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BSEACD confirms position on rock crusher

Monday, July 18, 2005 by

Board says TCEQ's temporary permit for KBDJ improper

After a chat with their attorney, members of the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District Board of Directors last week approved the district’s continued interest in a lawsuit filed by Neighbors Organized to Protect the Environment (NOPE) against KBDJ Inc. and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

NOPE, a Hays County environmental group formed to oppose a rock-crushing plant near Buda filed the suit last October challenging the TCEQ temporary permit under which KBDJ is operating the plant.The BCEACD board approved filing an amicus curiae brief in the case last December, supporting NOPE’s position against KBDJ’s continued use of a temporary permit to operate the facility.

However, district officials say they have an “ulterior motive” in filing the brief.

“The amicus curiae brief puts the district on record as opposing the TECQ permit. We are also hoping to force a change in the TCEQ rulemaking process to ban operations such as a rock crusher from being permitted to operate over the aquifer,” said Kirk Holland, executive director. “They are using a short-term, temporary construction permit for a long-term operation. We are hoping to change the rulemaking process to prevent that.”

Board members met for more than a half-hour with attorney Emily Rogers to discuss the matter, emerging to vote to continue with support for the lawsuit and instructing Holland to develop conceptual rule changes that would prevent any such operation from being permitted in the future.

“The rule that was used in this case pertains to surface developments and not groundwater, which is the issue here,” Holland said. “We plan to use our involvement in this case as a platform to petition the TCEQ to ban any kind of mining, or rock crushing operations, over an aquifer.”

In another matter involving regulatory agencies, Holland reported that he and Board Secretary Craig Smith met recently with officials of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Pipeline Safety over recent reports that the operators of Longhorn Pipeline had requested a delay in performing safety tests on the Austin portion of the Longhorn Pipeline.

As part of its mitigation agreement, Longhorn committed to perform tests on the structural integrity of the entire pipeline, but has asked US DOT for a delay. The controversial pipeline, which carries gasoline from Houston to El Paso via southern Travis County and Northern Hays County and over the aquifer, began operations earlier this year after several lawsuits failed to stop the operation.

Holland said he and Smith met with US DOT’s Mike Gettl, who told them Longhorn’s request was due to a low volume of product in the pipeline.

“He (Gettl) said there wasn’t enough flow in the pipeline to allow the ‘pig’ to run through that portion,” he said, noting that the device used to test the pipeline was called a pig. “They are only running at 20 percent of capacity right now, and that’s not enough to propel the device. He also told us that they have made some improvements, such as installing a new entry point for the pig just east of Austin, and putting in a continuous leak detection system on the entire pipeline.”

On balance, Holland said, it appears that Longhorn wants to do things right, though he believes the situation should be monitored closely.

“We need to hold them to their commitments, and we may eventually have to turn to litigation,” he said. “But for now, let’s see how it plays out.” . Board members also agreed that the district should participate in an upcoming project to develop an emergency response plan to any breaks in the pipeline.

Hyde Park NCCD wins commission approval

The Planning Commission last week approved a Neighborhood Conservation Combining District for the northern half of Hyde Park. The NCCD, if approved by the City Council, would bring new zoning regulations to the area similar to those already approved for the southern half of the neighborhood in 2002.

The new NCCD would cover the area bounded by 51st Street on the north, 45th Street on the south, Guadalupe Street on the west and Red River Street on the east. Under the new NCCD, properties zoned SF-2 or SF-3 would have a 30-foot height limit instead of the current 35-foot limit. Properties zoned MF-3 and MF-4 would have new restrictions on floor-to-area ratio, maximum building coverage, maximum height, and maximum impervious cover. The NCCD also includes several sub districts for the different areas along Avenue A, Duval, and Guadalupe.

Although the NCCD case was initiated by the city, the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association has been working on the specifics of the document and was in agreement with almost all of the provisions. Only two properties within the neighborhood generated any debate, an auto repair shop at 4500 Duval and an apartment complex at 4505 Duval. “Agreements have been reached with a number of people,” said Karen McGraw, Chair of the Hyde Park Planning Team. “We are still discussing two properties. We are trying very hard.”

The neighborhood sought new limitations on development for the property at 4505 Duval, the Oak Park Apartments. “It has a very large tract of GR zoning. Because of the way compatibility works, there’s a piece in the middle of this site that could go to 50 feet,” said McGraw. “We really do not want the height of that site to exceed 40 feet. That’s a tall three-story building. We’re agreeable to mixed use…but not if we can’t make some agreement on some other things.”

While the owners of the apartment complex praised the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association for the members’ willingness to meet with business and multi-family property owners, they opposed any changes that would have the effect of down-zoning the complex. “We respectfully disagree with what is being proposed that would place new restrictions on this property. Our feeling is that the proposed height limit on this property would be somewhat arbitrary,” said attorney Zach Wolfe, who represented the owner. “This proposal would down zone an existing three story building to non-compliance. We think the effect of all this is you are going to discourage mixed-use at this property, and we think this is inconsistent with the city’s goals.”

Wolfe said allowing the tract to have a maximum 50-foot height, along with preserving current regulations on impervious cover and building coverage, would improve the possibility that the owners would redevelop the site with a mixed-use project more in keeping with the aesthetics of the neighborhood. “We think it’s an ideal location where future redevelopment could happen. We certainly share the goals of the neighborhood association and we want to protect this neighborhood as much as anyone else does, but we think these proposed restrictions are counter to that goal,” he said. “If you make things more restrictive, you’ll likely just give an incentive to the property owners to leave the property the way it is, when you could have a very positive re-development otherwise.”

The owners of In and Out Mufflers across the street at 4500 Duval have worked out an agreement with the neighborhood association. “We’ve agreed to a list of 46 prohibited uses,” said Annick Beaudet, the agent for the business owners. “The last two issues that we’re still working out have to do with auto sales/auto rental and a service station.” The owner wishes to preserve the option for those uses, with restrictions, which could be set out in an agreement with the neighborhood or in the form of a restrictive covenant.

Commissioners voted 7-1 to approve the NCCD. The motion specifically kept the current regulations in place for the Oak Park Apartments, including compatibility standards. For In and Out Muffler, the commission recommended prohibiting auto washing as a stand-alone use. The only vote against the NCCD came from Commissioner Matthew Moore, who opposes the NCCD tool in general. “I believe that the regulations are to lock in place the existing character of the neighborhood, and I believe neighborhoods should evolve over time,” he said.

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

Boost for Brewster . . . Council Member Brewster McCracken recently got a bravo from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for his work on Austin’s big box store regulations. McCracken spent a considerable amount of time leading competing interests through scenario after scenario on the construction of Wal-Marts, Home Depots and the like, finally arriving at an ordinance. The Star Telegram’s message, “it would be an exceedingly intelligent move on the part of the Arlington Council to pick the brain of (McCracken)” . . . Today’s meetings . . . The Historic Landmark Commission will meet at 7:30pm in Room 325 of One Texas Center. The first case scheduled for consideration involves a structure in Hyde Park . . . The Arts Commission will meet at 6:30pm in The Boards and Commission Room of City Hall . . . The Urban Transportation Commission is scheduled to meet at 6pm in 8th Floor Conference Room of One Texas Center . . . The Urban Renewal Board will meet at 6pm in Room 400A of the Street-Jones Building, 1000 East 11th Street. . . .The Capital Metro Board of Directors meets at noon today in its monthly work session. The meeting is at Capital Metro headquarters, 2910 East 5th Street. . . .The Austin Community College Board of Trustees Work Sessio n, scheduled for tonight, has been cancelled.

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