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Quirks in CAMPO process may distort city-county differences

Monday, March 10, 2003 by

Last week the City Council took another step toward final approval of consolidating regulations with Travis County within the city’s extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ). The city took the action in an effort to comply with a state law directing large cities and counties to adopt uniform subdivision regulations. The two entities must agree on a variety of transportation assumptions, including plans for future roads, right-of-way width and roadway capacities.

The Council wants the county to follow the Austin Metropolitan Area Transit Plan (AMATP), as opposed to the CAMPO (Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization) plan, which includes a few roads the city has specifically rejected—such as SH 45 South between RM 1626 and I-35 and Frate Barker between SH 45 and Brodie Lane.

In making his motion to approve changes to city regulations, Council Member Daryl Slusher said, “I think the commissioners want us to act in a certain way or take certain positions on this. But they’re elected to represent their constituents and we’re elected to represent ours and there’s a large amount of overlap. This is not going to dovetail exactly with what they’re suggesting. And I’m hoping that we can work out the differences.”

But the two may not be as far apart as they seem on the surface. According to Austan Librach, director of the city’s Transportation Planning & Sustainability Department, before the year 2000, CAMPO would routinely modify its plan to reflect changes in the AMATP. However, “CAMPO has decided not to make any changes (in order) to deal with their air quality analysis. So, there hasn’t been an opportunity to make (the two plans) consistent.” Librach said CAMPO staff is treating the city’s changes as input to the next round of planning.

Librach said he thought neither the county nor the development community realizes the nature of the problem. Presumably, when CAMPO has completed the current round of planning a year from now, it will consider adding the city’s changes to its plan. Librach said that beyond the southwest road discrepancies, the two plans have only small differences, such as HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes on MoPac. Although those are on the CAMPO plan, they are not on the city plan because residents along MoPac are strongly opposed to them, he said.

In addition to the road designations, the Council voted in favor of applying city water quality regulations in the ETJ. There seems to be no basic disagreement on this issue, but city staff has expressed concern about how that will work. Librach said the problem would arise if the county approves a development and then turns it over to the city for water quality regulation. “So much depends on the design of the development itself,” he said, it may be hard to abide by the regulations after the design is completed.

The county has proposed a 5-year and a 12-year time period for submitting a final plat after approval of a preliminary plan in the Drinking Water Protection Zone and the Desired Development Zone, respectively. The Council voted to shorten those to 4 years in the DWPZ and 7 years in the DDZ. The Commissioners Court is expected to take up the same issues this week.

Development rep wanted higher classification

The Zoning and Platting Commission last week approved upzoning four properties on the increasingly commercial West Koenig Lane. The applicants had requested LO (Limited Office) and LO-MU zonings for the homes, all currently zoned SF-3, but commissioners sided with members of the Brentwood Neighborhood Association who requested the less intense NO (Neighborhood Office) and NO-MU zoning.

The applications covered homes at 1504, 1506, 2003 and 2005 W. Koenig Lane. The staff had recommended NO-MU zoning for the properties at 1504 and 1506 W. Koenig because of the proximity of single-family homes, and supported the request for LO and LO-MU for the other two homes. “Clearly, the Koenig Lane area has changed over the last 20 years and has become much more commercialized,” said attorney Brad Greenblum, representing the owners of the properties. He contended that the NO zoning requested by neighborhood representatives was inappropriate because those lots would likely be rezoned in the near future. “The rationale that these should be zoned NO because they’re next to single family . . . by the end of next year or early next year will no longer be true,” he said. Greenblum pointed out that some of the prospective tenants for the sites would require LO zoning, and LO would also allow additional impervious cover for parking or building expansion.

But neighbors opposed the LO in favor of NO zoning. “The neighborhood clearly supports NO,” said Richard Brock, president of the Brentwood Neighborhood Association. “In NO, there’s a lot of uses that would generate income for these owners. I think there’s plenty of economic viability for NO.”

Commissioner John-Michael Cortez moved to support NO-MU zoning as a compromise, satisfying the neighborhood’s concerns while still allowing the owners some flexibility to maintain a residential component. “It seems to me that there’s residential properties directly behind these properties fronting Koenig Lane,” he said. “It seems that there are uses there for NO . . . I don’t see a real reason to grant LO.” His motion for the NO-MU zoning at 1504 and 1506 W. Koenig passed 8-0, with Commissioner Melissa Whaley absent because of illness.

For the two houses at 2003 and 2005 W. Koenig, city staff supported the applicant’s request for LO and LO-MU zoning. “We see a difference from the other two that were across the street and further down the block,” said Greg Guernsey with the Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Department. With more surrounding LO uses, he said, the properties at 2003 and 2005 could also be zoned LO. Greenblum told commissioners the property owners were counting on prospective tenants that would not be allowed under NO. “I ask you to respectfully consider the LO uses in the area, and the proposed uses by both the people who bought property . . . Clearly, as you hear every week here, anybody who buys property and tries to develop in Austin is at great risk.”

But commissioners again sided with the neighborhood, reminding Greenblum that economic factors were not normally considered as criteria for zoning. “If the owner purchased property zoned SF-3 with the purpose of having a business there, it’s incumbent upon him to recognize that he’s going to have to come before us . . . I think to put the onus on us is a little misplaced,” said Commissioner John Philip Donisi. The commission voted 8-0 to change the zoning to NO.

Program moved to Economic Growth office

The City Council approved an interim process for funding cultural arts grants while an outside consultant works on a total revamping of the system. The process for the 2003-04 fiscal year will allow current grant recipients to reapply without going through the traditional review by an advisory panel, providing some level of predictability for arts groups dependent upon city funding. The amount allocated by the city to various groups for the current fiscal year will serve as the basis for next year’s funding, with the provision that any cuts mandated by a decrease in hotel-motel taxes will be applied across the board. There will also be a penalty for late applications.

The Council also voted to create a new cultural arts program in the city’s Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services office by transferring existing arts staff from other city departments and adding three new positions. Austin Energy will transfer approximately $401,000 to the Economic Development Fund to support the program for the rest of the fiscal year. The program will eventually have its own advisory board.

Dabney and Associates will continue as the city’s consultants for revamping the cultural arts funding process beyond the 2003-04 budget year. The firm will work on writing the job description for a cultural arts program manager and help craft an overall cultural arts policy as part of its efforts to create an entirely new funding process to replace the newly adopted interim measures.

Wednesday, Thursday,

Friday.

Leffingwell changes his mind . . . Lee Leffingwell, chair of the Environmental Board, has told friends that he will not be running for Place 5 on the City Council after all. Leffingwell would have had an uphill battle against Brewster McCracken, who has name ID from last year’s race against Beverly Griffith. So far, only McCracken and Clayton Stapleton have filed ballot applications for the seat Will Wynn is vacating. However, a number of other candidates, including Carl Tepper, Robert Singleton, Margot Clarke and Steven Swanson have indicated they would run for the office. The filing deadline is March 18 . . . Annexation goes astray . . . City staff pulled one of three annexation plans from last week’s agenda because of a posting problem. Assistant City Attorney Martha Terry said the process for annexing the one-acre Dittmar tract must be restarted, so the matter will not come back to the Council until May. The tract is southeast of the intersection of Brodie Lane and William Cannon. Hearings on annexation of the Sunset Valley Apartments, about 45 acres in southern Travis County and approximately 15 acres in Williamson County south of Avery Ranch Blvd. moved forward without a hitch. No one testified at any of those hearings . . . Reappointed . . . The Council reappointed Elmore DuFour to the Austin Community Education Consortium . . . Attention dancers . . . Dancers who would like to brush up on their tap dancing skills are invited to tap workshops being sponsored by Zilker Theatre Productions on March 22 and March 29. The two-hour workshops are to assist those who would like to audition for a spot in this summer’s Zilker musical, Crazy for You. Auditions for the show are April 11-13. For more information on the dance workshops or auditions, call 479-9491 . . . Board of Adjustment meeting tonight . . . The Board of Adjustment will hear a request from Craig Nasso of the Rainey Street neighborhood that the board reconsider a height and setback variances granted to the owner of 54 Rainey Street on Town Lake. The developer plans to build a condominium project on the property, near the Towers of Town Lake. The board granted both variances last month.

© 2003 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

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