would like to get the native plants landscaping requirements that we put on other cases that have come through here. Would that apply to the liquor store part or to the whole property?”

Alice Glasco, director of the Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Department, replied that it would only apply to the footprint of the liquor store. “It won’t get you to cover the entire site unless the applicant voluntarily agrees,” she said.

Sarah Crocker explained that her client, Twin Liquors, would only be taking about 1800 square feet of the shopping center, which includes the grocery store, three restaurants, a bank and retail shops. “The shopping center is under construction and they’re just going in and doing the finish-out (for the liquor store) now.” The owner did have to sign the application.

At that point, Slusher almost gave up on effecting a change. “I guess I’ll just have to let this go . . . I’ll just take the opportunity to point out that it would be the most appropriate thing to do for our corporate citizens to comply with our local ordinances and the will of the voters, who passed the SOS Ordinance by a two-to-one margin. And that is not the case here, where the Randall’s corporation is locating a store over the aquifer that I think is likely to pollute the aquifer. They were able to do that under our state laws, but I’ll be contacting them to talk about whether they would be willing to participate in the city’s native plant landscaping programs, so that the parts of the area that aren’t paved over already can be more sensitively treated to, hopefully, lessen the pollution. But it really is disappointing to me to see a major corporation which is making millions of dollars try to make more by building in a way that is going to pollute the water supply of Austin.”

Goodman said she agreed with Slusher’s sentiments and offered to amend her motion to approve the change on first reading only. That would give Council members or staff time to talk to the shopping center’s owners. “The upzoning is certainly a commercial benefit that they gain. Even after this tenant goes away, the property owners retain that additional value. So, in return for that, perhaps they would be willing to talk about how they could introduce additional water quality elements to the environment that they already maintain.”

Slusher added that there has been a great deal of discussion about future building, but if citizens would refrain from shopping in “places that are polluting the aquifer, then people would stop polluting the aquifer and building over the aquifer.” Slusher said that if he were shopping in the area he would choose the nearby HEB store, which was constructed under the SOS Ordinance.

Goodman then turned to Council Member Betty Dunkerley to ask her, as the second for the motion, whether she would accept the amendment. “So that then Randall’s can look forward to Council Member Slusher extolling them some day as well.” Council Member Danny Thomas also asked Glasco how far the liquor store would be from the nearest school. She said it was at least the minimum legally required and Thomas asked her to return with precise information on the second and third readings. The motion was approved 7-0.

Housing development will return to Council on Oct. 31

The Austin City Council last week approved the Southeast Combined Neighborhood Plan and several re-zoning cases associated with the plan on second and third readings. Council members made special provisions to protect several creeks in the plan area and allow plans for an affordable housing development to proceed.

The non-profit group Foundation Communities ( http://www.foundcom.org ) has been working to build an affordable housing development on property in the 4500 and 4600 blocks of St. Elmo Road (see In Fact Daily, May 13, 2002 ). There has been some opposition from residents of the Franklin Park and Kensington Park neighborhoods. The project is dependent upon state funding and is facing a deadline to receive that funding. The property will be going back to the Planning Commission for another hearing on October 23rd, which would allow the matter to return to the City Council on October 31st for a final review. The Council included a provision allowing modifications to the Neighborhood Plan within the first year, as long as the request was for a project that qualified under the Smart Housing guidelines. Normally, since neighborhood plans are designed to be long-term documents, the Council is reluctant to consider amendments during the first year the plan is in effect.

At the urging of Council Member Daryl Slusher, city staff will work on a conditional overlay for properties near some creeks and streams. Staff is currently working on a Headwater Protection Ordinance but the ordinance probably will not be ready for approval for least six months. The proposed conditional overlay would require a minimum set-back for development along certain creeks. “I want to find a way to protect this without setting a bad precedent of just doing an ordinance through the Neighborhood Plan without notifying people that are affected,” said Slusher. “At the same time, I don’t want it to take so long that we end up with the area not really protected because things get grandfathered.” Because some of the properties that would be affected by the conditional overlay were not up for re-zoning, they had not been provided any official notice of the proposal. Staff will go back and renotify all potentially-affected properties, then send them back through the Planning Commission.

The Council postponed consideration of the East MLK Combined Neighborhood Plan to Oct. 24.

Wednesday, Thursday,

Friday.

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

Federal holiday . . . Today is the official celebration of Columbus Day, or Dia de la Raza, for those who prefer that. City and state offices will be open, but no one will be filing for bankruptcy or federal injunctions today. No bills will arrive in the mail today either . . . Board of Adjustment meeting . . . Tonight’s Board agenda includes a request for a height variance for Sixth + Lamar. Developers of the site of the new Whole Foods are seeking a 12-foot addition to a part of the proposed building. The matter has already been postponed several times. Attorney Richard Suttle represents the applicant. The Historic Landmark Commission also has scheduled a special meeting for tonight to consider a demolition permit for a property at 3810 Speedway. The Hyde Park Baptist Church owns the property and Suttle also represents the church . . . Press Conference . . . Travis County has finally received a certificate of compliance from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. Sheriff Margo Frasier and the staff of the jail are holding a press conference at 11 am today in front of the Correctional Complex downtown. . . Vote and have a drink . . . Members of the Austin Tavern Guild are encouraging people to vote this year in a age-old custom. Absentee voting begins on Saturday. Anyone sporting an “I Voted” sticker will get a dollar off a drink at any guild establishment, including Charlie’s of Austin, ‘Bout Time, Oilcan Harry’s, Boyz Cellar, The Forum, Rainbow Cattle Co. and the 1920’s Club . . . Garcia to assist garbage collectors . . . On Tuesday, Mayor Gus Garcia will be helping Solid Waste Services’ crews in labeling customers’ garbage carts with new stickers showing the holiday collection schedule for the coming year. The Mayor will be somewhere in the vicinity of Stacy Park in Travis Heights at 9:30am . . . And another thing . . . After KEYE-News ran a story on the differences in salaries among members of the City Councils of Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Fort Worth, several Austin Council members pointed out factors that account for those differences. One of them is that Austinites—at least those who vote—expect full-time Council members. At Thursday’s meeting, Mayor Gus Garcia took a moment to note that, unlike the council in San Antonio, none of the members of the Austin Council is under indictment . . . Democratic Agriculture nominee press conference . . . Tom Ramsay, the Democrat seeking to unseat Susan Combs in the job of State Agriculture Commissioner, will be holding a press conference at 10:30am today “to detail misuse of taxpayer funds at TDA.” The event will be at Ramsay's campaign headquarters, 208 W. 14th Street.

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

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