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More offices planned for SW Parkway

Wednesday, April 20, 2005 by

ZAP recommends approval of zoning for 344,000 square feet

The SOS ordinance will not keep Bury & Partners from putting another 344,000 square-feet of office space on a 48-acre tract on Southwest Parkway at MoPac, if Council approves a recommendationmade by the Zoning and Platting Commission last night.

The site, at 5029 Southwest Parkway, is divided into three tracts: the largest tract would be GO, or general office; a second smaller parcel would be LO, or limited office; and the balance of the tract would be zoned as RR, or rural residential district. Neighbors, including Carolyn Parker, spoke in support of the zoning changes on the parcel from GR, community commercial, to office zoning. Parker served on the Planning Commission 20 years ago.

Colin Clark of the Save Our Springs Alliance urged the ZAP to consider the most appropriate use of a property on the Barton Springs watershed. Given the relocation of AMD to the area, he said a tremendous pressure is being put on Southwest Parkway to become a major commercial corridor in the city.

“We don’t see any reason for the city to grant more zoning for office in that part of town,” Clark said. “Residential zoning would be consistent with a lot of that area.”

Chair Betty Baker, ever practical, pointed out the Bury & Associates project will comply with the SOS Ordinance. Given the value of the land, Baker said she found it difficult to imagine that 48 houses on the property – one house per acre under RR zoning – would make sense. The project also backs up to existing commercial uses in the area that were light industrial before that area of Oak Hill was annexed of the city.

“Those are mistakes of the past,” Clark said. “We shouldn’t be doomed to repeat them.”

Jeff Jack said that the SOS Ordinance was passed back in 1992 using the best science available at the time. What it didn’t take into account was House Bill 1704, which has allowed many more projects than originally projected into the watershed. Because the city did not “draw the line in the sand” at the time, the city must go above and beyond the current level of protection on the aquifer to get back to the proper balance, he said.

“We need to think about this holistically,” Jack said. “We need to understand what the ordinance was and not just the letter of the law, but also the spirit of the law.”

The Zoning and Platting Commission agreed to the zoning change with little discussion beyond that between Baker and the SOS supporters. A number of conditions were negotiated between the agent and the neighborhoods, including a limitation of four stories on the GO tract and three stories on the LO tract; a 750-foot buffer along the southwest property line; shielded lighting on the property; integrated pest management; and no coal tar sealant on the parking lots..

Notes from the campaign trail

Adams makes last minute pitch to take Leffingwell off ballot

With City Council Place 1 write-in candidate Steve Adams yesterday accused opponent Lee Leffingwell of failing to provide the minimum number of signatures required to have his name placed on the ballot. Early voting for the May 7 election begins today.

Adams, who is running as a write-in choice because he failed to get to the City Clerk’s office before the 5pm deadline on the last filing day, delivered a letter to the city late Tuesday afternoon. In that letter he claims that Leffingwell “failed to fully comply” with sections of the law requiring that the voter registration, date of birth and date of signature accompany each signature used to secure Leffingwell’s spot on the ballot. He indicated that a similar letter relating to the candidacy of Council Member Betty Dunkerley had also been delivered to the clerk.

Asked why he was protesting on Tuesday, Adams said, “This was the last day. It took me numerous hours to go though the signatures.” He said he had done a lot of research and talked to the Texas Secretary of State’s Office about the standards for signatures on a candidate’s petition. The Texas Election Code would have prevented him from challenging Leffingwell’s ballot application after Tuesday.

In his letter to City Clerk Shirley Brown, Adams states that Leffingwell “has put the City Clerk of Austin in a bad position . . . She has now been forced to re-validate submitted petitions signatures of Mr. Leffingwell to ensure compliance with (the law). "

But Brown said she did not believe it would be appropriate for her to take any such action. She said the city’s Law Department would answer Adams’ letter. Failure of the candidates to place the date of birth, voter registration number, date signed and city for each person signing the petition does not invalidate the signatures, Brown said.

“What the law says and how the courts have ruled on it are 180 degrees opposite,” she said. “The courts have said you cannot disenfranchise a voter based on a formality,” such as the lack of a date. “If we had tried to disqualify a voter on that basis, the courts would say you can't do that.” Brown noted that the City of Austin was sued the year before she began her job as clerk. “If we can go into the voter registration database and by any combination of variables say the person is a registered voter, then we have to accept it. All of the petitions were accepted in exactly that way.”

Mark Nathan, Leffingwell’s campaign consultant, said, “I’ve worked on lots of campaigns, and I have to say that I’ve rarely come across any person more ill-prepared to run or serve than Steve Adams. That’s the context in which I think people can view his complaint regarding Lee’s petition signatures. Lee filed more than enough signatures to appear on today’s ballot, he did it well in advance of the March 7th deadline, and those signatures were validated by the City Clerk. End of story.”

Nathan, who is also assisting Dunkerley, said he was also confident that the Place 4 incumbent “had turned in a sufficient number of signatures well in advance of the deadline.”

Forum gives students a chance to question candidates

City Council candidates may have been through as many as 20 candidate meetings thus far in the campaign, but Monday night’s South Austin Civic Club (SACC) forum had a new twist. At this forum, a select group of high school students were tossing out the questions, and none of them were softballs.

The forum was divided into three parts, for Place 1, Place 3 and Place 4. Students from five South Austin high schools— Aiken, Austin, Bowie, Crockett and Travis—were chosen for each of the three panels, and each student researched specific questions for each candidate.

A “celebrity panel” of judges graded the students’ performances and the top school and individual student were named at the end of the evening. The judges were former AISD Board President Kathy Rider, Austin American-Statesman editorial writer Alberta Phillips, and SACC member Mike Rodriguez. The group did not endorse any Council candidates.

In Place 1, candidates Andrew Bucknall, Lee Leffingwell and Scott Williams answered questions.

A student asked Bucknall if there was a non-toll road solution for Austin’s transportation problem. “I don’t like the toll road plan,” he said. “ Senator Barrientos has proposed a local gas tax. It’s the type of user fee that most people seem to be able to accept. We also need to encourage alternatives to driving all our big cars.”

Leffingwell, asked about his vision for a mass transportation system, said Austin needs to use every tool at its disposal. “We need a lot more rail,” he said. “I supported the Leander rail line, and it’s a good start. But we also need to develop the connections from that train to final destinations.”

Williams was asked about Advanced Micro Devices’ plan to build an office complex over the Edwards Aquifer. “This is a big deal for Austin,” he said. “It can take decades to reclaim an aquifer system once it’s damaged. Fees don’t help the environment once it’s destroyed.”

In the Place 3 race, candidates Margot Clarke, Jennifer Kim and Mandy Dealey attended the forum. Campaign aide Christina Berg sat in for Gregg Knaupe, giving his opening and closing statements, but did not answer any questions.

Kim was asked if she supported the Freescale incentive package. “I think we didn’t act early enough,” she said. “Most businesses say tax rebates and other incentive programs are not really the deciding factor in where to locate. We need to continually do things to provide workers with a high quality of life and businesses with an educated workforce.”

The Legislature is currently considering constitutional measures to ban same sex marriage. A student asked Clarke whether she supported such measures. “Absolutely not,” she said. “We don’t need a constitutional amendment. Commitment in our society should be encouraged, not discouraged. There are currently some bills in the Legislature that don’t do that.”

Dealey was asked her opinion of the proposed toll road system. “I think the state was less than diplomatic in how it presented it to us,” she said. “I disagree with the current plan, but I don’t like the local gas tax proposal either.”

Place 4 candidates Wes Benedict, Philip Miller, Betty Dunkerley and Jennifer Gale were on hand.

For Benedict there was a question about whether he would work to restore services cut by the city during the economic downturn. “I see the economy improving and I believe its time to restore many of those services that were cut,” he said. “We need health and human services, flood control projects and expansions to the central library. The city needs to focus on better services.”

Miller was asked if the city should give a $750,000 forgivable loan to the owners of Midtown Live to rebuild. “I talked to a lot of small business owners about that, and most say the city should help with local businesses,” he said. “But a large number of people also think that kind of money needs to go towards the city’s health and human services programs. It’s a matter of priorities.”

Dunkerley got a question about whether the city has a responsibility to develop affordable housing. “We have a housing department that has the job of developing affordable housing,” she said. “They used Community Development Block Grants and other sources of funding to develop a range of housing options for the city. It’s a very good program.”

A questioner asked Gale, in light of the fact that she had no real experience, if she was qualified to hold office. “Anyone can run for office,” she said. “All you need is to be 18 years old and get 254 signatures. I encourage all of you to consider running for office. It’s a great experience. I’ve been doing it for the past 15 years.”

The LBJ Library will host a forum, starting at 7pm tonight at the library on the UT campus.

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

Tonight’s meetings . . . The Downtown Commission will meet at 5:30pm in the Boards and Commissions Room at City Hall. They will discuss, among other things, soundproofing of new residential buildings and hotels. The group may approve a related resolution on the development of building design requirements . . . The Environmental Board will meet in City Council chambers at 6pm. Their agenda includes a discussion and recommendation on two proposed variances as well as a possible recommendation on Water Treatment Plant #4 . . . Commercial Design confab . . .Several members of the Zoning and Platting Commission will try to attend the charrette on the new commercial design guidelines scheduled for Thursday. They'll hold a special meeting at 6pm on Monday to discuss the guidelines and make a recommendation to the City Council. The newest version of the guidelines, along with the site plans which will be used during the charrette to study the impact of the guidelines, should be up on the city's web site today at:

. . . Early voting begins today . . . As all In Fact Daily readers know, Austin voters have the opportunity to elect three Council members, register support or opposition for the smoking ban and decide whether to expand the area of the city encompassed by the Austin Community College. Early voting locations include: Travis County Airport Blvd Offices, 5501 Airport Blvd; Austin City Hall, 301 West 2nd Street, 1st Floor; Fiesta Mart, 3909 N IH35 @ Delwood; University of Texas, Undergraduate Library Lobby West Mall, UT Campus; Randall’s 35th Street, 1500 West 35th Street; ACC Rio Grande, 1212 Rio Grande, Student Lounge; Highland Mall, 6001 Airport Blvd, Lower Level by JC Penney; ACC Northridge, 11928 Stonehollow Drive, Admissions Lobby; Northcross Mall, 2525 West Anderson Lane; Randall’s Parmer Lane, 1700 West Parmer Lane @ Metric Boulevard, and many more. . . The following are today’s mobile voting times and locations: Govalle Care Center, 3101 Govalle Avenue, 9am – Noon; Seton Central Hospital,1201 West 38th Street, 10am – 2pm; Westminster Manor, 4100 Jackson Avenue, 10am – 2pm; Northwest Rural Community Center, 18649 FM 1431, Suite 6A Jonestown, 11am – 7pm; and Heartland Health Care Center, 11406 Rustic Rock Drive, 2pm – 5pm. For a complete list, go to:

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