About Us

Make a Donation
Fully-Local • Non-Partisan • Public-Service Journalism

Museum, Asian Center, library top bond wish list

Thursday, December 15, 2005 by

Supporters pack bond hearing for pet projects

Supporters of the Mexic-Arte Museum, the Asian American Resource Center (AARC), a new downtown Central Library, and members of environmental groups filled the meeting room at Town Lake Center Tuesday night to urge members of the Bond Election Advisory Committee to keep funding for their favorite projects in the Committee’s final recommendation to the Austin City Council.

The committee, which has another public hearing scheduled for January 5, is considering final revisions to the draft recommendations ( the group has crafted after several weeks of meetings.

With nearly 100 people signed up to speak at the hearing, Committee Member Robin Rather urged speakers to suggest areas of the bond proposal they felt were appropriate for reduced funding along with advocating money for specific projects. A few speakers suggested trimming funding for street repairs or traffic calming, but most used their allotted time to tout the reasons why the committee should support their particular project.

Library supporters lined up early to urge the committee to include $90 million or more for a new Central Library in its recommendations to the Council. “We need $124 million,” said David Rice. “Austin prides itself on being progressive. We’re the smart city. We lead the way in the state. We have to have the best library.”

The Asian American Resource Center (AARC) drew the largest number of supporters at the hearing, with representatives of several different Asian-American cultural and business groups requesting $5 million to help get the project started. If voters approve bond funding for the first phase of the AARC, backers hope to get started on construction sometime in 2008.

The first part of the building would be designated as an Education Center with classrooms, a library, an activity center, and a display hall for cultural exhibits. The overall cost for the AARC is estimated at $30 million. Supporters plan to secure the balance of the funding from private and corporate donations and some federal government grants.

“This small amount will be a big step for us,” Susan Fifer of the Austin Filipino American Association said of the $5 million request. “The AARC will not only create jobs but provide a place for Asians to hold cultural activities and serve as a showcase for the broader Austin community. The community needs a center where Asians can display our cultural heritage in one central area.”

Backers of the Mexic-Arte Museum also urged the committee to approve funding to improve their existing facility, which they said would improve the city’s culture and economy. “Mexic-Arte serves as a vital cultural bridge for U.S.-Mexico relations through its various exchange programs,” said Mexic-Arte’s Jason Rivera. “Since our doors have opened, we have been dedicated to the recording of the Mexican art genre. Investing in the museum is an investment in the economic development and tourism of the state and the revitalization of downtown Austin, and also an investment in the historic heritage of Hispanics in Texas.”

Transportation and drainage projects, which make up a much larger portion of the proposed bond package, drew comparatively few comments during the meeting. There were members of several environmental groups in attendance to show their support for funding for parkland and open space.

“I think it’s a priority in that it’s a life-and-death, real human suffering issue,” said Chris Lehman with the Austin Sierra Club. “By leaving this open space to be developed over the aquifer, we are losing our future water supply. The issue is: when do we need to acquire this land? This vacant land out in the suburbs is going up in value faster than your home, faster than inflation. The city needs to acquire this land now.”

Developer redesigned lots to cut footprint of building

A few changes were all it took for a developer to get a subdivision plan approved by the Environmental Board the second time around. The project, which would divide an existing lot into four lots in the Bouldin Creek Watershed area south of Oltorf Street, was originally brought before the board in September, but failed to get a recommendation.

Last night, the Environmental Board voted to rehear the case after staff said the owner had made major changes in the project designed to overcome the board’s objections to his original plan. Specifically, the applicant— Longaro and Clark – wanted a variance to allow construction in the Critical Water Quality Zone on the property at 2211 Thornton Road.

Working with a triangle shaped parcel of land bisected by a tributary of Bouldin Creek, the owner had planned to build duplexes on three of the subdivided lots and leave a single-family structure on the fourth. The 50-foot buffer on the CWQZ follows the line of the tributary as it turns north from its east-west orientation, cutting into the footprint of one of the duplexes on one lot. A 4-2-1 vote by the Environmental Board in September sent the matter to Council without a recommendation.

Jeff Howard, attorney for the applicant, said his clients had gone back to the drawing board and redesigned the structures on the lot in question. “We have met several times with neighbors and with city staff to try and find a way to do this that addresses your concerns,” he said. “We believe we have a design solution that meets all the findings of fact in this case.”

Architects had originally put parking in the center of the two halves of the duplex, but in the revised plan, they moved it to the north side of the lot, allowing the structure to be moved farther north, as well.

Carol Gibbs with the South Austin Neighborhood Association told the board her group had no objection to the subdivision, but that they believed that a single family structure was a better choice for the lot.

“We feel that a duplex is just too large to put on that lot and not affect the water quality,” she said. “We are concerned that a bad precedent would be set if you grant this variance.”

Board Member Karin Ascot shared Gibbs’ concerns. “There is some merit to the argument that it may set a precedent,” she said. “Down the road, people won’t see that they went back and made changes, they will only see that they were allowed to build in the critical water quality zone.”

Ascot moved to deny the request, but the motion died for lack of a second. A second motion was made and seconded to recommend the variance, and was approved 6-2 with Ascot and Board Member Mary Gay Maxwell voting no and Board Member Julie Jenkins absent.

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

New PAC files . . . A coalition of affordable housing advocates known as HousingWorks has filed a designation of campaign treasurer in preparation for a bond election. The PAC is called HousingWorks Action. Heather Way is its treasurer for more information on the group’s goals, visit their website, . . . Political newcomer files for Mayor . . . Bridgette Wise, who gave an East Eighth Street address, has designated herself as campaign treasurer for the race for Mayor in 2006. The address and phone number match the Salvation Army’s downtown shelter. In addition to Wise, Mayor Will Wynn, Mayor Pro Tem Danny Thomas and Jennifer Gale have designated campaign treasurers for the May election . . . Pre-holiday slowdown . . . Next Tuesday’s ZAP meeting will be the final one of the year. The commission will meet briefly on Jan. 3, but only to disapprove a number of items that require action before the Jan. 17 meeting . . . Brown challenges ruling . . . Democrat Andy Brown is challenging a ruling by the Texas Secretary of State that would keep him off of the ballot in the January 17 special election in House District 48. The Secretary's office ruled that Brown had not lived in the district long enough to run in the January special election to fill the remainder of Todd Baxter's term. Brown, who said similar requirements have been overturned in other states, filed a federal lawsuit challenging the ruling . . . Good news for Brown . . . Last night the Central Austin Democrats voted to endorse Brown’s candidacy on a vote of 15-9-3. Donna Howard received 9 votes and Kathy Rider got 3. After the announcement of the outcome, a Howard supporter wanted to know what would happen if Brown were not on the ballot. But a Brown supporter moved adjournment and the question remains unanswered . . . Republican joins race for NE Austin seat . . . Jeff Fleece announced his candidacy the Texas House of Representatives, District 50. Democrat Mark Strama is the incumbent. Fleece promised to fight for lower taxes, better schools, improved transportation and more effective control of illegal immigration. Fleece is a 1994 West Point graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering. He works for Dell. He will face Don Zimmerman in the Republican primary in March. . . . Lampson fundraiser tonight . . . Garry and Cristina Mauro are hosting a fundraiser for Congressman Tom DeLay’s Democratic opponent tonight. The event for Nick Lampson is set for 5-7pm at 2208 Townes Lane. . . . Meetings . . . The Austin City Council meets at 10am today in Council Chambers at City Hall. It could be the longest meeting of the year . . . The Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District Board of Directors meets at 6pm tonight at BSEACD offices at 1124 Regal Row in Manchaca . . . The Travis County Hospital District Board of Managers meets at 6:30pm at 1111 E. Cesar Chavez . . . How dry we are . . . The lack of rain lately is beginning to cause some concern among those people who’s job it is to worry about that sort of thing. The Lower Colorado River Authority—citing dry conditions and slowly dropping lake levels—has called on Colorado River water users to conserve water voluntarily. LCRA has issued the call for conservation because the combined volume of lakes Travis and Buchanan – the two water supply reservoirs in the Highland Lakes chain – has dropped below a "trigger" level of 1.6 million acre-feet of water. Groundwater is also a concern, as the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer District Board is scheduled to consider declaring a Stage II Drought Alarm as water levels in the aquifer and flows at Barton Springs drop to trigger levels as wel

Join Your Friends and Neighbors

We're a nonprofit news organization, and we put our service to you above all else. That will never change. But public-service journalism requires community support from readers like you. Will you join your friends and neighbors to support our work and mission?

Back to Top