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Buda city council approves Garlic Creek West subdivision

Wednesday, October 1, 2003 by

Neighbors say they fear growth will bring traffic, water problems

Despite the protests of dozens of residents and environmental activists, the Buda City Council last night approved the preliminary plan for the Garlic Creek West subdivision. Council members stressed that in additional to meeting all of the city’s codes and ordinances, the subdivision in the city’s ETJ will allow them to control and manage the growth that is inevitably coming to the area.

Plans from the developer call for nearly 2,000 homes spread out over 670 acres. Current residents and neighbors are concerned about the impact the new population will have on traffic and on the region’s drinking water supply. “Buda doesn’t have the water,” warned Erin Foster of Hays County Water Planning Partnership. “Drink up!” she urged the council, holding aloft a bottle of Ozarka drinking water. “In a few years, this will be all you have.” Many residents still get their water from wells, which draw from the Edwards Aquifer. About 22 acres of the proposed development are over the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer recharge zone as defined by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The TCEQ is considering expanding the recharge zone, but that new map will likely not come up for ratification until the spring of 2004. Buda officials say the new transmission line being built by the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority will serve development. The motion approved by the council includes plat note limiting the number of homes that can be built each year until the pipeline is completed.

Some Buda residents urged the council to consider the cost of serving the area in the ETJ. “The capital recovery fees the city receives will never pay for the utility services,” advised Chuck Murphy. “You’re going to end up having to raise taxes again.” They were joined by representatives of the Save Our Springs Alliance and the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District. Residents opposing the project told Council members they were not strictly anti-growth, but did not like the project as presented. “Don’t support this project. Take this back to the drawing board and make sure it’s sound for Buda,” said John Conway. “We want the growth to benefit the citizens at large, not one single landowner or one single developer.”

The Council pledged to work towards annexation for the project, which the developer is not planning to oppose. “We will annex this property before it is developed,” said Council Member Jeff Coffee. “I will do what it takes to get them in the city limits and get them to pay their fair share of taxes.” There were a handful of citizens who spoke in favor of the project, including a representative of the Buda Chamber of Commerce. “Buda is capable of implementing its own planned growth,” said Ralph Wueller. “It’s time for others to stay out.”

Although Council members told the dozens of people who packed into City Hall their input was important, they also turned to the city’s engineering and legal staff for guidance. Engineer Keith Jackson of the firm PBS&J made an extensive technical presentation during a workshop session prior to the start of the Council meeting. Jackson had examined the preliminary plan application for the city. “We’ve never gone to this level of detail, literally going paragraph by paragraph for compliance with the code,” he said. “We really were looking for fatal flaws in this application, and we didn’t find any.” His conclusion was that the application did meet all of the codes and ordinances set out by Buda.

That assessment, along with advice from the City Attorney and City Administrator, prompted the 5-0 vote in favor of the subdivision. They also stressed the need to comply with the city’s own recently developed regulations and new long-range plan. “If we’re not going to follow the plan, then why did we spend the money to have the plan?” asked Mayor John Trube. “We got the plan, it made sense…it may have a few things to be worked out…but how else are we ever going to figure that out if we don’t use it to finalize projects?” The decision, Mayor Trube said, was a choice between regulating growth and having it run unchecked. “If we hadn’t taken steps, it would have gone forward in the county where there’s very little regulation,” he said. “We would have no control over what they did out there…anything could have happened out there.” .

Travis Commissioners approve a 2-cent tax hike

911 workers to get pay equal to city employees

Travis County Commissioners tied up the last loose ends of the county budget, with a split court passing a two-cent tax increase for Travis County taxpayers.

No one signed up to speak at the final budget hearing on Tuesday morning. Christian Smith, executive director of Planning and Budget Operations, predicted the upcoming year would be fairly stable for the county, even though it faced a $2 billion drop in the property tax base, primarily in commercial properties.

Overall, county department heads were asked to trim 5 percent from their budgets, leaving the county with about $7 million in additional savings this year. Only a limited number of employees—either judges or departments concerned with pay parity—saw a pay increase this year. This is the second year that most employees have gone without a raise.

The main issue for discussion on Tuesday morning was the $129,000 sum that Commissioner Karen Sonleitner moved to give to the office of Sheriff Margo Frasier. The money is intended to provide pay equity in areas such as crime scene technicians and dispatchers in the new combined regional 911 Center at the former Mueller Airport. Frasier urged the court to provide equal pay for employees who would be doing equivalent-level jobs.

To Sonleitner, it only made sense to provide raises to county employees who still lag behind their city counterparts by about 10 percent. When the new regional center opens, city and county dispatchers will be sitting side-by-side, doing the same job—but if nothing is done county-trained employees might be tempted to pick up and move two seats away to fill city vacancies at higher pay.

Commissioner Gerald Daugherty feared the precedent set by such a decision. Daugherty said it would be “very dangerous” to get the county involved in a bidding war over employees. Sonleitner countered that she respected Daugherty’s opinion, but still considered the budget increase to be going to a fairly narrow band of employees.

The additional pay passed on a final vote, with Daugherty dissenting. County Judge Sam Biscoe encouraged Frasier to find cuts equal to the pay increase. County officials, hoping to spur further cuts to the Sheriff’s Office, have agreed to provide a $500,000 matching grant to all cuts Frasier can make in her office this year.

“I would like to know that a good effort was made,” Biscoe told Frasier. Frasier responded that the sheriff’s department would handle the money “as frugally as we can.”

Daugherty and Biscoe, who wanted to see a one-time use of reserves to bring down the tax rate, voted against the two-cent tax increase on the final vote. The new tax rate for the county is 49.18 cents per $100 valuation. The vote passed with no comment from commissioners, although Biscoe said he approved 99.99 percent of the expenditures when the time came to vote on the overall budget. .

©2003 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved

Her other hat . . . Janice Kinchion, president of the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats, was on the stage with Wesley Clark at Tuesday’s campaign rally. Kinchion, an early Clark supporter, said she was wearing her Democrat hat—as opposed to her mayoral assistant hat—while attending the speech . . . Thomas in Salt Lake City . . . Council Member Danny Thomas is attending a conference of the American Public Transit Association this week. Thomas is making the trip on behalf of the Capital Metro Board of Directors, of which he is a member. His assistant Sandra Frasier said she expects her boss back in Austin in time for Thursday’s Council meeting. Council Member Raul Alvarez is on his honeymoon in Puerto Rico . . . Special called meeting. . . The City Council will hold a special called meeting at 6:30pm Monday at the First Independent Baptist Church, 8401 Bluffs Springs Road, to discuss and hold a hearing on annexation in that area . . . Starbucks makes money as well as coffee . . . Austin-Bergstrom International Airport will be asking the City Council for a contract amendment to convert the airport business center into a cyber bar and Starbucks coffee shop at this week’s Council meeting. Not the biggest controversy to face this Council, but still an idea that may draw some opposition. Stacy Dukes-Rhone owns the business center and wants to sublet the place to Charles Bush Entertainment Inc., the Starbucks operator. With a relatively short agenda this week, the coffee shop and a proposed zoning change for a new Eckerd drugstore could provide the only controversies of the day . . . Meeting tonight . . . the Water and Wastewater Commission is scheduled to meet at 6pm tonight at Waller Creek Center. The panel will likely recommend approval of a $60.8 million contract with Archer Western Contractors LTD for expansion of the Ullrich Water Treatment Plant. Staff is also recommending that Camp Dresser and McKee be approved for an amendment to their current engineering services contract on that same plant . . . Contract talk postponed . . . Travis County commissioners have put off action on the concessions contract at the Travis County Exposition Center. The contract will be back on the court agenda two weeks from now. Commissioner Gerald Daugherty will be out of town next week . . . County land deal OK’d . . . A local landowner has agreed to the $240,000 offer to purchase 12 acres adjacent to East Metro Park. County Commissioners, who signed off on the purchase after an executive session yesterday, consented to pay for closing costs and title insurance on the property, which is owned by Rev. Aaron Taylor. The county has also agreed to put a plaque on the property to recognize the history of the property..

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