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Bunny Run re-run doesn't change ending

Thursday, January 20, 2005 by

The zoning case for the Gables West Lake will go to the City Council with the original recommendation made earlier this month by the Zoning and Platting Commission. Three Commissioners had requested a reconsideration of the case in order to clarify the motion made by Commissioner Keith Jackson at the previous meeting (see In Fact Daily, Jan 6, 2005). But the matter did not even reach a vote Tuesday night after it became apparent there was not enough support on the commission—six votes—necessary to rescind the previous motion.

In the two weeks since the ZAP worked well past midnight hearing the case, commissioners have been flooded with more calls and e-mails about their decision. "I was surprised my ex-husband did not call me about this; then I remembered that he's deceased," said ZAP Commission Chair Betty Baker, "or someone would have had him call me."

Although commissioners are used to dealing with harsh criticism from passionate citizens, for Baker, some of the comments she received crossed the line. "The integrity of the ZAP Commission has been questioned. As Chair, I cannot allow that charge to go without responding." She reminded the audience that commissioners serve without pay or compensation as a form of public service to the community. "We were not drafted…all of us volunteer for this assignment," she said. "We will continue to act on the items on this agenda. We will make our recommendations based on the facts of the cases and will do so to the best of our ability, collectively and individually."

Commissioner John Philip Donisi moved to rescind the ZAP's previous vote in favor of changing the PUD zoning on part of the site, which would allow for the construction of 323 town homes under the regulations for SF-6 zoning. Commissioner Janis Pinnelli provided the second for the motion to rescind. After questioning staff from the Water and Wastewater Utility about the size and capacity of the line serving the area, along with contingency plans should the line prove to be inadequate, commissioners turned to the intent of Jackson's motion at the previous meeting.

"I felt like after the marathon session we had there was some confusion," said Donisi. "It's very important for us to make sure that our actions are understood in the clear, they're transparent…it's important for us to have faith in our actions. I got an inquiry from staff asking us if we all understood what the motion was. I took that as a signal that if we needed to clarify amongst ourselves, then we certainly needed to have an open discussion to make sure everyone knew what was going on and what the action was."

Jackson's motion, which the commission approved on a vote of 5-4, was essentially a compromise in that it did not grant St. Stephen's school quite all that it had originally requested. Yet it did allow a considerable change, which surrounding residents had opposed. Neighbors told commissioners they believed the school should abide by an agreement they thought had been made when the original PUD zoning was approved.

Under the commission's rules, a motion to rescind requires a two-thirds majority to pass, which in the case of the 9-member ZAP amounts to 6 votes. The most obvious support for Donisi's suggestion came from Commissioner Janice Pinnelli, who provided the second to his motion, and Commissioner Clarke Hammond, who had voted against Jackson's suggestion two weeks ago. But the lack of support from the other members of the commission made it clear to Donisi that his motion would fail. "I can count," he said, before he withdrew the motion. There were only seven commission members present, with Commissioners Melissa Whaley Hawthorne and Vice-Chair Joseph Martinez absent.

The ZAP's lack of action means the item will continue onward to the full City Council with Jackson's SF-6 recommendation attached. Because the ZAP’s vote is a positive recommendation, the zoning change will only need a simple 4-3 majority of the City Council for approval. A negative recommendation would have taken a super-majority of 6 Council votes to approve the zoning change.

Notes from the campaign trail

Dealey kicks off campaign

Saying that it was not important whether a man or a woman occupies the chair, Place 3 candidate Mandy Dealey kicked off her campaign last night for the City Council seat that has belonged to Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman for nearly 12 years. “What’s important is electing a person who has the experience, values and commitment to stand up for Austin. That’s what this election is really about,” she said.

During the rest of the speech, however, she pointed out reasons why Austinites should choose a woman for Place 3. Dealey, Margot Clarke, Jennifer Kim and Gregg Knaupe are vying for Goodman’s seat in what most observers see as the only real contest on the ballot this year.

Dealey detailed her 20 years of involvement in working for non-profit organizations, both as a volunteer and a professional. She highlighted her experience in health care, mental health and leadership development organizations, including her stint as executive director of Leadership Texas. Dealey also sent a not too subtle challenge to anti-abortion groups, which have targeted Planned Parenthood, pointing out that she has been president of the local group’s board of directors and has been appointed to serve on Planned Parenthood’s national board.

She said the Capitol City faces ever-greater challenges, including continued possible conflict with the Texas Legislature. Noting that the city is losing two of its most experienced leaders, Dealey praised both Goodman and Council Member Betty Dunkerley. Dunkerley is running for re-election and seems to be well on her way to a second term. Council Member Daryl Slusher, on the other hand, the other experienced city leader who is stepping down, did not make it into Dealey’s speech.

Of Goodman and Dunkerley, however, she said, “Behind the scenes they do the nitty-gritty work. It may not be glamorous but it has to be done. What they do is what women have done for centuries—well, probably millennia: they clean up men’s messes; they pay attention to details; and they plan for our future. So whether you’re a man or a woman, I think you would be smart to look to these women as models of leadership and follow their examples.” She said she is the candidate with the most time and energy spent promoting Austin’s values and vowed to continue her work as an advocate for the city and its citizens on the City Council.

About 50 friends and supporters came out to Doña Emilia’s Restaurant to cheer Dealey’s announcement.

Mueller advisors look to future

The Robert Mueller Municipal Airport Advisory Commission is in the “hurry up and wait” mode when it comes to the commission’s role in the project’s future.

The advisory commission is in a period of development after the Master Developer Agreement and before much of the actual construction begins at Mueller. In the meantime, the RMMA Advisory Commission is outlining some of the issues it intends to track over the next two years, hammering out what it anticipates will be its work plan.

The commission’s discussion with Project Manager Greg Weaver this week revolved primarily around housing providers on the Mueller project. Weaver and commissioners discussed his one-on-one meetings with potential developers for the project and the recent interest in the property by custom homebuilders.

“To know whether the builder is going to execute the contract right and the design right, you have to wait until the houses are in the ground,” Weaver said. “Anyone can show us pretty pictures and say they’re going to do it. To really be the judge, you have to wait until the product is on the ground.”

So before a homebuilder signs on, Weaver is meeting with each one personally, explaining Catellus’ commitment to building traditional neighborhoods and transit-oriented development. Catellus is not interested in builders that are only interested in a profit but not the vision of Mueller, Weaver said.

Weaver will be bringing back more specifics on the RFP process for the housing stock at Mueller in the next couple of months. That will also include some accommodation for custom builders, who have shown a recent interest in the project.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, Chair Jim Walker and commissioners discussed broad goals for the RMMA Advisory Committee’s work plan. Those included a study of how to maintain a percentage of affordable housing stock, even after the first houses are sold. The group also is interested in long-term drainage and traffic issues for the area. Finally, they would like to ask Capital Metro to appoint a commission member to the study group for the proposed Mueller rail spur, in order to play a more active role in the transit decision.

Long-term, the Advisory Commission will pass the baton to the various stakeholder groups at Mueller, such as homeowner associations and commercial property associations. Commissioners Donna Carter and Rob Carruthers will lead the discussion on the transition from advisory group to self-jurisdiction at Mueller, especially when it comes to areas where the goals may be in conflict with the resident wishes.

Carter said it was a fine line between the ideals set out by the community, the desire to be flexible and the wishes of residents to set their own stamp on Mueller. The actual reality of Mueller may not always mirror the ideals set out in the original vision for it, said Carter, an area that needs to be “hashed out” by the commission.

Commissioners Tracy Atkins and J.P Rodriguez will be leading the discussion on the employment component at Mueller. Walker suggested initiating a conversation with the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce on employment at the site. The eventual goal will be to have 10,000 jobs housed on the Mueller site.

In other business, planner Pam Hefner said the city was close to hiring a project manager for the project, someone whose sole duty would be to oversee construction on the site. The city also is in the process of clearing the site through the state’s environmental regulations and considering plans for a reclamation water plant on the edge of the property. The reclamation plant would serve the neighborhoods surrounding Mueller, as well as some areas on the west side of I-35.

©2005 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved Housing Department honored. . .The city’s Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department has been awarded the National Award of Excellence for Lyons Gardens, a senior housing project. The award is from the National Community Development Association and is one of 16 given for exemplary projects. Lyons Gardens, which is sponsored by Family Eldercare, provides 53 affordable apartments for low-income persons aged 62 and older . . . Mayor returns today. . . Mayor Will Wynn is returning this morning from Washington, D.C., where he attended the U.S. Conference of Mayors. On Tuesday, Wynn addressed the group regarding Austin’s fitness initiative and the Mental Health Task Force. He plans to be in the office upon his return . . . No Council meeting today . . . City Hall has been quiet this week, with a noticeable lack of buzz around Council offices. Things should kick into high gear again next week . . . Keeping Austin spiffy. . . Keep Austin Beautiful has announced the award winners for its 20th annual observation of civic pulchritude. The Austin Revitalization Authority is the winner in the beautification category. The North Central Area Command of the Austin Police Department took the award for community involvement. Habitat Suites Hotel is the winner in the industry leadership category and Paul Robbins, author of the Austin Environmental Directory, will receive the Dennis Hobbs Individual Achievement Award. Popham Elementary School is the winner in the education category. Gina Almon of the North Austin Civic Association will receive an award for litter abatement. The winner in the recycling and waste reduction category is the Austin Freecycle Network. Westwood High School takes the honors in the school or youth achievement category. . . Issues, eggs and parks. . . The Austin Downtown Alliance is planning a program titled Working Together for our Downtown Parks and Trails today as a part of its Issues and Eggs program series. The program begins at 8am in Room 111 at the Southwest Tower at 211 E. 7th St. Speakers will include Ted Siff, director of the Austin Parks Foundation; Paul Wilson, APF board member; Dan Garrison, volunteer director of the Town Lake Trails Foundation; and Jeff Burrus, treasurer of the TLTF. The programs will discuss upcoming events and programs in downtown parks and the Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail, plus information on programs such as “It's My Park! Day” and the “Lady Bird Johnson Adopt-A-Garden.” Call 469-1766 for information. . . . More trees, please . . . City of Austin Sustainability Officer Fred Blood urged members of the Environmental Board last night to consider studying changes to the city's Tree Replacement Ordinance. "We're planting about 3,000 trees a year," said Blood, "but we estimate we're losing about 20,000 trees a year to development. I would encourage the environmental board to work with the Urban Forestry Board and maybe the Resource Management Commission to come up with some ways of strengthening tree protection in the City of Austin."

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