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Mueller advisors wonder if social goals will stand

Tuesday, November 23, 2004 by

Council to consider Master Development Agreement next week

The City Council will take up the Master Development Agreement for the Robert Mueller Airport property next week, but the real question for the citizen advisory committee is how the developer, Catellus Development Corp, intends to live up to Mueller’s broader social goals— which are not committed to writing.

A team of consultants presented the 1,000-page master development agreement between the city and Catellus at a meeting of the Robert Mueller Municipal Airport Plan Implementation Advisory Commission last night. The agreement outlines the commitments of the city and the developer, as well as phasing, timeline and pro forma for the project.

Even at breakneck speed, it took consultants almost 90 minutes to roll out the conceptual vision for Mueller, as well as the broad specifics of the master plan. The 711-acre master plan will require the creation of a local government corporation and a tax-increment reinvestment zone. Development revenues would pay off bond debt. Catellus has promised to have the 41-acre regional retail corner on the ground within two years.

Chair Jim Walker was a watchdog for the social goals of the project, which include a ready stock of affordable housing. Walker said after the meeting that the real test of Mueller is how Catellus can meet those broader social goals. For instance, Walker questioned how Catellus could maintain a ratio of affordable housing that remains one in four houses, regardless of how many residents move into or out of Mueller.

“You’re going to hear the term ‘good faith’ a lot in the next week,” Walker said.

Where it can be put into writing, Catellus is being held to the broad goals of Mueller. The developer has agreed to commit to 30 percent local tenants in the Town Center. Any big-box tenant with more than 100,000-square-feet that also has stores in the Drinking Water Protection Zone (DWPZ) must be in compliance with the standards imposed on DWPZ projects. And green space must be laid out as each of the 13 pieces of property are “taken down” by Catellus for development.

If the Mueller project rolls out over the next decade as projected, the city should see about $55 million in ad valorem and sales tax over the next 20 years. Revenues should begin coming into the city as early as three to five years out. For its part, Catellus is expected to see an estimated profit of $43 million by the time all property is sold.

Almost all of the property will be put on the tax roll, with the exception of the open space, school site and 10 acres that can be set aside for non-profits that want to buy land at market value. Any government that may want a piece of Mueller land would have to receive clearance from the City Council.

The agreement was also designed to minimize risk. The city, for instance, has put a “fire wall” between the project costs and the General Fund. Early in the project, all land sales’ profits will be plowed into infrastructure development. Catellus also will carry $25 million in up front credit to assume the initial financial risks of the project.

Catellus has agreed to demolish existing infrastructure and construct on-site infrastructure using city-issued bonds. The city will provide infrastructure to the site. Catellus also has agreed to reuse the bow-trussed hangar and control tower on the site, ensure compliance with design guidelines and provide on-site management.

Governance will be maintained through a master covenant for the overall property that will be administered by a community association. All land buyers would be bound to the covenant and design guidelines. A supplemental covenant will apply to commercial property, which will be overseen by a separate association and separate rules. An architectural control committee will make sure design guidelines are followed.

Asked whether variances would be allowed, Sue Edwards, director of Redevelopment Services, said the city’s policy would be to “just say no.” Edwards said the city and Catellus were committed to holding the line on development standards that have been set by the covenants.

For the two-dozen members of the audience, the questions were fairly basic. One audience member wanted to make sure a potential site for co-housing was still available. Another questioned whether the Town Center would have enough parking. At full development, Catellus will be required to build a parking garage. And Pat Ford, who heads the real estate division for Travis County, asked whether the plan could be amended if the county showed an interest in a site at Mueller. Such a plan would require the master development agreement be taken back to the city and Catellus.

Save Barton Creek honors Goodman, Slusher

Members of the Save Barton Creek Association gathered at the Zilker Club House Monday night to celebrate the organization's 25th anniversary and to honor two elected officials who have helped the group with its efforts to protect water quality in Central Texas. Austin City Council Member Daryl Slusher was honored with the " Public Servant Conservation Leadership Award," while Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman received the " Through Thick and Thin Conservation Award.”

"I want to tell you how valuable you are and you'll be even more valuable in the years go come," Goodman told the environmental leaders and activists. "You always have the science. You have the activism. You go beyond the rhetoric and the sound bites…so I have always relied on SBCA, and hopefully Council members to come will rely on SBCA." She praised the group for its scientific research and reliable information, along with its perseverance. "I thank you for always being there with us and for us….don't go away, because the Council members that come next will need you even more."

Slusher also praised the group's perseverance while offering some guidance to help SBCA achieve its goals. "It's going to be very important that the environmental movement maintain the alliance with the minority communities in this city," he said. "It's the right thing to do. We have a lot of common interests, and that's when we win elections." Slusher pointed to the mid-1980's as a period when that alliance split. "That's when we started losing elections…so we've got to keep it together. Not only will we win elections, I think Austin will be a better place because of it."

Mayor Will Wynn presented the awards to the two long-time environmental supporters. "I really want to thank them for the lessons that they've taught me about civility, about mutual respect, about human nature, and about how we try to make decisions as a big, diverse, 21st century urban American city," he said. Wynn also credited them with helping to ingrain a sense of consciousness about environmental matters into the city's political process. "We, as a city, have institutionalized environmental protection in this town. I promise you, every single decision is made in the context of…an environmental standpoint. That wasn't always the case. It clearly has been the case the last four and a half years that I've been there…and it really is, disproportionately, because of the service of Jackie Goodman and Daryl Slusher."

SBCA also recognized several other individuals and organizations for their outstanding efforts over the past year including Steve Beers, Brandi Clark, Austin Energy, and the Regional Water Quality Planning Process. SBCA founding member Wayne Gronquist was honored with a Lifetime Achievement award. Gronquist recounted the early efforts of SBCA, including the work of the Zilker Park Posse. "We got the Barton Creek Watershed adopted. When we first organized, there was no water quality ordinance in Texas…and there was none in the City of Austin. Because of the education effort we put into this, we got the Council to issue a moratorium on all development in the watershed until a task force could come up with a water quality ordinance to protect Barton Creek and the springs," he said. "The result was a watershed ordinance that was considered the strongest such ordinance in the country at the time…we really made a watershed change in the environment in 1979-80."

ZAP would allow more condos on Kinney Avenue

Neighborhoods presented with unwanted changes often declare “Not in my Back Yard!” But when it comes to high-density urban housing, the battle cry may become “We were here first.”

That was the refrain from some members of the Zilker Neighborhood Association last week before the Zoning and Platting Commission voted 7-2 to approve a change at 1209 Kinney Ave. from single-family (SF3) to multi-family (MF-3). Consultant Jim Bennett said his clients, Shirley and Volma Overton, plan a 13-unit condominium complex on the one-acre site in the close-in neighborhood.

Several current residents of the Kinney Avenue neighborhood spoke to the commission, expressing concerns about the addition of more condos worsening an already bad traffic problem, and forcing more cars to park on a street that is already clogged.

Mary Kay Barber, a resident of the Ashton Condos at 1302 Kinney Ave, said many area residents are concerned. “Most of the condos in our complex are owner occupied,” she said. “There is a strong desire to maintain the neighborhood.”

Another Ashton resident, Laura Law, was concerned with the look of the new project. “We want them to keep it in the style of the neighborhood,” she said.

But in discussing the case, Chair Betty Baker remarked that the people who already live in the neighborhood—many of whom reside in condominiums—seemed to not trust that newcomers would embrace the neighborhood as much as they do.

“I think they will find that the new owners will care about the neighborhood just as much as they do,” Baker said.

Bobby Rigney, co-chair of the Zilker Neighborhood Association zoning committee, said though the group initially voted to oppose the change, they were persuaded to revise their position when the condo developer was willing to make significant changes as requested by the group.

“We appreciate the developer meeting with us and listening to the neighborhood’s concerns,” he said. “We were happy that he made significant movement towards the changes we were requesting.”

More candidates gearing up to run . . . Even though they may be clueless, the City Clerk takes candidates’ appointments of campaign treasurer from anyone who can fill out the form. So, the fact that a candidate named Stephen “Twig” Meeks filed to run for “Council Seat 5”—which is not set for election next spring–did not prevent the clerk from taking the form. Place 5 is currently held by Brewster McCracken, one of three Council Members who may be the subject of a recall election next May. But even if that is the case, no one can run for that seat until it is vacant. Meeks did not share a phone number with the clerk and did not respond to an email . . . James M. Paine, a 51-year-old house painter, said he would likely be running for Place 1 next year. He said he has no experience in city government but has written a considerable number of letters to governmental officials and to various editors. His biggest concern is taxes. He said, “I’m just a regular blue-collar worker, concerned that the government uses their resources as carefully as I do.” Both Paine and Meeks will serve as their own campaign treasurers. . . Tonight . . . The Planning Commission will meet at 6pm in Room 325 of One Texas Center . . . The Parks and Recreation Board will be making a recommendation on a proposed ordinance amendment regulating bow fishing on Town Lake. The meeting begins at 6:30pm in the board room of the Parks and Recreation Department, 200 South Lamar Blvd. The board’s navigation committee will meet at 5:45pm in the same room . . . The Community Development Commission’s subcommittee on the East Austin Community Preservation & Revitalization Zone is set to meet at 5:30pm at the Street-Jones Building, 1000 East 11th Street, Room 400A . . . Flying for the holidays?. . . Austin-Bergstrom International Airport officials have some advice for those who plan to travel during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Carry your packages unwrapped—or security guards may unwrap them . . . Austin Apartment Association’s proud of Thanksgiving Food Drive. . . Touting its most successful donation campaign in association history, the Austin Apartment Association Thanksgiving Food Drive committee raised $30,000 to give 1,000 Austin families a traditional Thanksgiving meal plus one week’s worth of food this year. This is especially good news at a time when many charitable organizations are experiencing a loss of funds and less generous giving. Today is delivery day for the AAA Community Service committee, which plans to begin loading delivery trucks with food packs at 9am at the Albertson’s at I-35 and Stassney Lane. The trucks will then deliver the food to various apartment communities and agencies throughout Austin during the day…. Until we meet again. . . The editor has developed a sinus infection and our office has been flooded again. In Fact Daily will likely not be published again until next Monday. Have a nice, safe weekend.

Copyright 2004 In Fact Daily

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