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AMD to locate on Lantana

Wednesday, April 13, 2005 by

Stratus offering office-zoned tract for five buildings

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) plans to announce Thursday its decision to consolidate all of its local office personnel on Stratus Properties’ Lantana tract in the Barton Springs zone of the Edwards Aquifer, according to reliable sources at City Hall. Representatives of AMD and Stratus have been visiting City Council offices this week, making their pitch for the move.

In Fact Daily has learned that Stratus has locked in entitlements that would allow the developer to build at 39 percent impervious cover, but the company is proposing 31 percent. In addition, AMD would agree to use Green Building standards, which means fewer toxic chemicals and less water and energy use, and donate $5 million to buy land elsewhere in the watershed, said the sources. They plan to build five buildings with parking garages to consolidate office workers from 12 separate locations around Austin. One reason they have given for the move is that 36 percent of such employees already live in Oak Hill, close to the Lantana site.

The Save Our Springs Ordinance allows a maximum of 20 percent impervious cover in the contributing zone within the Barton Creek watershed, and 25 percent in the remainder of the contributing zone. SOS Alliance Communications Director Colin Clark said part of the Lantana tract drains into Barton Creek and part into Williamson Creek. SOS is concerned because the land crosses the recharge zone and drains into Barton Springs, he said.

Because the property is already zoned for offices, it would be difficult for the city to impose SOS restrictions under Ch. 245 of the Texas Local Government Code. The law, also known as HB1704, allows property owners to use old regulations in developing their property.

Harold Daniel, president of the Save Barton Creek Association (SBCA), explained, “Mostly what we’re concerned about is that such a large employer is building over the aquifer on the Barton Springs watershed….It’s going to bring all that traffic into an area that the city works very hard to steer development away from. It’s almost like a slap in the face when they’ve worked so hard to keep others away…I think that’s the main concern, that they're such a major employer that they're going to bring in an untold amount of development into that area.”

“On the other hand,” he said, “we’re all glad that AMD is staying in Austin,” as compared to Freescale, which threatened to leave the city, then relented after receiving nearly $11 million dollars in city incentives—but is locating over the Desired Development Zone, far away from the aquifer.

SOS, the SBCA, the Austin Sierra Club and Clean Water Action have all asked AMD not to move into the Barton Springs zone. The groups say they intend to picket the current company headquarters, East Oltorf and AMD Drive, at 12:30pm today.

Allyson Peerman, Global Community Affairs Director for AMD, was reluctant to talk about the company’s plans Tuesday. However, she acknowledged that pressure from environmental groups had caused AMD to reach a decision sooner than planned. Peerman said AMD had hoped to put off the announcement until after this spring’s City Council elections.

While Stratus and its predecessor, Freeport McMoran, have had some squabbles with the city, there has been peace between the two since the 2001 settlement agreement. Stratus is currently bidding to be the developer on Block 21 and Seaholm, a circumstance that would have been impossible to contemplate just a few years back. Environmentalists who are now ready to picket AMD have recently suggested that the city should trade the right to develop one or the other property for Stratus’ Barton Springs zone land. With AMD’s decision, the likelihood of that happening becomes even more remote.

Water utility studies options for plant

Environmental Board studying mitigation, water re-use, other alternatives

Negotiations continued last week off the radar of most observers to try and move or at least mitigate the environmental impact of a controversial water treatment plant planned for 240 acres in the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Preserve (BCCP).

A subcommittee of the Environmental Board is continuing to work with city staff over issues regarding plans for the Travis Water Treatment Plant #4, studying both ways to mitigate possible environmental damage at the planned site and explore other potential locations for the project.

The city’s plans for building a new water treatment plant on land in the BCCP—made following a 1984 bond election—have been on hold since Feb.18, when the City Council postponed a $6.5 million budget extension for Carollo Engineers to provide preliminary engineering design services. The delay was a response to Environmental Board members’ concerns.

named herself and three other members to a subcommittee to study those concerns. They have met three times, including last Thursday, discussing proposed changes by the Austin Water Utility (AWU) in plans for the TWTP#4. (See In Fact Daily, April 4, 2005.)

Holder said the subcommittee continued to make progress with AWU staff on the utility’s plans. “They are going to add to the Alan Plummer contract what they call a ‘desktop review’ of alternatives,” she said. “They are going to take a GIS (Geographic Information Systems) look at land sites up there on the Jollyville Plateau. They are going to make an analysis of alternate sites from that.” Plummer Associates was recently awarded a $500,000 contract by the Council to study the city’s long-term water resource needs.

“The subcommittee as a whole has not issued a report yet,” Holder said. “I’m looking over all the documents and PowerPoint presentations, and the alternatives that we have been talking about. “ She said the full Environmental Board will have the AWU plan and other alternatives on its agenda on April 20.

“They (AWU) are still planning to go to Council to ask for authorization for the $6.5 million contract on April 28,” she said. AWU is proposing that the Council approve the additional funds for Carollo Engineering to begin preliminary design work within the parameters pf the plan it has outlined to the Environmental Board subcommittee. “The Council members will, of course, have our recommendations in hand when they make their decision,” Holder said.

“We are discussing water quality protection and mitigation at the primary site,” she said, “That means things like erosion control, sedimentation controls. We want them to work with the Watershed Protection and Development staff to develop what I call ‘appropriate standards and methods’ that would ensure the greatest amount of protection of the Karst ecosystems, and the aquatic habitat in the vicinity of or downstream of the plant.”

Holder is recommending the city staff study documents like the “ Barton Springs Salamander Recovery Plan,” with a particular emphasis on addressing situations like spills and other problems that could harm the ecosystem. “They have gathered a lot of information about the sensitive nature of the area, and the area around the plant,” she said. “But there’s nothing yet that I can discern of a concrete plan for what they are going to do. There are things that have been recommended to them by various consultants, but there no definite plan yet. I’d like to see a document that contains a definite plan that the Environmental Board can review.”

She said she hopes that the scope of work for Phase 1 will contain direction for assembling a Water Quality and Mitigation plan.

“We are also looking at how either plans for reconstructing or relocating the Green Water Treatment Plant might affect the timing of how we approach this,” she said. “We are also trying to gauge how water reuse and water conservation could affect the timetable.” She said anything that could push the project further on the timetable could give them more time to locate suitable alternative sites.

RMMA group urges utility to be creative

Water tower's design, location and size seem set

City utilities get the same message from the Robert Mueller Municipal Airport Plan Implementation Commission that any private developer would get: The best plans are those that offer the most creativity and the most latitude for negotiation.

The Water and Wastewater Utility wants to put a 200-foot water tower on an acre across from Bartholomew Park, just outside the Mueller plan area. Last night, Construction Project Manager Dan Pederson presented an update on current plans, which have been under negotiation since at least 2000. While Pederson intends to hold community meetings over the next two months, he could not offer the RMMA board much hope that the design, height or placement could be negotiated on the project.

“The more options you lock out, the less of a point there is to go out to the community,” RMMA Chair Jim Walker told water utility officials. “You’ve missed an opportunity. I would recommend that you go back and loosen up some of your big decisions and come back to us. You have a receptive community that is open to a lot of things – greater density, more traffic, big infrastructure, major employers like UT and Seton – and we’re going to be willing to look at this siting in a lot of different ways.”

The city is on a two-year timeline to bring the Mueller reclamation water tower online, one of eight towers the city will build across the city to address growing water demands. Pederson said it was especially important to add reclaimed water to the mix before the city hits the 201,000 acre-feet demand level. At that level, the city must pay an additional $7 million to $10 million for its water sources, Pederson said. Additional need, beyond current available sources of 325,000 acre-feet, must eventually be met by either water conservation or reclaimed water, Pederson said.

Reclaimed water would be used in sources such as landscape and golf course watering, car washes and other similar industrial uses by various entities.

It was unclear exactly where, and how, the city’s negotiations are going with Delwood II over the water tank issue. At one point, the city was considering four tanks on the ground, at 1 million gallons apiece, in one location. That was revised, given the need to elevate the tanks to provide greater water pressure for those using reclaimed water. Four tanks on the ground become at least one 200-foot tall tank in the area of Mueller.

Planner Pam Hefner, the Mueller liaison, said it was at that point that the city and the Delwood II neighborhood reached its impasse. Homeowners were concerned that the tower would be looking right into people’s backyards, Hefner said.

Pederson said some details were determined on the towers. The volume and height already were determined, as well as the need for intruder-resistant fencing and the proposed location of the tower. Even the design team had been picked on the project. While acknowledging the tower was outside Mueller and not under the RMMA’s purview, Walker said that the city left little for the neighborhood to discuss.

Water department officials said they would take Mueller’s concern under consideration. The timeline for the Mueller-area water tower would be preliminary engineering in April, with first public meetings in April and May and design starting in July. Design should be completed within a year, with construction underway in 2006. The project would be completed and ready for use by 2007, on par with the schedule on Mueller.

Commissioners encouraged the utility leader to come back to the RMMA meeting in June with an update on what happened at the neighborhood meetings in May.

©2005 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Born yesterday . . . City PIO Kristen Vassallo and John Fitzpatrick became the proud parents of a boy and a girl Tuesday afternoon. The twins and their folks are doing well . . . Toll road option . . . Mayor Will Wynn and Rep. Mark Strama (D-Austin) are expressing at least tentative support for Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos’ regional gas tax proposal. (See In Fact Daily April 12, 2005.) In a letter to fellow CAMPO board members yesterday, the pair said there were still many unanswered questions about the feasibility of a local-option gasoline tax. For example, it must be determined whether such a tax would be subject to the constitutional requirement that 25 percent of gasoline taxes be dedicated to public schools. But they urged CAMPO members to support the bill by Barrientos and its companion by State Rep. Dawnna Dukes and to engage in “a community-wide dialogue to determine whether Central Texas would prefer to finance new roads through tolls or gas taxes. . . . We have an opportunity now to reset the discussion, to look at the roads we want to build in the 2030 plan, and to reason together as a community about the best way to pay for them.” They note that the 2030 plan can be submitted without providing the detail on whether the roads would be funded via tolls or gas taxes. . . Aviation funds . . . Former State Rep. and Austin basher Ron Wilson(D-Houston) passed a bill two sessions ago to create a general aviation airport in Austin. There was just one small problem. The bill that created the airport didn’t give the Texas Department of Transportation the ability to pay for the airport. Last night, Rep. Mike Krusee (R-Round Rock) laid out a bill, House Bill 2656, that would put funding behind the Central Texas airport…. Candidate forums . . . The environmental groups’ forum begins with socializing at 6pm at the Zilker Clubhouse. The forum begins at 6:30pm. Live Oak Brewing and the Save Barton Creek Association will provide drinks. Place 3 candidates could start as early as 6:45pm . . . Meet East Austin Forum from 5:30-8pm at Nuevo Leon . . . Sold out . . . The City Council candidate forum, beginning at 11:45am today at the Four Seasons Hotel is sold out. Hosts include the Downtown Austin Alliance, the Real Estate Council of Austin, three Chambers of Commerce, the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin, the Capital Area Transportation Coalition, the Building Owners & Managers Association and the Greater Austin Contractors & Engineers Association. . . Meetings . . . The Planning Commission Neighborhood Planning Committee meets today at 4:30pm in Room 500 at One Texas Center. The agenda includes a discussion of the proposed North Hyde Park Neighborhood Conservation Combining District, and a discussion of how down zoning affects the financial standing of a structure. . . The Solid Waste Advisory Commission meets at 6pm in Room 102 of the Waller Creek Center. Agenda items includes possible implementation of a Solid Waste Services Independent Planning Task Force to create a comprehensive 20-30 year plan, and discussion and possible action on waste collections in the Downtown District. . . The Telecommunication Commission is meeting at 7:30pm in Room 1101 at City Hall. On the agenda is a report from the Council Committee for Telecommunications Infrastructure and a report from the Telecommunications & Regulatory Affairs Office. . . . The Council Judicial Committee meets at 2pm in Room 1101 at City Hall to discuss efforts to gather statistics on judicial performance, and develop measurement tools and standards to evaluate the performance of Municipal Court judges.

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