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LCRA to vote on Hamilton Pool Road water today

Wednesday, May 19, 2004 by

Regional group asks board to respect planning process

The Board of Directors of the Lower Colorado River Authority will consider today whether to authorize extension of a water line to landowners along Hamilton Pool Road. The Core Committee of the Regional Water Quality Planning Project has sent a letter to the board, which asks, “As LCRA makes its own decisions regarding the provision of its services to new development, we request that LCRA respect the regional water quality planning process currently underway.”

Participants in the planning process for the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer include Hays and Travis Counties, the cities of Austin, Bee Caves, Buda, Dripping Springs, Kyle, Rollingwood and Sunset Valley. The Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District and the Hays-Trinity Groundwater Conservation District are also participating. The Core Committee includes a representative from each entity.

Although the Core Committee rejected a motion that would have specifically asked the agency to wait until the plan was completed, last week they voted unanimously in favor of telling the LCRA what progress they have made in formulating the regional plan. According to the timeline presented in the letter, the group will have established “ground water protection strategies” by November 1. The letter says a final report and model ordinances for protecting water quality would be completed by Feb. 1, 2005. The LCRA has pledged $100,000 to facilitate the planning process and the Texas Water Development Board has granted the project an additional $128,000.

In his letter to the LCRA board, planning project Executive Director Terry Tull expresses “deep appreciation to the LCRA, and in particular to its General Manager Joe Beal, for the support and encouragement you have provided to us.” The project has hired Naismith Engineering, Inc. to provide expertise in water quality protection.

The LCRA has held two public hearings on the Hamilton Pool Road line. At a meeting on May 6, roughly equal numbers of area residents supporting and opposing the water line attended the meeting. Members of the Hamilton Pool Scenic Corridor Coalition, which formed when the group learned about the possibility of the water line’s imminent arrival, have said they want the LCRA to wait for the planning process to be completed before signing an agreement with area landowners.

The landowners, led by Rebecca Hudson, have said they would develop under standards approved by the US Fish & Wildlife Service. However, their plans include at least 1,300 new homes over the environmentally sensitive Barton Springs zone of the Edwards Aquifer.

The board of directors of the Save Barton Creek Association (SBCA) approved a resolution this week asking the LCRA board not authorize the general manager to negotiate and execute agreements related to extension of the water line. In addition, the SBCA has urged the LCRA not to approve any additional waterlines in the aquifer region until the Regional Water Quality Planning Project is complete. The environmental group has suggested that the LCRA enter into a mediation process with representatives of both groups of Hamilton Pool Road landowners.

Consideration of the water line is scheduled for 10am today. The board is meeting at Canyon of the Eagles Natural Science Center near Burnet.

Council, commissioners work on One Stop rules

Elimination of double fees first order of business

As much pain as joint subdivision platting in Austin’s extra-territorial jurisdiction has brought to local officials over the last two years, it has also made real progress. When pushed by outside forces, city and county officials now tend to stand together.

The City of Austin and Travis County being so far apart on subdivision plat reviews was the main reason for the passage of House Bills 1445 and 1204. The two bills forced the two governments to create a single code and the One Stop Shop. For all intents and purposes, the two sides now operate as one when reviewing subdivision plats in the ETJ.

The city and county, however, continue to negotiate finer points in the joint agreement, months after other cities and counties around the state have signed off on their own arrangements. Those issues so easily resolved in other locales have provided hours of discussion between the city, county and stakeholders.

Yesterday’s thorny issue between city and county leaders was duplicative fees for the plat review process. One of the main objections by developers to the One Stop Shop is a double fee for a single review. County Judge Sam Biscoe and Commissioner Gerald Daugherty represented the county at the meeting. Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman and Council Member Daryl Slusher represented the city. Department officials and a small audience from the development community were also in attendance.

Some developers would like to see the city out of the review process altogether. Many have testified that they consider the City Code more onerous and burdensome than the county requirements. In the past, the city and county might have come to the same conclusion, carving out territory based on final maintenance. But on the way to the table city and county leaders actually bought into the “one stop” review process. They agreed that the review process should be simplified. And they agreed they would stick together on any issues.

Goodman’s suggestion, which will be fleshed out by staff over the next week, is to set aside demarcation issues—where someone’s responsibility begins and ends—and start talking about development as a regional approach. Goodman said it was time to get rid of some of the “territorial imperative” in the process.

The automatic response to a law imposed on a jurisdiction is often a siege mentality, Goodman said. The city and county need to take a step back, take a deep breath and recognize that the two sides are now, in essence, a regional entity.

The county has spoken of dividing the area into near-term annexation areas (the city’s responsibility) and non-near-term annexation areas (the county’s responsibility). Goodman said geographically fair boundaries are still on the table, given that some annexations for the city are immediate and others are multi-year agreements.

City Environmental Officer Pat Murphy said the regional proposal hinges on the first amendment to the interlocal agreement. That amendment says that the city and county are committed to the elimination of duplicative fees. It does not say that the city and county will eliminate review by both entities, as long as it occurs under a single office with one voice and one opinion on a subdivision plat.

City leaders could choose to reduce the review to the minimum number of reviewers, or they can choose to defer to one staff member or the other, Murphy said. Under a regional approach, the two sides would agree that it might take more than one planner to review the subdivision plat, yet agree to charge the developer for only one planner.

It’s too early in the process to say what this new approach might cost the city or the county, but both sides reiterated their commitment to the One Stop Shop.

Rumor mill works overtime on Mueller's future

No promises made to Asian-American Cultural Center for specific site

The city has not agreed to offer acreage to the Asian-American Cultural Center on the site of the former Mueller Municipal Airport, despite the spate of rumors making the rounds after members of the Asian-American community presented City Manager Toby Futrell with a vision for an expanded center last weekend. The center, currently located on Jollyville Road in Northwest Austin, serves the area’s estimated 40,000 Asians with a tea room, early childhood education and space for a variety of classes.

At last night’s Robert Mueller Municipal Airport Advisory Implementation Commission, Chair Jim Walker said he was unaware of any community group that had an agreement with the city for any amount of acreage prior to the signing of the Master Development Agreement. Greg Weaver of CatellusDevelopment echoed those comments.

City Public Information Officer Kristin Vassallo told In Fact Daily that Futrell was at a meeting on Saturday night where the Asian-American community presented their vision and plans for a cultural center. Vassallo also confirmed that Mueller was the group’s preferred site. She said the city is working with the group on a site location, although no location has yet been chosen.

Walker said he had no problem with a civic group located on the Mueller site. He was concerned, however, that agreements with such groups be signed only after the Master Developer Agreement between the city and Catellus is finalized. He also raised concerns that pieces of property not be “cherry picked” from the existing zoning plan, which carefully outlines the role and purpose of each parcel of land.

The city has already made one exception to that with Seton Healthcare Network's purchase of land for a new Children’s Hospital. Walker points out that the Seton deal was openly discussed with all parties involved before the sale of the land was completed.

Rumors always have abounded about this or that civic group relocating to the Mueller site, Walker said. At one time or another, any number of civic or community groups have been suggested as well suited for Mueller.

Catellus and the city had been scheduled to sign a Master Developer Agreement by the end of May. That deadline has been extended to this fall. Zoning plans for the 700-acre Mueller site are scheduled for a hearing at the Planning Commission on May 25. The joint committee of Planning Commission and RMMA commission members will meet this morning to talk about zoning proposals.

Today’s meetings . . . The Joint Committee of the Planning Commission and the Robert Mueller Municipal Airport Plan Implementation Advisory Commission are scheduled to meet at 8:30am on the 13th Floor of One Texas Center. Three members of each commission will gather to talk about zoning at the former airport. That makes three days of Mueller meeitings in a row for RMMA Commission Chair Jim Walker, although Monday’s meeting with Council Member Brewster McCracken on design standards was not an official commission function ….The Downtown Commission will meet at 5:30pm tonight at Waller Creek Center and the Environmental Board is scheduled for 6pm in Room 325 of One Texas Center . . . Capital Metro’s Board of Directors will hold a work session beginning at noon . . . Local deputies take prize . . . Each year a contest is held in Washington D.C. among the Honor Guards from law enforcement agencies across the United States at the National Law Enforcement Memorial. This year a team from the Travis County Sheriff's Office went to the competition and placed fourth in nation. The Travis County group was the only team from Texas to compete this year. . . New chamber group announced . . . Anthony Brown, formerly with the Capital City African-American Chamber of Commerce has announced formation of a new group called the Black Chamber of Commerce of Central Texas. . . SW Marketplace zoning postponed . . . The developer requested at last night’s meeting that the Zoning and Platting Commission postpone consideration of a change for Southwest Marketplace at 4515 W. William Cannon near Circle C. The matter will come back to the commission on June 15 . . . The ZAP will likely cancel a meeting previously scheduled for July 6. A majority of those present at last night’s meeting said they would not be able to attend . . . The other side of the story. . . Don Martin of Martin & Salinas Public Affairs took exception to remarks made at the Urban Transportation Commission about the cost of future toll roads. Martin wrote to In Fact Daily, “the toll plan calls for $2.2 billion in road construction, of which only $405 million will be from issuing road bonds to be paid back from the toll revenues. A full $1.6 billion of the amount is from funds TxDOT would allocate to the Austin area and which is available only if we act this year to adopt a toll plan. Without the toll plan, most if not all of the $1.6 billion goes away (because the funds are tied specifically to the proposed Austin toll projects). TxDOT is asking all communities to look at toll roads—including tolling existing lanes — as a solution to the transportation funding crisis. There simply is not enough money through the gas tax to both maintain existing roads and build new roads or add capacity. Every community is Texas is going to have to look for their own local solutions—most of which will be through tolls.” Martin’s firm is a consultant to the Central Texas RMA.

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