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Gated community moves forward

Tuesday, February 1, 2005 by

SMART Housing condo project needs to compete

Developers of a SMART Housing condominium project in southeast Austin are one step closer to securing the zoning they need to build 300 units on Metcalfe Road and Wickshire Lane. The last hurdle will be determining if the developers will be allowed to build a gated community, or whether they will be required to comply with the Planning Commission's recommendation that gates limiting automobile access be prohibited on the property.

At last week's meeting, the Council approved SF-6-CO zoning on second reading for the project, now called Shire's Court, without that prohibition on gated access. "It became apparent that an important thing for home ownership in this area is to have some sort of controlled access, and that we need to have the flexibility to do it," said attorney Richard Suttle, explaining the desire of the property owners to go against the Planning Commission's recommendation. "I can state on the record that the developer does not want to do it, but he can't go into it with the restriction if he finds that it puts him at a disadvantage…or he absolutely cannot compete or thrive within the neighborhood." The gated access for automobiles, he said, was a security step that had been taken by several multi-family developments in the vicinity, including one directly across the street.

Suttle also offered crime statistics taken from the Austin Police Department web site showing a higher-than-average property crime rate for the surrounding neighborhood in the 78741 ZIP code. "We don't want to go in with one arm tied behind our back," he concluded.

Council Member Danny Thomas, a former police officer, concurred with Suttle that the gated access could offer some additional security. "I would be willing to remove that restriction…because I wouldn't want to hinder what they're trying to do," he said, citing the desire for increased home ownership in the area. "To not let them have that privilege just in case they needed it, I think, would be unjust."

Council Member Brewster McCracken also praised the goals of the SMART Housing condo project, but said he was not convinced that gating was necessary. "It's generally not very good urban planning to create gated communities in neighborhoods," he said. "I don't know that I have enough information to know whether we should do something we've never done before in this city, something not generally good urban policy."

After hearing from the city staff that there was no official policy against putting gates on SMART Housing developments, Thomas moved to approve the zoning change on second reading only and to lift the restriction imposed by the Planning Commission. That measure passed on a vote of 6-0, with Council Member Betty Dunkerley absent from the meeting due to illness. McCracken asked for the applicants to work with him before third reading on a new restrictive covenant on landscaping. The other restrictions imposed by the Planning Commission, including pedestrian access to a hike-and-bike trail along Country Club Creek, will remain in place.

Overhaul planned for health agreements

The dozens of inter-local agreements between the City of Austin and Travis County concerning the provision of health and human services are due for a major overhaul this spring. Staff with the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department will be working with representatives from both governmental bodies to dramatically re-work the contracts, consolidating them from 23 to a much smaller number of comprehensive documents, laying out how the two sides will pay for services.

"This would reduce some duplication of effort and move to more of a purchase arrangement with the county," Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Director David Lurie told members of the City Council Healthcare Subcommittee. "The county would choose to purchase certain services from the city…then we would set a price for those services and then develop the agreement around that." Such an arrangement, Lurie said, would have benefits for both sides in the areas of administration and bookkeeping. "It would be more of a fixed cost kind of arrangement, which administratively would be extremely advantageous and, I think, would serve both entities as far as being able to anticipate what their budgets should be and what they can expect relative to those budgets."

The goal is to have one master inter-local agreement with subchapters relating to the provision of public health services such as immunizations and disease control, human services (including contracts with social service providers), and animal services such as the operation of the Town Lake Animal Shelter and the Animal Control Office. Once the city and county establish negotiating teams, the two sides will work out how to price those various services over the next several months. "Some programs are population based, especially in public health," said Lurie. "Other services, we can monitor more closely in terms of volume of service. For others, we're looking at workload distribution." By working with the level of services offered in the 2004-05 fiscal year as a baseline, Lurie said, the staff should be able to come up with the true cost of those services.

The timetable laid out by Lurie calls for a presentation of the proposed re-structuring to the joint City/County Subcommittee in February, followed by negotiations with Travis County representatives beginning in March, then a presentation to Travis County Commissioners in July. "This has a bearing on the budget process, so we need to get these things resolved as early as possible," he said. Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman urged him to present the agreement to the City Council in July as well, rather than waiting until September as Lurie had proposed. "That's a real blind-side in the final budget meetings…so if the City Council only then sees it, that's not a very kind thing to do to the Council. They need it in July."

©2005 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved Dealey meet and greet . . . Friends of Place 3 candidate Mandy Dealey held an event at the Headliner’s Club last night to introduce her to their friends. Sponsors included Lowell Lebermann, Bill McClellan, J ay Hailey and Beverly Silas . . . Back in the groove . . . Council Member Betty Dunkerley has returned to work and the campaign trail after a bout with pneumonia. Never one to rest for long, Dunkerley is having a fund-raiser tonight at 219 West, 219 West 4th Street. Hosts for this event are the Small Business PAC, Business Owners and Managers Association PAC and Austin Firefighters PAC. The event runs from 5-7pm . . . Dunkerley is also a guest of honor at a Mexican breakfast fund-raiser tomorrow morning at the home of Juan and Martha Cotera, 1502 North Drive at the intersection of Spring Creek Drive and Norris. This event runs from 7:30 – 9:30am . . . Today’s meetings . . . The Zoning and Platting Commission will meet at 6pm in the Council Chambers at City Hall . . . The MBE/WBE Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet at 6pm at the SMBR office, 4100 Ed Bluestein Blvd . . . The Planning Commission Comprehensive Plan Committee will meet at 6pm in Room 500 of One Texas Center . . . The Advisory Committee for the Mexican American Cultural Center will have a special called meeting at 5:30pm in the Board Room of the Parks and Recreation Department, 200 South Lamar. They will discuss the status of MACC construction . . . Attorneys only . . . If you’ve always wanted to write like John Grisham and think you might have the talent, SEAK, Inc. is sponsoring the 4th Annual National Legal Fiction Writing Competition for Lawyers. Those wishing to participate should submit a short story or excerpt from a novel in the Legal Fiction genre by September 5, 2005. The piece should be 2500 words or less. Winners will receive a gift certificate plus lunch with best -selling authors Lisa Scottoline and Stephen Horn. For more information, visit the website http://www.seak.com . . . Still no white smoke . . . The Travis County Hospital District Board of Managers, continuing the process begun on Saturday morning, met for several hours last night to discuss hiring a new executive director. They adjourned without making any announcements. Managers spent most of Saturday interviewing the four finalists for the job. They are posted to meet again at 6:30pm Wednesday at the Granger Building at 314 W. 11th Street to keep trying.. . . Mayor turning over tsunami aid . . . Mayor Will Wynn will join members of the Network of Asian American Organizations at 11am at City Hall today to present a check for $140,000 to the American Red Cross. The network raised the money to help victims of the Asian tsunami . . . Benefits for Meals on Wheels . . . Two organizations are planning benefit events for Meals on Wheel s and More of Central Texas on Sunday, February 13. The Austin Women’s Bowling Association 200 Club will hold its 48th Annual Head Pin Tournament from 11am to 3:30pm at Dart Bowl, 5700 Grover Ave in Austin. Call 476-6325 for information. On the same day, Ed Polcer’s Jazz All Stars will return to Austin for a 7:30pm concert at the Hope Presbyterian Church, at11512 Olson Drive. General admission is $15 and students with ID: $8. Get tickets at www.atjs.org or call 795-9112.

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