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The Zoning and Platting Commission last week heard from a representative of Forest Park Holdings on plans for the resubdivision of property at Enchanted Forest Drive and Hawkhaven Lane. The property owner plans to develop the site for residential uses, but sought and received permission to revise the preliminary plans previously filed for the project.

Thursday, July 28, 2005 by

“They want to move a filtration pond from one end of the site to the other,” explained David Wahlgren of Watershed Protection and Development Review . “The applicant has found that it would take a large amount of fill to make the existing plan work properly. Also, the site would not be filtering its own water…that water would go into the adjacent creek and instead the pond would be filtering water of the adjacent, older subdivision that has been there for years. It does meet all requirements.”

Residents of some of the surrounding subdivisions urged the ZAP to reject the applicant’s request, although Commission Chair Betty Baker received assurances from the city legal staff at the beginning of the meeting that the request met all requirements and the commission would be required to approve it.

Neighbors said they had concerns over both the additional traffic and possible environmental impact of developing more than 50 single-family homes in the area. “I would like to see it developed in the most environmentally advantageous way to help our neighborhood,” said David Lancaster. “The main issue is, this is a major change. The fill, in my opinion, is not as problematic as they would make it. I just feel that there hasn’t been a really creative approach to re-doing this subdivision. They just need to do a little bit better engineering for the whole project, in my opinion.”

But property owner Richard Mathias countered that the opponents did not have legitimate grounds for their concerns. “This project has been opposed from day one. I had opposition to single family homes being built here,” he said of the vacant tract, which is surrounded by other single-family development. “This is the hole in the donut. This is the last piece. And I’ve had other homeowners so much as tell me that this is their park, this is their wildlife area. This project has been opposed from day one and this is just another bite at the apple, in my opinion”

Mathias told commissioners that he regretted coming to the ZAP to request the change, but that the proposal would actually result in the pond capturing more runoff than required by the city code. Changing the preliminary plan, he said, was proving to be both costly and aggravating. “I hired a civil engineering company that did this original application. When we got into the final plat and the construction drawings, they came to me and said ‘it won’t work’. Needless to say, I’m very upset about it,” he said. “I’m very distraught over this. This is not only costing me a lot of money, it’s costing me a lot of time, which is money. You don’t have as much disgust as I do about this.”

Although commissioners asked several pointed questions of the applicant, the neighbors, and the staff, in the end they heeded the advice of the Law Department. “I don’t think we have any choice in the matter,” said Commissioner Keith Jackson, who moved to approve the change to the preliminary plan. “I would reiterate that we have no discretion because we’ve been told by staff that this ordinance complies with all city, county, and state requirements,” confirmed Baker, before the commission voted unanimously in support of Jackson’s motion.

As the city’s Bond Advisory Committee and its various subcommittees meet over the next few weeks, they will likely be hearing from supporters of a proposal to build a new Central Library in Downtown Austin. Library Director Brenda Branch presented members of the Library Commission Monday night with information about the proposal, which calls for $106 million to pay for construction of a 300,000 square foot facility.

There is still no definite location for the proposed facility, although Branch said that the site of the Green Water Treatment Plant was one possibility, should the city ever move to de-commission the plant.

The need for a new facility is growing every year, Branch said, along with the city’s population. “The current Central Library is inadequate to meet current demand or allow for future growth of the system,” she said. “The collection is at capacity. There’s no room for growth. Forty public parking spaces are inadequate. Our technology infrastructure is at capacity. We cannot add another electrical wall outlet or another phone line.”

If the voters eventually approve funding for the project, Branch said the proposed specifications would create a facility much better than the existing John Henry Faulk Central Library, but one that was still slightly below the average size of other central libraries in comparable cities. It would have seating room for about 900 people, 22 meeting rooms, up to 300 parking spaces, and an auditorium with seating for 110 people. That compares to seating at the current Central Library for 300 people, 40 parking spaces, and no available meeting rooms or auditorium.

A new facility could also be designed to accommodate a gift shop, coffee shop, and more exhibit space, amenities found at most newer central libraries in other mid-sided cities.

“We’re depriving our community of some wonderful exhibits every year because we don’t have the space,” Branch said.

A new central library with larger capacity could also attract more visitors downtown. Branch presented information gathered in conjunction with the opening of a new Central Library in Seattle showing an increase in spending of $16 million at surrounding shops and businesses in the first year the new facility was open (See In Fact Daily, June 29, 2005).

The task for supporters of a new Central Library will be to make their case as the Bond Advisory Committee considers the hundreds of millions of dollars of competing needs ranging from open space to drainage improvements to a new Municipal Court. The committee is expected to make its recommendations to the City Council this fall about which projects to put before the voters in May of 2006.

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

Let’s make a dea l… David Vitanza of Schlosser Development has been shopping a proposal around City Council offices this week to aid in the redevelopment of properties at 3rd and Bowie streets, next to the Office Max. Schlosser, which developed the new Whole Foods at 6th and Lamar, has created and abandoned a number of ideas for retail projects on Bowie. Another group of developers, including Perry Lorenz, hope to build a condominium tower on 3rd Street also. Vitanza is eyeing city property which would make a nice little parking garage, he says. Of course, a major question is how much would developers be willing to pay for the city property? The other question is what other uses might the city have for the property—such as a transit station for a future rail line to Seaholm? . . . Today at Council . . . High profile appointment . . . The Council is expected to approve a new member of the Planning Commission today. Former Council candidate Mandy Dealey has applied for the spot and will likely be granted the appointment . . . Council members will also be naming members of their own committees . . . Budget matters . . .City staff will do a revised presentation on the proposed budget for FY 2005-06 and ask the Council to set public hearings for August 4, August 18, August 25 and September 1. . . Council will consider making some mainly grammatical changes to an ordinance governing candidate forums. This will give those so inclined, such as Council Member Brewster McCracken, an opportunity to talk about the need for revising the charter sections governing campaign finance. . .At 4pm, the Council will take up more than 20 zoning cases, including a request for apartment zoning at 1805 Frontier Valley Drive. The property owner won the first vote 4-3 but there has been a concerted lobbying effort on behalf of Marbella Corp., the property owner, to increase Council support. The neighborhood, led by Susana Almanza, continues to oppose the project . . .Developer Dan Day is fighting designation of the Lyman Bailey house at 1409 East Second Street as historic. . . Sarah Crocker is making a guest appearance on behalf of the H2O Car Wash. The business owner is seeking a change from office to community commercial zoning at 3327 West Slaughter Lane. . .The continuing saga of neighbors vs. the Gables at West Lake project will likely be postponed for at least two weeks. . . PODER will be protesting the police shooting of Daniel Rocha outside of City Hall from 5-7pm . . .Two public hearings are scheduled for 6pm. Both are related to use of parkland for easements for wastewater lines. . . Aquifer Board to meet . . . The Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District board meets at 6pm tonight at district headquarters at 1124 Regal Row in Manchaca. The board will take its first look at the 2006 budget. . . . Hospital District meets. . . The Board of Managers of the Travis County Hospital District will meet at 6:30pm at 1111 E. Cesar Chavez. The managers are scheduled to discuss several financial and personnel matters. . . . How quickly they forget. . . Former Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman says it was a fairly humbling experience to get a traffic ticket recently. The 12-year veteran of the Austin City Council–who stepped down only last month—was driving in her neighborhood looking for her lost cat and “may have” missed a stop sign, when she was pulled over by two APD officers. As the officers were going about their business, she struck up a friendly conversation with them. “It became clear that neither of them knew who I was,” she said. “They said they didn’t pay that much attention to politics.”

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