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Planning Commission OKs Crestview/Wooten plan

Friday, February 20, 2004 by

Company promises to maintain Optimist Park

The Crestview/Wooten Neighborhood Plan is on its way to the City Council after winning the endorsement of the Planning Commission. Residents want the plan to help preserve single-family housing in the area bounded by Research Blvd, Anderson Lane and Burnet Road, while allowing a moderate increase in density through the gradual addition of new apartments. Residents also placed a high priority on preserving parkland at the edge of land owned by Huntsman Petrochemical. That land, known as Optimist Park, is the site of several baseball fields used by youth recreation leagues.

The Crestview and Wooten neighborhoods, while relatively close to the city’s core, have not experienced the dramatic population growth and subsequent development pressure as other neighborhoods such as Hyde Park or North University. The Crestview neighborhood actually experienced a slight population drop between 1990 and 2000. Both neighborhoods have a relatively small number of residents between the ages of 18 and 24, and both have a slightly higher percentage of owner-occupied homes than other Central city neighborhoods. Many of the homes date back to the early 1960s.

In order to preserve the character of owner-occupied, single-family homes, residents would like future commercial development to concentrate along Lamar Blvd. and the area near Burnet and US 183. Chip Harris with the Crestview Neighborhood Association told commissioners that their survey showed a willingness to accept new apartment construction, as long new apartments were phased in gradually in targeted areas. “The neighborhood residents would accept growth over the next 20 years totaling a 30-percent increase in density, growth consistent with the recommendations from Envision Central Texas,” he said, “resulting in another 700 apartments in the Crestview Neighborhood.” That could be done, he suggested, by targeting dilapidated or vacant structures for redevelopment into quality multi-family housing.

The neighborhood survey also showed that residents had a fondness for the Crestview Shopping Center, also known as the “Minimax.” The shopping center dates back to the late 1940s and is eligible for historic landmark status. Residents want to preserve the shopping center as is, but are concerned that the existing zoning of CS on the site would allow it to be redeveloped for more intense uses. The owners of some other commercial properties throughout the neighborhood planning area are concerned about proposals to change the zoning on their lots, but the commission did not recommend any changes to those proposed rezonings in its final vote.

Several dozen residents turned out at the Planning Commission hearing on the neighborhood plan. Their primary concern was the future of land owned by Huntsman Petrochemical. The company allows the use of just over 17 acres as Optimist Park, which contains several baseball fields and a football field. The Neighborhood Plan calls for a rezoning of the site to LI-PDA. The PDA will allow clustering of residential and commercial development on a portion of the site. The model for the future development on that tract, said Scott Whiteman of the Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Department, would be The Domain in Northwest Austin. Other portions of the site would be reserved for town homes built under SF-6 standards.

A representative of Huntsman Petrochemical told commissioners the company was committed to preserving the park, but wanted flexibility for other development on the site. “We’re very proud of the fact that Huntsman has continued their relationship with the Optimist Club and voluntarily agreed to preserve the 17. 5 acres that’s presently used for five baseball fields and a football field,” said Greg Strmiska with the firm Bury+Parners. The neighborhood plan would allow some town homes to be built on the site under SF-6 standards, and to do that the company might need to reconfigure some of the park and open space.

Neighbors and members of the Optimist Club asked the commission for assurances that the ball fields would be preserved. Clayton Copeland, a long-time umpire of baseball games for the Optimist Club, stressed the importance that the baseball leagues play in the lives of young people. “Bear in mind that there are intangibles at hand here, not just tangible things in the commission’s consideration,” he said. Jim Brown, a member of the Optimist Club of North Austin, also told commissioners that the ball fields were a critical component of the group’s mission to help young people. “We serve an area that can’t be served anywhere else,” he said. “If we close this program, we have to be concerned with what we’re going to do for 600 to 700 kiddos and their mental and physical growth in a year’s time.”

The commission approved the neighborhood plan and the associated rezonings on a vote of 6-0. Commissioner Dave Sullivan pointed out that the plan would provide a long-term assurance that parkland would be preserved on the Huntsman site, even if it is in a different configuration than the one that currently exists. The company is also agreeing to limit the amount of the site available for industrial uses.

“I’d like to commend the Huntsman company for coming to the table with a very positive attitude and making some voluntary significant changes to the future development potential for that property,” said Commissioner Maggie Armstrong.

Construction for ACWP should start this spring

Streamlined process makes clean water plan move faster

Construction on the Austin Clean Water Project (ACWP) improvements should be ready to begin this spring, a Water and Wastewater Utility official told the Environmental Board this week.

Austin is under an administrative order from the Environmental Protection Agency to address back flow issues in the wastewater collection system by September 2007, or face penalties as high as $27,500 per day. Construction on projects in the first of three basins should begin this spring, said Reynaldo Cantu.

Construction in the three basins— Crosstown, Onion and Govalle—has been staggered for 2005, 2006 and 2007. EPA, however, recently granted an extension to complete all three basins by 2007. That relief will give the city more latitude to address traffic concerns.

The Crosstown Basin, across the center of the city, has proven to be the biggest challenge. An initial analysis of the basin identified 33 individual construction projects. To date, one special project has been completed. Eighteen permit applications are under review. Seven ACWP permits have been completed, paving the way for construction.

A streamlined process has allowed a total of 16 of 44 variances to be approved. The others are still under consideration. The streamlined process has been so successful that it provided the city with a model to streamline other permits for the city, Cantu said.

Cantu outlined the variances required for the projects in the three basins. Many of those variances relate to 12-foot pathways to wastewater lines within the Critical Water Quality Zone. At least four of these pathways have been identified in the CWQZ. The utility has gotten variances for those paths to the Shoal and Little Walnut tunnels. A pathway in Lower Hancock is still waiting for variance approval, Cantu told the commission.

The seven projects that have received construction permits in the Crosstown Basin required some type of variances. Four of those variances received variances for work within the 150-foot buffer zone of a critical environmental feature. Two of the seven projects have received a variance for construction of an access road to the wastewater line. Many of those projects are nearing the bid phase for construction, Cantu said.

The Govalle basin – south of the Crosstown basin – is still under analysis. To date, 17 construction projects have been identified to address wastewater backflow. Two projects, which did not require variances, have reached substantial completion, Cantu said. Cantu said eight variances have been granted so far, although no variances will be released until designs on the various projects are complete.

South of that, analysis on the Onion Creek Basin is complete. This will be the easiest basin for the city because it is the newest and the material is the most up-to-date, Cantu said. To date, four individual projects have been identified. Most are beginning the design phase. So far, the utility has not requested any variances for those projects.

The Environmental Board hears updates on the Austin Clean Water Project on a semi-annual basis. The next semi-annual update will be in August.

Race turning ugly . . . The race for the Democratic nomination for the 200th District Court bench took a downhill turn this week as a glossy advertisement put out by the Jan Soifer Campaign hit mailboxes. The flyer proclaims that one of Soifer’s opponents in the race, Gisela Triana, “supported Republican Clayton Williams . . . (she) not only voted in the 1990 Republican primary, she also gave a campaign contribution to Ann Richard’ s opponent Clayton Williams.” Triana, who has made numerous speeches in which she revealed her Republican roots, said she attended a reception for Williams with a friend. The entry price was $10, which was her total contribution to Williams and was made prior to the primary. She added that she voted for Tom Luce in that primary. That was the last Republican primary she participated in, Triana said, and marked her awakening to the fact that she, unlike the rest of her family, was really a Democrat. Triana said she voted for Richards in the general election. Soifer’s involvement on behalf of Republicans in the 2001 redistricting battle is detailed on the web site, http://www.janscrewedthedemocrats.com. As pointed out in the Austin Chronicle on Dec. 4, Soifer worked for Locke Liddell & Sapp. She and Andy Taylor represented Gov. Rick Perry and other Republicans in a number of lawsuits challenging redistricting of the Texas House and Senate . . . Democratic Women meet. . . The Texas Democratic Women will hold their annual convention today through Sunday at the Radisson Hotel. The theme of the convention is “Getting Down to Business.” Organizers hope to energize Democrats joining them for the upcoming election cycle. Keynote speaker Charles Soechting, chair of the Texas Democratic Party, speaking during the opening session Saturday morning, will share his vision of the future for the Texas Democratic Party and the role Texas democratic women will have in shaping that future. Cecile Richards, executive director of America Votes, will speak at the Saturday evening dinner. For registration information, go to www.TDW.org or call Kellie Bailey at 479-1152 . . . More for local Democrats. . . Jeff Jack, president of South Austin Democrats is looking for 20 volunteers to do block walking Saturday afternoon for Congressman Lloyd Doggett, who received the most votes of support of any of the SAD endorsed candidates. Jack is hoping to turn out at least 20 volunteers Saturday afternoon . . . Precinct 1 race . . . The Ron Davis Re-election Campaign for County Commissioner of Precinct 1 will be having a party Sunday from 3-5pm at the Davis headquarters, 1224 East 12th street . . . Citrus saved to feed the hungry . . . An 18-wheeler carrying 20,000 pounds of grapefruit will unload at the Oak Hill United Methodist Church at 7am Saturday. Two hours later, volunteers from the church will begin filling sacks with the fruit for distribution to local food banks around 9am. The church worked with the Society of St. Andrew, which collected the fruit and arranged for its transport from the Valley to Oak Hill. Area food banks benefiting from the fruit drop include Capital Area and West Rural food banks, Hill Country Community Ministries and area churches. For more information, page Jim Halbrook at 802-0588, or David Matustik, 802-9070.

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