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Transit-oriented zoning undergoes changes

Wednesday, January 12, 2005 by

Planner George Adams unveiled a revised Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) ordinance at last night’s Planning Commission meeting, incorporating comments from three commissions and various stakeholder groups, and tossing out the current affordable housing guidelines in favor of case-by-case recommendations.

Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Department Director Alice Glasco, who sat in the audience at last night’s meeting, said the changes were not wholesale, but simply adjustments to provide more latitude to develop successful affordable housing options for each of the seven station area plans.

City planners have met with the Design, Zoning and Platting and Planning commissions, as well as a variety of stakeholder groups. The proposed changes are the result of suggestions (see sidebar below) the staff heard at those meetings.

When Adams presented the ordinance to the Design Commission on Monday night, commissioners expressed some concern about the maximum heights being defined in the ordinance and expressed support for directing the development toward more density. Commissioner Joan Hyde wanted planning for bikeways and greenbelts incorporated into the process.

On Tuesday evening, a Zoning and Platting Commission subcommittee headed by Vice Chair Joseph Martinez met to discuss the ordinance and took testimony. Tomas Pantin, who owns property in the Saltillo area, expressed the kind of fears created by the ordinance. As Pantin told both ZAP and the Planning Commission he has heard for 26 years that the economy on the East Side was “getting better.”

“They talk about a temporary overlay, but that’s just sugar-coating for a very dramatic change that happens immediately,” Pantin said of a change he believes would come with real expenses. “These building requirements make these buildings commercially difficult to build. And we’re banking on a future boom that we still don’t know will happen.”

The Planning Commission held the first of two hearings on the TOD ordinance. Most of the testimony centered on localized problems around particular stations. Owners wanted to be assured they would still maintain zoning flexibility on their property.

The ZAP will take up the TOD ordinance again next week. The Planning Commission left the hearing open for another couple of weeks to take more testimony. The Design Commission is drafting a letter of support to send to the City Council next week.

Proposed TOD ordinance changes

Daugherty disdainful of Envision Central Texas

Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty parted ways with other members of the Commissioners’ Court yesterday when the time came to put out more money for Envision Central Texas.

Daugherty looks at Envision Central Texas with a skeptic’s eye. The commissioner said he didn’t want to move forward with funding for the third year of the regional “visioning” process without a clear set of deliverables and an idea of just what the process will produce for Travis County. Envision Central Texas describes itself as a nonprofit organization that led the public development of a regional vision to address the growth of Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties.

“I don’t know that we have to take it as gospel that this enterprise is going to go on forever, or that we need to be part of it,” Daugherty said. “I would challenge anyone here to give me five things we have gotten from the $100,000 we’ve spent on Envision Central Texas in the last two years. I think that those would be difficult to come by.”

The first two rounds of funding, a total of $100,000, came out of funds Capital Metro sent to Travis County as part of the Build Greater Austin program. The third round of funding, a proposed $25,000, was expected to come out of the county’s budget. The total was earmarked and approved during the county budget process late last year.

“I am disturbed by the fact that I don’t think we have objective measurable performance measures,” Daugherty said. “I don’t know what we’re going to get out of our $25,000. I don’t think that we’re going to get very much. I may be surprised at the end of the year.”

County Judge Sam Biscoe was much more charitable about the Envision Central Texas efforts. Biscoe told his colleagues that last week’s presentation by the new executive director made it evident that the county needed to be more engaged in the process.

The best kind of contribution that Travis County could make would be participation in the planning process, whether it’s clean air or transportation or affordable housing.

Commissioner Karen Sonleitner said she had no problem with the concept that the county needed to make some contribution to have a seat at the table. Sometimes the deliverable on the project is simply the ability to work together with others.

“They don’t necessarily have to be performance-based contracts,” Sonleitner said. “I don’t say to myself, ‘What deliverables did I get out of my membership in the Texas Association of Counties. Did I get my money’s worth?’ Sometimes it’s just being part of the group effort so that we can act as one voice.”

Biscoe moved for a $25,000 contribution to Envision Central Texas this year, with the intention of outlining a specific, stronger role in the planning process in the coming months. Envision Central Texas also is seeking private donations for ongoing operations.

Only Daugherty voted against the funding.

©2005 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved

Lowe’s, Sunset Valley, SOS conferring . . . Attorneys for the parties involved in litigation over the unbuilt Lowe’s store in Sunset Valley told a judge on Monday that they were close to reaching a settlement and asked that the matter be postponed. The matter had already been put off to allow the parties time to reach an agreement, but a judge never tells litigants to give up on settlement efforts . . . Endorsement dance starts early . . . Place 1 candidate Lee Leffingwell pulled off a coup yesterday, with the announcement that he has won endorsements from both the Austin Police Association and the Austin-Travis County EMS Employee Association. Those groups also endorsed incumbent Place 4 Council Member Betty Dunkerley, who has no serious opponent at this time. Leffingwell is the son of an Austin firefighter and deputy sheriff, certainly a factor in his favor. APA President Mike Sheffield cited Leffingwell’s record as chair of the E nvironmental Board, which he said, “demonstrated his ability to build consensus.” EMS employee President Randy Vickery said Leffingwell “has already demonstrated a genuine commitment to learn all he can about the challenges that our technicians face in the field so that he can help us overcome them.” . . . Dunkerley won the endorsement of both groups during her first campaign three years ago. “Betty has been an important friend to public safety for a very long time,” said Sheffield, “The support she has shown for law enforcement from the Council dais is reflective of a whole career spent helping build strong public safety networks, and we’re proud to endorse her wholeheartedly.” . . . Place 3 endorsements TBA. . .Sheffield said the APA would conduct interviews of Mandy Dealey, Margot Clarke, Jennifer Kim and Gregg Knaupe on Feb. 18 . . . Ecumenical coalition . . . Mobile Loaves & Fishes will host “ MLF Multiplies,” an event to celebrate the organization’s first ecumenical coalition of churches to sponsor a catering truck to serve homeless and working poor people. The public event is set for 11am Friday at First United Methodist Church, 1201 Lavaca St.The catering trucks used by Mobile Loaves & Fishes to feed homeless and working poor people cost approximately $45,000 after customization is complete. MLF trucks travel approximately 5,000 miles per year, making the effective life of a truck 15 years or more. Once in full operation, trucks serve more than 25,000 meals annually, and are staffed by a volunteer army of more than 500 people. The new coalition of churches is comprised of First United Methodist Church, St. Martin’s Lutheran Church and First Baptist Church. . . . A new face for CAMPO . . . Williamson County Precinct 4 Commissioner Frankie Limmer will join the Capitol Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Board as a new member. Limmer was appointed yesterday by fellow commissioners after Precinct 2 Commissioner Greg Boatright asked to be relieved as the Commissioner’s Court representative after eight years on the job . . . Today’s events . . . The Telecommunications Commission will meet at 7:30pm at the new City Hall in room 1101, while the Solid Waste Advisory Commission is scheduled to meet at 6:30pm at Waller Creek Center. The Neighborhood Planning Committee of the Planning Commission will meet in Room 500 of One Texas Center at 3:30pm . . . The Lower Colorado River Authority is holding a celebration of the Dam Modernization Project from 1-2:30pm at the LCRA general office complex, which is well known to City Council regulars . . . Honoring James Farmer . . . Mayor Will Wynn and Governor Rick Perry have proclaimed today James Farmer Day in honor of the late civil rights leader. Farmer was born in Marshall 85 years ago today. He grew up in Marshall and in Austin. The Mayor will make his proclamation at 3pm on the Town Lake side of City Hall Plaza.

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