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City City Sustainability staff down to one Fred Blood still working on ozone action plan The City of Austins hiring freeze, combined with the slowly recovering economy, have left the citys Sustainability Program a little short-handed. Sustainability Officer Fred Blood has been doing his best to keep up with the workload, he recently told the Environmental Board, despite several vacancies in his office.
Funding for the office, which is working on ozone-reducing strategies as part of the Early Action Compact, comes from the city’s General Fund. “We’re doing just about as well or as poorly as all the other departments that are in the General Fund,” Blood noted. “Last spring I had essentially four and a half people working for me.” That included one employee whose salary was paid by a state grant and one part-time intern. The departure of the intern, Blood said, had been a particularly difficult loss. “She actually represents the institutional memory because she’s been here longer than anyone else,” he said. “She was also my best grant writer.” Of the three full time employees covered by the General Fund, one position was eliminated and the other two people have resigned. The strain placed on all employees city-wide by the budget situation, Blood said, played a role in their decisions to return to the private sector. “The city is a great place to work normally, it just hasn’t been a lot of fun for the past year and a half,” Blood explained. “These people came to the city from private consulting companies . . . and both of them had a lot of capabilities. The economy’s warmed up a little bit. I’m not complaining, I’m just sort of stating the way the facts are.” Blood is hopeful that the two remaining full-time positions will soon be filled. In the meantime, he said, he is on track to present a series of recommendations to the City Council in December on strategies for reducing the production of ozone, including an outline for a proposed tailpipe testing program for automobiles. The chemicals in automobile exhaust contribute to the formation of ozone, which is the primary source of air pollution in Austin.Episcopal Church works out compromise for three variances Board of Adjustment rarely makes such an easy decision Board of Adjustment Chair Herman Thun described as historic on a couple of counts the approval this week of three variances for the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd . The church is committed to a $12 million expansion plan for its Tarrytown site at 2205 Moffett Dr. New buildings will replace existing buildings on the campus: a new two-story education building, a parish hall that seats 400, a new two-story administration building and even 40 parking spaces in an underground parking garage. Three variances are required for the expansion: Impervious cover on two lots will increase from 45 to 70 percent, building coverage will increase from 40 to 50 percent and the setback on Gilbert Street must be reduced from 25 to 15 feet. It took 14 months of negotiation with local neighborhoods to reach a compromise. The church’s historic sanctuary will be preserved. Construction will concentrate the new buildings at Exposition and Windsor at the site’s commercial node and away from local homes. And detention ponds will provide first-ever water quality controls on the site. Nikelle Meade and Blake Tollett came to support those plans. More accurately, Meade came to support the plans on behalf of the Windsor-Exposition neighborhood; and Blake Tollett came from the West Austin neighborhood to express “no opposition” to the variances. That non-opposition by Tollett was a first for the Board of Adjustment, Thun told the board. It’s also a first that the Board of Adjustment would approve a variance on impervious cover, with the board’s special sensitivity to the impact of development on those downstream. And, Thun joked, it’s also unusual to hear Commissioner Betty Edgemond offer not only a “yes,” but an “enthusiastic yes” to a variance proposal for impervious cover. “There are solutions, and we thank all of you,” Thun told the audience. Thun said he was convinced the variances worked because the variances acknowledged that the church was actually a commercial use trying to peacefully co-exist as an property zoned SF-3 in a single-family neighborhood. Architect Ben Heimsath and Don Hammond of the Church of the Good Shepherd presented the church’s case to the board. Heimsath pointed out that the development could have been done without variances, but it would have cost the church its sanctuary and existing trees. “Virtually everything about this property loved by the church and the neighbors would be gone,” Heimsath told the Board of Adjustment. The construction will also provide two benefits to the neighborhood that did not exist before construction: on-site parking and detention ponds. That argument swayed the Board of Adjustment, which unanimously approved the variances. ©2003 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved Day of rest . . . Even though we hate to admit that the hackers got us down, In Fact Daily is taking Monday off to rest and reformat our computer systems. We will be changing our email system to make it more secure. If you are operating a Microsoft system, beware: Hackers never sleep . . . Regional plan meeting today . . . The executive committee of the Regional Planning Committee for the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer will meet at 1:30pm today at Dripping Springs City Hall. Expect a fight over whether to allow the Trinity-Hays Groundwater District to sit on the executive committee. That argument has kept the group from moving forward as it is so important to the entities involved: with Hays County and Dripping Springs saying a committee of six would be too large and the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District and the City of Austin arguing that the smaller groundwater district is a necessary party. The real issue for those against Hays-Trinity joining, however, appears to be about a perceived shift of power if another conservation-oriented group has a seat on the executive committee . . . Hardworking commission . . . Members of the Historic Landmark Commission (HLC) will have a normal work session tomorrow. They will meet at 1:30pm Saturday in Room 500 of One Texas Center. The agenda calls for the HLC to discuss the maligned historic tax exemption program, sign guidelines, a pending historic district ordinance and increasing public awareness of historic properties . . . Council in action . . . Council Members Raul Alvarez and Brewster McCracken plan to spend the day helping others as part of two community events. Alvarez is joining the Capital Area Pasa Las Llaves (Pass the Keys) campaign to educate the Latino community about designated drivers. The program will kick off at 10am at Plaza Saltillo. Javier Alejo, Consul General of Mexico and several other prominent members of the community will join Alvarez and representatives of Mothers Against Drunk Driving . . . McCracken will start his day at an 8am breakfast to kick off the United Way’s Day of Caring. Later, he and his staff will be assisting the Capital Area Association for Retarded Citizens in a number of projects. Their workday will be from 10am-2pm (with lunch); their first stop will be the East Austin Family Pantry at 9:45 . . . Wal-Mart opponents benefit today . . . The Save Barton Creek Association is sponsoring a special screening of the award-winning documentary Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town at 4pm today at the Alamo Drafthouse downtown. Proceeds from showing the film, which documents the story of a small Virginia town’s battle against the world’s largest retailer, will help finance their recently formed Stop Wal-Mart Fund. Tickets are available online at http://www.NoAquiferBigBox.com. . . Also on the Wal-Mart front . . . Opponents of the proposed superstore at MoPac and Slaughter say they have collected more than 1,000 signatures of Austin residents opposed to Wal-Mart’s plan. The signatures represent a promise to boycott the store citywide if company officials won’t withdraw from the proposed aquifer site . . . Water and Wastewater helping out . . . The City of Austin won’t waive tap fees and capital recovery fees for the county’s Plover Place Road project, fearing that doing so would set a precedent. The Office of Rural and Community Affairs recently awarded Travis County a grant to extend water and wastewater service to 10 residential homes along Plover Place Road that have thus far gone without. Instead of waiving fees, the city has offered to provide engineering services on the project. Reynaldo Cantu, assistant director of the Water and Wastewater Department, told the Water and Wastewater Commission that Plover Road is one of a number of “colonias” in Austin that were platted before the state requirement for water and wastewater service was established.
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