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Developer offering concrete, not asphalt, but not an SOS pond

Monday, March 3, 2003 by

On Thursday afternoon, the Council rejected a request to change the zoning to allow liquor sales in a small part of a shopping center on Southwest Parkway on a vote of 5-2. But after looking at the environmental benefits a few hours later, Council Member Will Wynn moved for reconsideration and the Council approved it 4-3. The owner of the property, CalTex Holdings, Inc., plans to build a retail center there, which it can do with the current LR (local retail) zoning. The problem was one prospective lessee who would like to open a liquor store, requiring CS-1 zoning. The Council had approved the zoning change on first reading in January and on second reading Feb. 6.

CalTex, represented by consultant Jim Bennett, had agreed to use integrated pest management and Grow Green standards, which the city requires of most developments seeking zoning changes over the aquifer. However, the land was subject to grandfathering claims and can be developed under Edwards Aquifer rules—which the state requires—not the city’s more restrictive SOS Ordinance. Bennett had also offered concrete paving rather than asphalt, which may be the cause of a high level of the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) found in Barton Creek and Waller Creek sediment, but that fact was not mentioned during the first discussion of the case.

Bennett said the impervious cover on the entire six-acre area owned by his clients would be about 17 percent. But that property had little commercial value because it consists of drainage easement, public utility easement and greenbelt, according to Environmental Officer Pat Murphy. The ordinance would allow 15-percent impervious cover and would require a more sophisticated pollution filtration pond.

At the Council’s Feb. 6 meeting, several homeowners in the Travis Country neighborhood told the Council they did not want a liquor store at that location. On Thursday, Council Member Daryl Slusher noted the neighborhood opposition and pointed out that the developer was not complying with the SOS Ordinance.

Slusher had requested that the Watershed Protection and Development Review Department (WPDR) provide a graph comparing the amounts of different pollutants entering the aquifer under the developer’s plans and current city regulations. Murphy displayed a chart comparing the amount of pollutants that would be removed from the site’s runoff under the Edwards rules as compared to the SOS Ordinance, which has a non-degradation standard. The chart showed a much higher level of various pollutants entering the aquifer with use of only the state-mandated sand filtration pond. Slusher asked Murphy to explain the difference between what the developer had proposed and what is required under state law. “As far as I can determine, there’s nothing above and beyond what currently would be required,” Murphy said.

Bennett told the Council, “The center will still be built. The question is just whether this tenant (liquor store) will be able to move into the 2,000 square foot (space) out of (a) 14,000 square foot total building.”

Slusher made the initial motion to deny the request. Mayor Gus Garcia and Council Members Will Wynn, Raul Alvarez and Danny Thomas agreed. Council Members Betty Dunkerley and Jackie Goodman voted against the denial.

Wynn said Friday that the initial rejection was because “you lose sight of the facts,” when approvals are spread out over a several-week period. “Clearly there’s a demand for retail services in that part of town. Asking for a minor use change doesn’t change what will be built.” He said Bennett reminded him of the promise to use concrete instead of asphalt for construction of the parking lot, a matter that has gained some urgency in recent weeks because of high PAH concentrations found next to asphalt-covered parking lots close to Barton Springs. Because of the change in the vote, Wynn said, “We will have one less asphalt surface parking lot over the aquifer.”

After a brief discussion of the concessions Bennett had agreed would go into a restrictive covenant, a second vote was taken, with Wynn and Garcia joining Dunkerley and Goodman in favor. Slusher, Alvarez and Thomas remained opposed.

Move from 74 to 99 alleged to be discriminatory

Executives of the local Univision TV affiliate took their complaints against Time Warner Cable to the Austin City Council Telecommunications Subcommittee last week, accusing the cable company of discrimination in its decision to move the main Spanish language station from channel 74 to channel 99 in the cable lineup. The two media companies are engaged in negotiations over carriage of the Univision network, along with the Telefutura and Galavision networks owned by the same company. The City of Austin, under Federal Communications Commission rules, controls which cable company has the franchise to provide service to Austin residents.

Univision has a low-power affiliate in Austin broadcast on channel 31. But the company recently began broadcasting a local newscast and other programming aimed at Austin viewers on its affiliate in Killeen, KAKW-TV Channel 62. “Channel 99 is a very undesirable location on cable equipment, and it’s inconsistent with channel 62,” said local Univision vice president Steve Guist. “Time Warner is discriminating against Univision and the Latino community. Would they move NBC or ABC?” Guist asked that the Killeen signal be placed in the bank of channels reserved by Time Warner for local stations in Austin, channels 2-23. Guist was joined by several citizens and representatives of LULAC, who called on the city to pressure Time Warner to move the Univision channel. The Univision signal had previously been carried on Time Warner Cable channel 74, but was moved at the beginning of the year when the two companies were unable to reach a new contract agreement.

Time Warner officials explained that the company was following the rules laid out by the Federal Communications Commission for deciding which stations qualified as local stations. The low-power Univision signal in Austin on broadcast channel 31 does not qualify under the FCC’s “must carry” rule, and neither does the Killeen-based full-power signal. “We do not have a full-power Univision station in Austin,” said Lydia Agraz of Time Warner. She argued that by putting the Univision signal on channel 99, the cable company was helping the Spanish-language network. “Channel 99 is on the basic tier . . . they’re actually reaching more viewers than they were before,” she said. The Univision signal previously broadcast on 74 was received by Time Warner via satellite, not from the local affiliate. Time Warner has placed a text message on channel 74 relaying the new location of the Univision signal on channel 99.

The Council subcommittee did not take any action on the item, but could consider it again at its next meeting.

Endorsements . . . The Austin Police Association Political Action Committee and the Austin Travis County EMS Employee Association PAC have endorsed Council Member Will Wynn for Mayor, Council Member Danny Thomas for Place 6 and Brewster McCracken for Place 5. They did not announce an endorsement for the Place 2 spot, even though Council Member Raul Alvarez currently has no opponent . . . Edwards Aquifer press conference today . . . The Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance will hold at press conference at 10am today on the south steps of the Capitol to release a plan for preserving the aquifer. The group is a coalition of environmental and civic organizations from San Antonio, Hays County and Austin. Following the press conference, the Alliance for a Clean Texas is holding a rally to draw attention to water privatization in Texas. Citizens from around the state will bring water to the event, pour it together into bottles and deliver it to state legislators, to symbolize their belief that water is “a right, not a commodity.” For more information, contact Claire Margerison at 472-1915 or Erin Rogers at 663-4008 . . . Cisneros for Alvarez . . . Hispanic business leaders will hold a fundraiser for Council Member Raul Alvarez at the home of Manuel Zuniga, 1726 Glenncliff, 78704 (in the Barton Hills neighborhood) at 5:30pm today. Former San Antonio mayor, Henry Cisneros, is scheduled to speak at 6pm. Zuniga ran unsuccessfully for City Council in 1996 and 1997. Since space is limited, those wishing to attend should call Frederick Lopez at 474-7285 or 791-7981. So far, no other candidates have emerged in this race . . . Brown McCarroll party . . . The Brown McCarroll law firm is honoring mayoral candidate Will Wynn at 5:30pm tonight . . . Something completely different . . . If you missed your chance to book a flight to Orlando or one of the other typical spring break destinations, there’s still time to attend the Maya Meetings at the University of Texas. The meetings are known around the nation and the world for scholarly talks about the language and culture of the ancient Maya. There are lectures for beginners as well as professional anthropologists. For more information, call 471-6292 or visit the website: http://www.utexas.edu/research/chaaac/conferences_and_meetings.html

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2003 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

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