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Mueller advisors working on zoning ideas

Tuesday, January 20, 2004 by

Recommendations could go to Planning Commission in March

The advisory commission on the redevelopment of the city’s former airport will vote next month on the initial zoning recommendations for the 700-acre property.

After three months of careful review of a dozen special zoning categories, the Robert Mueller Municipal Airport Advisory Commission will vote on the initial zoning recommendations in February. The zoning recommendations on the Mueller site are critical to the advisory commission because they are intended to respect and shape the project’s goals and priorities.

Under the recommendations, which should make it to Planning Commission in March, the zoning categories would include a dense Town Center and four other categories for both mixed residential and open space. A zoning category is also set aside for a employment center, adjacent to Seton, and for the Seton Hospital tract itself, which should be under construction by 2005.

Each category is going through its own adjustment, with a spreadsheet of what residential and zoning uses would be allowed and not allowed under each zoning category.

For example, construction sales and services, convenience storage, mobile homes, vehicle storage and outdoor entertainment are not permitted under any of the zoning categories. There will be no camps, no aviation facilities and no cemeteries. Restaurants, theaters, congregate living and group homes are allowed in some categories but not in others. Certain conditions have been added to some of the categories. For example, a day care center may not be the only use in a building under the Seton zoning category, and a cocktail lounge can be no larger than 5,000 square feet or it becomes a conditional use.

Commission members are committed to the inclusive nature of the development. Chair Jim Walker has said he supported residential treatment options at Mueller, as long as the location and options are carefully considered. Most of the “not in my back yard” arguments against something like residential group treatment facilities can be countered if proper planning is applied, Walker said. The point is to have a place for such facilities on the front end, rather than the back end, of the zoning plan.

Those who are working closest with the zoning categories—such as consultant Jim Adams of ROMA and city planner Pam Heflin—continue to tinker with the individual categories.

Commissioners had an extended discussion at last week’s meeting on Dick Rathgaber’s proposal of a non-profit children’s village next door to the Mueller site. Greg Weaver of Catellus stressed that the company had made no deals with Rathgaber on the site. Catellus would like to negotiate or trade land across the tract to provide a second entrance into Bartholomew Park. That could include trading space to provide a link to the park.

Walker said he wasn’t against the Rathgaber proposal, but he wanted to be careful about how conditions were put on the property’s zoning. Placing limits or conditions on a property to encourage a certain type of development could end up backfiring, Walker warned.

“I just see that potential coming,” Walker said. “I think we have to be careful that when we amend the master plan, we are tending toward the principles of the master plan and not setting ourselves up to fall away from it.”

Walker told the commission he would like to see an “all or nothing” vote on the zoning proposal next month, with the intention of sending a strong message of support to the Planning Commission.

Under the current plan, the maximum number of residential units allowed will be 6,450, subject to the traffic impact analysis. Current projects are for 2,000 single-family homes and 2,600 apartment units. The maximum amount of commercial space in the project is 5.33 million square feet, although current estimates are closer to 4.1 million square feet of office space. About 300,000 square feet of retail space, most of it neighborhood retail, is also projected in the current plan.

The square footage within each category, Adams said, will be dependent upon the balance between commercial and residential space. In the meantime, the amount of open space and community space has remained fairly constant at 22 percent of the total property.

A draft transportation impact analysis presented to the group last night estimated 76, 000 trips per day in and out of the property’s 13 entrances. That would be at full development. By comparison, the former airport generated 26,000 to 28,000 trips. Transportation estimates put peak-hour traffic at about 6,900 trips in the morning and 8.400 trips in the evening. That’s slightly higher than prior estimates, due to the addition of the Seton campus on the northwest end of the property.

Hinojosa says she can win without Valley leaders

She would focus on economic development, abused children, women's programs

Visiting Austin for a weekend campaign swing, Judge Leticia Hinojosa told a small group of women gathered at El Sol y La Luna Restaurant that she would try—if she can afford it—to maintain a residence here if she is elected to Congress. The candidate said that she, not Congressman Lloyd Doggett, should represent Congressional District 25, the strip of territory leading from East Austin to the Rio Grande. Hinojosa stressed her background as a child of the barrio who worked her way to a position of respect and power in her home county, Hidalgo, as the reason she should represent the district.

Hinojosa did not attack Doggett, but said he should have run in District 10, which he now serves. Under the new plan, District 10 stretches from Northeast Austin to Waller and Washington Counties to the northern suburbs of Houston. It includes parts of Bastrop and Harris Counties and all of Waller, Washington, Lee and Austin Counties, which are estimated to be 66 percent Republican. District 25, on the other hand, is strongly Democratic and more than 63 percent of the voting age population is Hispanic.

Attorney Gloria Leal introduced Hinojosa to the crowd. She said she went to law school with Hinojosa at the University of Texas Law School and the two have been friends ever since then. She echoed one of Senator Gonzalo Barrientos’ themes when he endorsed Hinojosa, saying it is “a brand new district that requires brand new leadership.”

Hinojosa said she wants to concentrate on helping children that have been abused and neglected and on leadership programs for women. “We also need to look at economic development and improving infrastructure and some of those things that traditionally may not be palatable to the most liberal side of the party. But it is something that, in our community, is essential to empower people to earn a living for their children to improve the quality of their lives.”

When she first ran for judge, Hinojosa said, “all the politicians said I would never win. They said a woman would never be elected to the bench . . . I got a lot of support from people,” but not she said, from politicians. “I did not want to feel like I was indebted” to them.

In Fact Daily asked Hinojosa about the impact of endorsements by local leaders in the Valley. She said she did not garner many endorsements in her first race for judge, but still won by 2-1 against a better-known opponent. Hinojosa said she did not believe that Rep. Kino Flores, who announced for the seat and then dropped out of the congressional race before the filing period began, would endorse Doggett. Mayor Billy Leo of La Joya is under a lot of pressure from the veteran Congressman’s supporters, including former Gov. Ann Richards, Hinojosa said. Leo endorsed Hinojosa a few weeks ago, but told the Quorum Report last week that both he and Flores were leaning toward Doggett.

Doggett has piled up a raft of endorsements from local officials in the Valley. He was in Austin this weekend and received a standing ovation at the Democratic Party’s Filing Day Dinner Friday night both before and after his speech. The winner of the March 9 primary will face either Rebecca Armendariz Klein or Regner A.Capener, who are competing for the Republican nomination.

Charles Herring leaves legacy of public service

Charles F. Herring died in Austin on January 15, at age 89.

He was born June 1, 1914, on a small farm in Stampede Valley, McClennan County, Texas. He worked for two years during the Depression raising cotton so he could afford the $20/semester tuition to start at the University of Texas in Austin. He arrived at UT in 1933, with three home made shirts and underwear made from flour sacks, and worked his way through school doing laundry for other students. He graduated from UT Law School in 1938. While in law school, he married Doris Marie Wallace of El Campo. She died in 1979.

After law school, he went to work with Everett Looney, then one of the premier trial lawyers in Texas, later becoming a partner in the firm. In 1941, he was elected County Attorney of Travis County, sharing offices and a secretary with the County Court at Law Judge Charles Betts. In 1942, Herring became General Counsel for the Office of Price Administration, a wartime agency. Then he moved to Washington to work for six months as an administrative assistant to Congressman Lyndon Johnson. Herring lived in Johnson’s home, working seven days a week. At night, he often joined Johnson in his regular meetings with Speaker Sam Rayburn and J. Edgar Hoover.

In 1943, Herring enlisted in the Navy. Being from Stampede Valley and knowing almost nothing about ships or the Navy, when the enlistment officer offered him alternative commissions as either a lieutenant junior grade or an ensign (the lower rank), he mistakenly selected the lower rank as ensign.

He served in the Pacific as a group commander of assault landing craft during several invasions, including Okinawa, Iwo Jima, Leyte Gulf and Lingayen Gulf. In the Lingayen Gulf landing, a Japanese mortar hit squarely in the middle of his craft, destroying the boat and killing all thirty soldiers and crew, except for him. He was knocked into the water, unconscious, but was rescued by another ship.

During the war, Herring’s mother became mortally ill. Johnson learned of the illness, and orchestrated sending his friend a secret message conveying the news. Herring asked for leave to return to see his mother, but his request was denied. He then went AWOL, hitchhiking with sympathetic supply-plane crews across the Pacific. He arrived at the hospital in Waco and saw his mother for the last 30 minutes of her life.

After a complicated return trip to the Pacific, Herring returned to his ship and his captain reassigned him to duty, without discipline. By the end of the war, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Commander, and received three Purple Hearts, a Navy Cross, and a Bronze Star.

After the war, he returned to law practice with Looney & Clark, but in 1948 worked full-time on Lyndon Johnson’s wild and successful U.S. Senate race. Herring ran the Austin headquarters for the campaign, in the old Hancock House at 8th and Lavaca.

In 1948, he began practicing law with Herman Jones in the firm of Jones & Herring. In 1951, President Harry Truman appointed Herring U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas, and he served in that position until 1955. At Johnson’s suggestion, he remained in office even after Eisenhower became President in 1953, leaving him the last Democrat in the nation still serving as U.S. Attorney during that administration, and as a consequence, he received only one-half of the pay that all other U.S. Attorneys received.

After he returned to private practice, Herring established a law firm with Fred Werkenthin. In 1956, Herring was elected to the Texas Senate from the 14th Senatorial District. He hired Margaret Williams to manage his campaign, and she continued working as his most trusted assistant, and close friend, throughout his multiple career changes over the following 47 years.

During his first Session, he joined Senators Henry B. Gonzales and Hubert Hudson in a three-day filibuster against 11 anti-desegregation bills; the filibuster killed all but three of the bills.

Herring served in the Senate for 17 years, and during his tenure chaired every major Senate committee and sponsored a great deal of significant legislation, including adoption of the Uniform Commercial Code, creation of the Texas Water Commission and the Air Control Board, donation of state property for the creation of MoPac Boulevard and overhaul of the Texas Penal Code. When Ben Ramsey resigned as Lieutenant Governor to take an appointment to the Railroad Commission, Herring, who was then President Pro Tempore of the Senate, became acting Lieutenant Governor.

Herring left the Senate in 1973, becoming General Manager of the Lower Colorado Authority. Eight years later he became CEO of First Federal Savings & Loan Association, from which he retired in 1987. He continued practicing law until 1993.

He is survived by three daughters: Carol Herring Weir and husband, Warren, of San Antonio; Ann Herring McDonald and husband, Darryl, of Normangee; Toni Herring, of Austin; and one son, Charles F. (Chuck) Herring, Jr. and wife, Ginny Agnew, of Austin; eight grandchildren; thirteen great-grandchildren; and one great-great grandchild.

Editor's note: In Fact Daily thanks Chuck Herring for sharing the above.

On the stump . . . Former Mayor and Attorney General candidate Kirk Watson revved up the crowd at the Democratic Filing Day Dinner Friday night. Watson’s theme was that the party faithful need to start walking precincts and working on phone banks in order to take back some of their losses to the Republicans. Watson limped to the stage with a walking cast, as a result of a skiing accident . . . Tonight’s meetings. . . Both the Zoning and Platting Commission and the Urban Transportation Commission will meet at 6pm at One Texas Center. The Resource Management Commission will meet at 6:30pm at City Hall. The Neighborhood Plan Committee of the Planning Commission will meet at 5:30pm at One Texas Center. Both the Environmental Board and the Downtown Commission will meet Wednesday night. The City Council will not meet this week . . . SBA offers counseling for entrepreneurs. . . The federal Small Business Administration wants to help start-up and existing small business owners on financing options, business planning and credit criteria. Appointments are available from 10am to 2pm Thursday at the City of Austin’s Small Business Development Program offices, 4100 Ed Bluestein Blvd. Call 974-7800 for more information or to make an appointment.

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