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Commissioners in no rush

Monday, June 23, 2003 by

To tackle pipeline ordinance

But agreement on ETJ rules required by HB1445 Travis County Commissioners simultaneously gave an almost audible sigh last week when staff gave them the City of Austin’s hazardous pipeline ordinance— so that they might approve a similar one.

The City Council approved the ordinance in April in response to Longhorn Pipeline’s attempt to use a long-dormant pipeline through South Austin and Travis County to pump gasoline from Houston to El Paso. To make the ordinance truly effective, however, county commissioners will also have to approve it.

Under House Bill 1445, enacted two years ago, the city and county must agree to common subdivision platting requirements in the city’s extra-territorial jurisdiction. Travis County and Austin have already tackled issues like roads, sidewalks, drainage and flood plain issues. Portions of the pipeline ordinance fall under the same category.

Commissioners, however, are worn out from more than a year of debate over the waste-siting ordinance—and they have still yet to tackle landfills. They face a grueling budget-writing cycle that will begin next month. To be faced with a topic as complicated and emotional as the hazardous pipeline ordinance was the last thing they wanted.

Commissioners balked at taking immediate action. Fred Dennick, a director in the Trans portation and Natural Resources Department, admitted that he has no expertise on the subject. According to a memo drafted by Dennick, the county would agree to:

• Define a hazardous pipeline and a restricted pipeline area.

• Require the subdivider to show any hazardous liquid pipelines that transact a proposed subdivision on a plat.

• Restrict the minimum size of a lot that contains a hazardous liquid pipeline.

• Prevent the placement of structures or excavating within restricted pipeline areas with exceptions for infrastructure and some pipeline activity.

• Allow for variances to the restrictions.

• Require certification of a professional engineer for planned activities along a pipeline.

• Require notification to buyers of a lot of the location of a restricted pipeline.

• Require that the restricted pipeline be located in a subdivision plat.

If the county does not agree to the pipeline ordinance, it will not apply in the extra-territorial jurisdiction of Austin. With no firm deadline to take action, commissioners were hesitant to agree to the ordinance without more thorough review.

Commissioner Karen Sonleitner said it had taken the City Council more than six months to review and adopt a final ordinance. Sonleitner said the pipeline ordinance was something that needed to be considered after almost all other obligations were completed.

Commissioner Gerald Daugherty was in no mood to rush to a decision either. He said he found it a bit odd that people were worked up over a pipeline ordinance when a diagram of the infrastructure under any school would indicate the potential for problems that would be as big or bigger than any pipeline issue.

“From my reading, the instances where you really have a big issue is when you hit something (with a backhoe),” Daugherty said. “I would like to have enough time on this to get informed. Perhaps I’m missing something here, but before I’m willing to get involved and create some ordinance, I need to get a lot more comfortable with the fact that there is a real issue with this.”

County Judge Sam Biscoe said he had received conflicting information on how necessary the pipeline ordinance would be. Biscoe said he too needed more information, including information from the state and federal agencies that regulate pipelines. And in addition, the Department of Transportation is scheduled to release a major report on pipeline safety. The report is intended to address pipeline right-of-way.

The Homebuilders Association of Greater Austin voiced opposition to the pipeline ordinance. Harry Savio complained about the volumes of regulations the city has already placed on development. He questioned why the city had to regulate pipelines at all. Austin has seen more injuries from Christmas trees than pipelines, but no one is suggesting the City of Austin take steps to ban Christmas trees, Savio said.

Savio also questioned whether the county had the statutory authority to adopt a pipeline ordinance. Left with so many questions, commissioners agreed to hold off on a decision on the pipeline ordinance until they are better informed.

Doggett rallies troops For redistricting fight

Congressman vows to run in spite of redistricting Cedar Street was packed wall-to-wall with Democrats Sunday afternoon. Most stood hatless in the summer sun to hear the Congressman who has served Texas’ 10th Congressional District since 1995. Lloyd Doggett’s message was clear and pointed: Keep fighting. Never give up.

He struck a responsive cord when he told the crowd, “We are troubled, indeed we are alarmed about what is happening” to our country. “Each branch of the government seems to be dominated more and more by extremist fanatics who are arrogant, who believe that the proper role of government is to limit our personal liberties at home and to kill people abroad . . . They don’t hesitate to try to wrap themselves in our flag but they forget so often the freedoms that that flag represents. They question the patriotism of anyone who dares to question them.”

He praised the Killer Ds, who spent several days last month in Ardmore, Oklahoma in order to defeat congressional redistricting. And he praised his constituents, nearly a thousand of whom registered their opposition to the proposed redistricting map that would divide the 10th District into four other districts with controlling majorities outside of Austin. “The most critical factor to the success of these extremists is our despair. To the extent that they can convince us that they can’t do anything about it, they will prevail. Their victory is not inevitable. We can still do something,” Doggett told the crowd. Regardless of the outcome of the special session, Doggett said, he would strive to continue to his Congressional service. “They tell me they are going to try to move my district around a little bit. I don’t know if it’s going to be north, south, east or west. I don’t know where I’m going to be running for re-election, but I do know…I’m not going to be running away from Tom DeLay.”

Majority Leader DeLay, the sparkplug behind congressional redistricting, was in Austin last weekend, Doggett said, giving Republicans their marching orders. Democrats must make a commitment to be at the Legislature when Republicans are expected to try to pass their redistricting plan—July 1st, 2nd and 3rd. “So that come the 4th of July, they’ll have gotten their fireworks a little earlier and we’ll have some independence to celebrate.” He urged those in the crowd to call the county party headquarters to find out how they could be of assistance.

In closing, Doggett quoted the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., when he said, “‘Our lives begin and end the day we become silent about things that matter.’” Doggett added, “I think he had in mind moments in history like those we’re living through right now in America. Let us celebrate and enjoy our lives . . . by never giving up and giving in. We cannot and we will not surrender to the narrow-minded, backward-looking busybodies . . . Together we are going to achieve victory.”

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

Lowe’s request up this week . . . Representatives of Lowe’s Home Improvement Stores, including former Mayor Bruce Todd and attorney Terry Irion, have been talking to both city and county officials in an effort to win approval for the store planned for Brodie Lane. Travis County Commissioners postponed the matter last week, but it’s on the agenda again for tomorrow and Irion predicts it will not be postponed again. Over the weekend, protesters from Sunset Valley and their allies held a peaceful demonstration in front of the Lowe’s on Stassney, attracting four TV stations on an otherwise uneventful Saturday . . . Solar conference kicks off . . . The national convention of the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) kicked off this weekend and continues through Thursday. More than 40 solar companies—from AstroPower, Inc. to Uni-Solar, are exhibiting their products and services at the Austin Convention Center from 10am-5pm today through Wednesday. The Exhibit Hall is free and open to the public . . . Solar Austin town meeting . . . Mayor Will Wynn will join solar energy leaders and activists in a dialogue on the city’s role in developing and funding local solar programs and expanding the role of clean energy industries in Austin. The public is invited to the meeting, which is scheduled from 4-6pm at Room 16 of the Convention Center . . . Hobnob with the solar society . . . Maybe it would be more fun to just eat the barbecue, instead. The convention is also sponsoring Texas Food & Follies from 6-10pm Wednesday. The party will start at Maggie Mae’s, 325 E. 6th Street, with food from Stubb’s Bar-B-Que. After dinner, the party will move around the corner to Esther’s Follies, for Esther’s unique brand of comedy. The event is open to the public, but tickets must be purchased today at the Convention Center . . . Moving on . . . Patty Gonzales, who has worked in the city’s Public Information Office for several years, has left the city. She will soon begin her new job as Government Affairs Manager at Time Warner Cable . . . Dean party tonight . . . Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean will formally declare his candidacy for President tonight via satellite TV to supporters across the country. In Austin, Dean’s supporters will gather at 5:30pm at the Ruta Maya Coffee House, 3601 S. Congress, Suite D-200. For more information, call Glenn Maxey at 656-6337 or 443-2004, or email info@deanfortexas.com . . . Final Shakespeare production this season . . . The Austin Shakespeare Festival wraps up its critically acclaimed 2002-03 season with Julius Caesar, starting Saturday at the Austin Playhouse, 3601 Congress. Austin attorney Tom Green will lead the company as Caesar, with an all-female supporting cast. The play runs Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm through July 13, 2003. For more information call 454-2273 . . . M/WBE meets tonight . . . The group will hear an appeal by M & Z Concrete Construction, Inc. concerning its M/WBE certification denial.

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