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Archer Nathan wins with Hardberger

Wednesday, June 8, 2005 by

Consultants help elect San Antonio Mayor

The Austin political consulting team of Christian Archer and Mark Nathan racked up its third mayoral victory late last night when Phil Hardberger was declared the winner in the hard-fought race to lead San Antonio. Hardberger, 70, beat city councilman Julian Castro, 30, with 51.5 percent of the vote. The San Antonio Express-News reported that final results were not tallied until midnight because of the heavy turnout—nearly 130,000 voters cast ballots—and because of a decision to use paper ballots.

Hardberger seemed to be headed toward an easy victory at first, taking 58 percent of the early vote. However, as he night wore on, the margin got smaller. The runoff vote was considerably higher than had been predicted. Archer managed the Hardberger campaign in San Antonio, while Nathan acted as the campaign's direct mail consultant. George Shipley served as the Hardberger campaign's general consultant.

Archer Nathan managed the successful campaign of Austin Mayor Will Wynn and played a key role in the election of Bill White as Mayor of Houston. Nathan was also a consultant for the successful campaigns of Lee Leffingwell and Betty Dunkerley in Austin. Last night, Nathan said, "We ran a very aggressive field effort as well as a significant television and direct mail program, and ultimately I think our message of restoring confidence in City Hall through mature leadership resonated with the voters. It was a hard-fought battle, but Phil Hardberger is going to be a hell of a good mayor for San Antonio, and I think Julian Castro still has lots of time to develop into a strong leader for the future."

TxDOT, Oak Hill residents talk tolls

Retailers want plan to protect Y's shopping centers

A new toll road through Oak Hill has not exactly been a source of joy for area residents, and Texas Department of Transportation officials heard plenty from them at an open house on the Oak Hill project at the ACC-Pinnacle campus yesterday.

The project—routed along US 290 West through Oak Hill—is actually being done jointly by the Texas Department of Transportation and the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. TxDOT will expand almost three miles of highway through Oak Hill, and the CTRMA is expected to toll those miles to provide the money to expand the highway out toward Dripping Springs, where the number of rooftops continues to grow exponentially.

This is the kind of funding that is likely to make toll road opponents – especially those who rail against “double taxation” – especially mad. As TxDOT project manager Don Nyland explained it, the US 290 West project, which has been in the works for almost two decades now, probably could have happened with current state dollars, but barely.

“This project could still get built without the tolls, but it would severely tax the funding available for the Austin area,” said Nyland. “When you only have so much money for construction, it’s only going to go so far. It would have taken longer to get it built.”

The state had $40 million set aside for US 290, enough to provide the frontage roads for the project, Nyland said. Then the deal was struck with the CTRMA to seek another $40 million from the Texas Mobility Fund to pay for the balance of the main lanes, with the intention of tolling the main lanes of that new stretch of road, minus the free frontage lanes. That tolling would provide the funds necessary to expand US 290 toward Dripping Springs.

For many residents, including members of the Oak Hill Association of Neighborhoods (OHAN), TxDOT is not going far enough to limit the impact that three years of highway construction will mean to businesses around the Oak Hill “ Y,” much less the impact of tolls on the area. At the same time as the TxDOT Open House, a neighborhood coalition in another room of the ACC-Pinnacle campus was discussing what must be done to minimize the impact of freeway construction, including the construction of additional area road bypasses.

“Highway development severely threatens the shopping centers at the ‘Y,’ given how other areas of town have responded to the consequences of that type of development,” said OHAN Vice President David Richardson, who hosted the meeting. “In areas along the US 183 overpass, business revenues were reduced by as much as 80 percent during construction. We feel like if this area is not redeveloped in an effective way, all those shopping centers and retail stores along 290 are going to go away, and all we’ll be left with is more business further out, and more sprawl out Highway 71 and US 290.”

Richardson wants to use the Oak Hill city neighborhood planning process, which is expected to start this fall, to address the issues of mobility and the possibility of highway construction. Neighbors already are suggesting that an FM 1826 bypass, funded by developers, be used to create greater access across the ACC property and a possible Capital Metro park-and-ride site back to the “Y.” Greater, and better, access can mean greater density and a possible town center at the “Y,” said Richardson.

Nyland acknowledged some of the concerns about connectivity through the area, especially the connection of local subdivisions to cross US 290. He pointed out that whatever the results of the discussion, local drivers will still have more access to “free” roads than they do right now. The expanded US 290 West will include three free frontage lanes in each direction, making short trips to the local grocery store, as well as long trips into Austin, more convenient for area residents, Nyland said.

CAMPO’s Transportation Policy Board approved its 2030 Mobility Plan on Monday, plus a resolution that stated it would take a year to study the impact of the toll roads and consider other alternatives. The US 290 West project will be one of the projects considered. Construction on the road could start as early as January.

Bond group considering county parks

Election expected in November

A citizens’ bond committee continues to sift through possible projects for an upcoming Travis County bond election, reviewing candidate project lists from various county departments. Soon the group will pare down the list to present to County Commissioners.

A bond election is expected to go before the voters in November. The county’s Transportation and Natural Resources Department has presented the committee with $360 million in possible projects – mobility, drainage and parks combined — but it’s likely only a fraction of that total will make it to the voters for consideration, says Executive Director Joe Gieselman. The county has made no commitment to any project on the list yet.

Possible park projects were on one recent bond committee agenda. The $44.7 million in proposed parks and open space projects were suggested with a projected four-year timeline in mind, says project manager Wendy Scaperotta. Projects include additions at East Metro, Northeast Metro, and Arkansas Bend, Southwest Metro and Southeast Metro parks.

Here are some of the initial proposed details for those proposed projects:

• Phase II of the East Metro Park – The 260 acres of East Metro Park, located at Blake Manor and Burleson roads in Precinct 1, was purchased with 2001 bond funds. A first phase provided some initial amenities and a public-private partnership for a pool at the park. This proposed second phase would round out the sports fields, finishing out the baseball fields, soccer fields and a meeting center, at a cost of $5.7 million.

• Phase III of Northeast Metro Park – Northeast Metro is a 410-acre park just off Pecan Street on the outskirts of Pflugerville. If included in a future bond program, this proposed project would finish the picnic areas, playscapes and add a possible spray park, at a cost of $4.5 million. The park is located in Precinct 2.

• Phase I of Arkansas Bend Park– This is the most expensive proposed park project, at a cost of $9.3 million. Arkansas Bend Park is one of the few public access points on the north shore of Lake Travis. The Lower Colorado River Authority owns the 195 acres at Arkansas Bend. The county manages the property, one of seven properties it manages on Lake Travis for the LCRA. The acreage, located in Precinct 3, is largely undeveloped. Under the proposed project, infrastructure for swimming and day camping would be added.

• Phase II of Southwest Metro Park – The county has an option to buy 211 acres of family-owned land on the Pedernales River off Hamilton Pool Road. This is an area where the county already provided some improvements, including a road out to the property. The family that owns the land already gives access to rock climbers and mountain bikers, for a fee. Under this proposed project, the county would purchase the land and develop the infrastructure, at a cost of $5.8 million.

• Phase I of Southeast Metro Park – The county would like to develop a public-private partnership for a pool at this 300-acre park, just as it did with the East Metro Park. Southeast Metro Park is located in Precinct 4 at the confluence of the Colorado River and Onion Creek. If the city and county can reach an agreement on sharing the land, the county would spend $3.4 million to add the outdoor pool, along with kayaking options and other trail enhancements. This project has close proximity to State Highway 130, which could make it an attractive amenity along the route.

Open space options under the county’s proposal total a possible $16 million. The county would purchase land in areas around Hamilton Pool, Pogue Hollow Springs and the Pedernales River to protect water quality, at a cost of $10 million. Another estimated $6 million would be used to acquire 350 acres for the Onion Creek Greenway.

The citizens’ committee continues to deliberate on possible projects. County Commissioners are expected to call the November bond election by the end of summer.

Goodman hopes to diminish city heat

Code amendments would begin review process

Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman has taken this week’s meeting as her final opportunity to finish–or at least push forward–some projects she and others started years ago. One of those closest to her heart involves mitigation of the “heat island” effect of adding city asphalt and removing trees. Essentially, thermal photography has shown that city centers—especially those filled with asphalt, cars and other hard surfaces—tend to be 10 degrees hotter than city suburbs.

Goodman observed that mitigation of the heat island involves three simple concepts: “It’s cooler in the shade than it is in the sun; dark colors pull in heat; and I’ve never heard anybody say we need it to be hotter this summer.”

In 2001, the Council authorized studying the heat island effect and how the city might combat rising temperatures, discomfort and accompanying increase in electric bills for both consumers and businesses. Goodman, Council Member Raul Alvarez and members of city staff worked with local stakeholders on the project. This week, the Council will consider beginning a new public process to initiate changes to the City Code involving requirements for trees in parking lots as well as preservation of very old trees.

Ester Matthews, director of local government issues for Austin Energy, said the city had hired several consultants, including Garcia Design, Inc., landscape architects and land planners; attorney Henry Gilmore, and Bartlett Tree Experts to help arrive at some proposals for changing the code. The report was completed last fall.

Goodman said one of the changes would be to change tree requirements in large parking lots to provide for more tree cover. In addition, the draft resolution says new rules would prescribe compensation for loss of tree canopy “in a more predictable and easily calculated way, and to use tree canopy coverage (in lieu of caliper inches) as a basis for establishing tree placement and preservation thresholds.”

Single-family subdivisions would also have new rules in order to encourage preservation of large trees more than 100 years old. Matthews said the resolution would include a six-month deadline for returning the code changes back to City Council for enactment. The proposals will go to city boards and commissions for their input.

Goodman said the change would mean a change to “the ambiance and quality of your urban center and your life in this part of Central Texas. It hurts nothing, and it corrects much. It enhances the future. So, from whatever standpoint, that’s a good thing.” Adding more shade, she said would be good for those traveling by foot, by car or bicycle. In addition, she said more tree canopy would “provide a good family atmosphere and a good customer atmosphere.”

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

ACCORD not throwing in the towel . . . Yesterday, In Fact Daily reported that the neighborhood and environmental coalition known as ACCORD would probably decide not to appeal a decision throwing out the group’s suit challenging the city’s settlement of a lawsuit with SR Ridge Partners, Ltd. and J ames Monaghan. But John Robert Stratton, president of ACCORD, said Tuesday that the group had not made a decision on whether to appeal the ruling. State District Judge Lora Livingston granted the City of Austin, SR Ridge and Monaghan a summary judgement against ACCORD, Stratton and Sunset Valley. See In Fact Daily, June 7, 2005 . . . Big box item . . . Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman has put an item on this week’s agenda directing the City Manager to look at how other jurisdictions have dealt with “large scale retail development.” Goodman said she is responding to requests from the group Full Circle for an ordinance that would require big box stores to get a conditional use permit and do an economic impact study before being able to build. Goodman said she was “trying to get away from … the band- aid approach” to development regulation . . . McCracken studying more urban design . . . Council Member Brewster McCracken, as well as aides Karen Gross and Rich Bailey, will be attending the 13th annual conference of the Congress for the New Urbanism in Pasadena, Calif., at the end of the week. Gross said they are looking forward to learning about transportation, land use, and the environment from urban planners such as Andre Duany and Peter Calthorpe. She added that the trio might also have an opportunity to see how other communities are dealing with big box stores . . . Early vote total. . . Less than 4 percent of Austin’s registered voters—15,863 folks—took the opportunity to vote early for the Place 3 City Council runoff election. Unofficial totals from County Clerk Dana de Beauvoir indicated a late surge, with 2,387 voters casting ballots yesterday. . . Clarke, Kim, holding final fundraisers . . . The J ennifer Kim Campaign is having our final fundraiser tonight from 5:30-7:30pm at Guero's Taco Bar on South Congress. The Texas Young Professionals are hosting the event, but all are welcome . . . Likewise, all are welcome to attend Margot Clarke’s final fundraiser from 6-8pm Thursday. That event will be at home of Tracy and Michael Dileo, 9 Niles Road . . . Water tower meeting. . . Expect a big turnout next week when the city hosts a meeting on a proposed 200-foot reclaimed water tower just off the Mueller property. The city’s water utility underestimated the community interest in the subject when representatives appeared at a Mueller redevelopment meeting. Now a meeting is scheduled for 7pm Tuesday night in the Fellowship Hall of Messiah Lutheran Church, 5701 Cameron Rd . . . Bond committee go-between . . . Leslie Pool will serve as the informal liaison from the county bond committee to the city’s 2006 citizen bond advisory commission. County commissioners chose not to appoint a liaison, but Pool has volunteered to be the go-between between the city and the county, in order to increase dialogue between the two jurisdictions on common issues. . . Meetings. . . The city Telecommunications Commission meets at 7:30pm tonight in Room 1101 at City Hall. On the agenda is a discussion and possible action on Austin Free-Net and a Telecom Commission resolution on emerging technology…The Planning Commission Neighborhood Planning Committee meets at 4:30 pm in Room 500 at One Texas Center. On the agenda is a staff update and possible recommendations on the North Hyde Park Neighborhood Conservation Combining District. . . . Hanger in the balance. . . The Robert Mueller Municipal Airport Plan Implementation Advisory Commission passed a resolution last night in support of new boundaries for the Austin Film Society space. AFS would like to expand its boundaries to take up part the National Guard Armory, which would give AFS another hangar for its filmmaking efforts. The Council will consider a similar resolution on Thursday night. . . Familiar faces. . . The Zoning and Platting Commission made short work of electing its officers last night. When the item came up on the agenda, Commissioner Melissa Whaley moved to re-nominate the current slate, and approve them by acclimation. Newly re-elected chair Betty Baker said “We’ll all join hands and sing later.” She is joined by Vice Chair Joseph Martinez, Parliamentarian Keith Jackson, and secretaries Whaley and Clarke Hammond. . . Karst management. . . The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has provided last minute notice of a meeting regarding karst (cave) management issues. The meeting is from 1-3:30pm today at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) campus on I-35 North, between Braker and Yager lanes in building F, room #2210. Exit Yager and TCEQ is on the west side of I-35.. . . Health Center meeting . . . The University of Texas will host the fourth of four community meetings on the possibility of a privately funded university academic health science research center at the former Mueller airport site on Thursday night. The meeting is set for 6:30pm at the United Way Austin office, 2000 E Martin Luther King Blvd.

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