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Council readily denies historic zoning on 38th Street

Monday, August 18, 2003 by

Staff recommended against designation for 'common type' house

The City Council voted quickly and without discussion yesterday not to grant historic zoning for a house at 303 E.38th Street. Historic Preservation Officer Steve Sadowsky recommended against the historic designation for the 1926 craftsman-style house, which he described as “a very common type in the city.” The Historic Landmark Commission initiated historic zoning when the owner applied for a demolition permit for the single-family home, Sadowsky explained.

He said the house meets several criteria for landmark designation, but is not of the caliber required to win staff’s recommendation. “The house should be something really special,” to win that designation, he said. In response to a question from Mayor Will Wynn, Sadowsky reported the HLC had voted 6-2, with one commissioner absent, in favor of the designation.

Property owners Paul and Susan Glover apparently opposed the historic designation, but did not attend the Council meeting nor indicate their opposition via a valid petition. Neighbor Mary Ingle thanked the Council for allowing the case to be postponed last week, giving the North University Neighborhood Association (NUNA) time to negotiate with the owner. “On behalf of NUNA we do not support historic zoning for this property and neither does the owner.” She said NUNA did not support landmark designation because there had been significant alterations to the original bungalow. Despite those changes, she said, the front of the bungalow was preserved, allowing it to contribute to the overall historic ambience of the neighborhood. Ingle described the neighborhood as one “that has been raped, pillaged and plundered.” She said the Historic Landmark Commission process had allowed the neighborhood to participate in saving the bungalow. Neighbors are currently working on a neighborhood plan that will include an application to be recognized as a historic district, she said.

Ingle concluded, “Neighborhoods are destroyed one house at a time and not in one fell swoop.”

Neighbor Jerry Roemisch told the Council that the house “does have some historic merit,” but quickly moved on to what he considers the major issue—the fact that Austin does not have an ordinance offering blanket protection for historic structures. “During the late 70s, I lived in Dallas and Dallas had a reputation for being very friendly to developers,” he said, allowing them “to rape and pillage the land. Dallas is still seen as being very developer-friendly, but there’s been a big change in Dallas since then. They’ve added historic ordinances, historic protection, that nearly all major cities in the United States have—except Austin. This is the reason we have to fight these cases,” one at a time, he said, “because we don’t have an overall historic ordinance.”

Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman said after the budget is concluded she would like to reexamine the basis for passage of ordinances governing historic landmarks. She said she wants to consider “how a house is part of the culture and character of the neighborhood,” even if it does not meet the criteria for historic zoning. “I think we are losing some character,” she said, adding that she would like to see a survey of historic structures within the city.

Council Members Betty Dunkerley and Daryl Slusher asked that city staff present information on the tax implications of such zoning. (See In Fact Daily, August 8, 2003 ) Dunkerley specifically asked staff to bring information to August 28 meeting on the following: the number of houses already zoned historic; the tax values that have been abated, the amount that represents in property tax dollars and options for changing the program. Under the current program, houses with a historic designation are exempt from city, county and Austin Community College taxes. The value of the land is taxed at 50 percent. AISD gives the same homes half of that exemption.

The Council also approved a change in zoning for property at 508 E. Braker Lane from single-family-3 to local office mixed use (LO-MU) on all three readings and approved two other cases on second and third readings without discussion. Both of the latter cases received unanimous approval, with conditional overlays, when originally brought to the Council.

City applying for highway grant funds

Projects to reduce congestion, air pollution

The City of Austin is applying for federal grant funding to help cover the cost of 19 proposed roadway projects. The application goes to CAMPO, which administers the Surface Transportation Program Metropolitan Mobility Fund. That program provides financial help for projects that will reduce either air pollution or congestion.

The cost of the projects submitted by the city would total more than $17 million. That’s slightly more than the $16 million that will be available in grant funding in the 2005-06 and 2006-7 budget cycles. But Austan Librach, Director of the Transportation, Planning and Sustainability Department, told Council members that it was normal for agencies to submit multiple projects in hopes of having some of them approved. The other governmental entity competing with the city for the funding is the Texas Department of Transportation.

The initial list of projects totaled just over $21 million, but Librach said some were removed because of the low probability they would be funded. Some of those excluded are initiatives designed to promote air quality, such as publicizing a “Bike to Work” week and publication of an online visitors guide showing how to get around Austin without driving. Many of the remaining projects involve installing new traffic signals at major intersections along US 183, Loop 360 and RM 620 or adding turn lanes on high-traffic city streets such as Congress and South First.

Council Member Daryl Slusher questioned whether those turn-lane projects would have a significant impact on air quality. “I’m a little skeptical about that. I don’t think we’re going to solve global climate change through turn lanes,” he said. Librach responded that while the impact may not be major, the projects were specifically selected to meet CAMPO criteria. “By improving mobility through or eliminating congestion through an intersection,” he said, “they will reduce emissions from idling automobiles.”

The CAMPO board will likely consider the competing grant requests in November after a public hearing to allow input from citizens and transportation, pedestrian and cycling groups.

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

Former Austinites returning to marry . . . Ramona Perrault, former aide to Council Member Daryl Slusher, and former American Statesman reporter Dylan Rivera are returning to Austin to celebrate their wedding at the end of the month. Friends have been invited to join that at Stubb's BBQ for the ceremony. Rivera took a job as international business reporter for the Oregonian and Perrault is the field representative in Portland for Congressman David Wu . . . Tonight's meetings . . . The Electric Utility Commission will discuss Austin Energy's budget during a meeting beginning at 6pm. The meeting of the Urban Transportation Commission, previously scheduled for tonight, has been cancelled. Commissioners of the Urban Renewal Agency will meet at 5:30pm in Room 240 at 505 Barton Springs Road to discuss matters relating to the redevelopment of East 11th and 12th Streets . . . Capital Metro work session too . . . The Board of Directors of Capital Metro will meet at noon today to discuss a number of routine matters, including extension of an agreement with the Simon Property Group for continued use of parking spaces at Barton Creek Square Mall to operate shuttle services for special events . . . Children's Advocacy Center benefit . . . The Third Annual Eat the Heat Progressive Cocktail Party will feature Austin's finest culinary talent in a number of local hot spots in downtown Austin. The annual event kicks off at Maggie Mae's on Thursday, August 21, at 6pm. Sponsored by the Austin chapter of the National Association of Catering Executives (NACE), the party offers participants the opportunity to enjoy a smorgasbord from the finest local chefs, caterers and restaurateurs. All proceeds benefit the Children's Advocacy Center and the NACE Foundation. For more information, call Lee Higgins at 784-8600 or email

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