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Council rejects Goodman's final proposal

Tuesday, June 14, 2005 by

Colleagues fail to approve proposed changes in city Land Development Code

While the City Council did give departing Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman some gifts on her final day on the dais, her colleagues flatly rejected the one token of affection she most wanted. Goodman put several items on yesterday’s agenda relating to potential changes in the Land Development Code. One of those items was to clean up the code, making it more like plain English and adding features that will allow neighborhoods to adopt idiosyncratic items in making their plans.

Goodman said the idea was one that the Council had long ago adopted as city policy but the work had fallen through the cracks, being postponed several times due to other demands and the budget crunch. She saw $300,000 in money from Capitol Metro, which had been earmarked for code changes, as a remedy for a staff shortage in the Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Department.

Staff put out a Request for Qualifications last fall to find a nationally recognized planning group to rewrite the code and integrate what is known as a form based code into the current zoning framework. Goodman complained that the code, which often results in properties having alphabet soup zoning classifications, such as NO-MU-CO-NP. She said “We don’t have a code that stretches enough, tailors enough, caters enough to a particular area and culture…through the old categories and old jargon… that tries to tell you what a neighborhood plan is offering. So, the day after the Neighborhood Plan is passed, she said, “if I, who even know what all the letters mean, were to go look at the map and see what that string of letters for any piece of property was… (the designation) would tell me nothing except for a vague sort of concept.”

Council Member Brewster McCracken, who has championed the notion of hiring a national consultant to work on major code revision, asked how allocation of money from the code rewrite to fund Goodman’s item would impact the budget. City Manager Toby Futrell said the city could hire contract employees or consultants with one time money—such as Capitol Metro funds—but could not be used to hire additional planning staff.

McCracken argued, predictably, that the firm the city selects to rewrite the code could easily incorporate those changes that Goodman wanted to see. The city is likely to hire a group that includes either Peter Calthorpe or Andres Duany, McCracken said after the meeting. He also suggested that the legal component from Clarion could help with rewriting the code to make it more user friendly.

Although Futrell suggested there might be other one-time funds available for Goodman’s project, City Attorney David Smith pointed out that the posting language on the agenda would not allow the Council to allocate money not indicated by the item. After more than an hour of discussion, Mayor Will Wynn pointed out that no motion had been offered. Goodman made the motion to hire a local planning consultant and add to the city’s planning staff. She estimated the price tag would be $150,000, about 50 percent of the Capitol Metro money. When it became clear that no one would second her motion, Goodman announced that she was going to the restroom and walked off the dais. Wynn then said the motion failed and asked Futrell to “craft a scope of work” for the national team the city will hire ” based on this discussion.”

At the end of the day, while she was being honored for her service and dedication, Goodman declared that she would return during budget deliberations to seek more money to enlarge the planning staff.

Catellus to present retail plan for Mueller

Developer plans 'Regional Urban Lifestyle Center' for northwest quadrant

The Catellus team will present a conceptual plan for northwest quadrant retail development when the Robert Mueller Municipal Airport Plan Implementation Advisory Committee meets in August.

Project Manager Greg Weaver says Catellus has been gearing up for retail in the northwest quadrant for the last 60 days. This is not the high-intensity, high-end retail that might be associated with Mueller’s town center. Instead, this chunk of land once associated with a possible big-box use will be devoted to neighborhood-oriented uses. Weaver has a name for this kind of retail development – the regional urban lifestyle center.

This first phase of retail at Mueller will have between 300,000 and 400,000 square feet of commercial space, with a number of “junior anchors” in the 30,000 to 40,000 square foot range. Tenants are likely to offer mid-priced soft goods, house wares and clothing, Weaver said. Nelson Architects, known for its urban retail design in Arizona and Florida, will be designing the project. Nelson also was the architect on Endeavor’s Block 21 bid.

“Even though this is going to be neighborhood retail, we’re still going to have strong design elements with this project,” Weaver said regarding the first phase of retail at Mueller. “The layout of the tenants, the landscaping of the property, the walkability of the area… all of those things are going to mirror many of the city’s proposed design guidelines.”

Marketing of the Northwest quadrant began 60 days ago. Weaver has hired David Ross, formerly of Endeavor and a board member of the Real Estate Council of Austin, to assist with leasing at Mueller. Ross has leased space in the Simon Property malls in the Austin area. Weaver said has been encouraged by the strong response of both local and national retailers to the prospect of a high quality urban infill retail project.

More upscale clientele are likely to go to Mueller’s Town Centre. Weaver said Mueller has made a commitment that 30 percent of the tenants in the Town Centre will be Austin businesses. Weaver said Catellus would be working with the Austin Independent Business Association to find places for Austin-grown businesses at Mueller.

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

. . . New Neighborhood Group . . . It's not every day that Austin gets a new neighborhood association, but a new group was formed recently in South Austin. Bouldin Forward Thinking is a new association registered with the City of Austin to advance the interests of all stakeholders in the Bouldin neighborhood. Following the guidelines of the City's Neighborhood Planning process, voting membership in Bouldin Forward Thinking is available to residents, non-resident property owners, and business owners located in the neighborhood. The boundaries for Bouldin Forward Thinking are Lamar Boulevard on the west, Town Lake on the north, Congress Avenue on the east, and Oltorf Street on the south. For more information about Bouldin Forward Thinking, check the website at, or contact the group's president, Aaric Eisenstein, at . . Meetings . . . The Community Development Commission will meet at 5:30pm at the S treet-Jones Building, 1000 E. 11th Street, Room 400a. Members will hear a presentation on the City of Austin 2005-06 Action Plan. . . The Planning Commission will meet at 6pm in Council Chambers at City Hall. There are several zoning cases on the agenda, including two regarding historic home status. . . . Top-rated law firms . . . Four law firms with Austin offices are among the top 20 corporate law firms in the country, according to a survey released Monday. New York-based Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP was 11th, down from No. 9 last year, followed by Palo Alto, Calif.-based Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati PC at No. 13, up from 18th last year; No. 14 Washington, DC-based Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, up from 16th; and No. 15 Houston-based Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, down from 12th. The survey, by Corporate Board Member magazine, had firms rated by their clients, not other law firms. . . . Duncan gets National Award . . . Roger Duncan, manager of Austin Energy, is in Washington DC today to pick up an Energy Leadership Award for Public Service from the Executive Council of the U.S. Energy Efficiency Forum. The award recognizes a government official who has "motivated action to addressing energy efficiency in government operations and has served as an advocate of energy efficiency." Duncan's wife, In Fact Daily Editor Jo Clifton, is also in Washington for the festivities. . . . Birkman on Austin Bond Committee . . . Williamson County Precinct 1 Commissioner Lisa Birkman has been appointed by the Commissioners Court to the City of Austin's Bond Election Advisory Committee as an ex-officio, non-voting member. The City of Austin is initiating a bond election to set aside the capital resources necessary to enhance the quality of life in the city while shaping and defining future population growth. The bond election tentatively set for May 6, 2006. Approximately 17,000 Austin residents live in Williamson County, most of them in Birkman's precinct.

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