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Hays County adopts goals for development guidelines
The Hays County Commissioners’ Court took steps Tuesday towards revising the county’s subdivision regulations after hearing a presentation from Tom Brown, the intergovernmental affairs manager for Naismith Engineering. The commissioners, minus an absent Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley, voted unanimously to adopt a set of goals, objectives and policies recommended by the Hays County Development Regulation Core Committee that will pave the way for new development guidelines.As part of a four-year effort to come up with a multi-county water quality protection plan, Hays County Commissioners are trying to overhaul subdivision regulations and coordinate new development. The revision of subdivision regulations is meant not only to minimize pollution of groundwater sources, but also to ensure adequate development of infrastructure like roads, emergency services and utilities. While the adoption of the group’s goals and policies won’t immediately change the county’s regulations, it paves the way for a July meeting of stakeholders that will include discussions about specific changes. The planning for what will eventually become a new regional water quality plan, and in Hays County a new subdivision ordinance, started with Hays C ounty Judge Jim Powers and Austin City Council Member Daryl Slusher in 2002. When the residential population in the Edwards Aquifer region started to dramatically increase almost five years ago, Slusher and Powers convened a regional summit to begin discussions about the impact of development on the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer. Tuesday’s presentation focused on a broad set of recommendations for Hays County development that stemmed from input from school districts, cities and individuals. Recommended policies included a requirement that developers provide necessary infrastructure for proposed developments and coordination between the county, state agencies, other municipalities and public utilities. The five goals included recovering fees from the review of applications and permits from developers and the development of a procedure to limit conflict with existing municipal ordinances. "As we grow, it’s going to be critical that everyone has an idea of who is in charge of what," Powers said. The July meetings are planned for a time when water availability is an added concern in Hays County. With drought restrictions in effect, groundwater districts are facing high demand from an increasing residential base. Commissioners talked about the possibility of collecting an impact fee from developers, but Brown said the county doesn’t have the authority to charge impact fees. Instead, Brown said, the county can enter into a contractual agreement with developers. Commissioners also voted unanimously to hire Stephen Dickman, a lawyer with the Austin office of Kelly Hart & Hallman LLP, to serve as legal counsel for upcoming public meetings about the revision of the county’s regulations and the regional water quality plan. Upward mobility wins approval BOA grants variance to accommodate indoor rock-climbing The developer of a proposed indoor rock-climbing gym at 2631 S. Capital of Texas Highway won a variance from the Board of Adjustment Monday night to allow the facility to exceed the normal 40-foot height limit associated with tracts near a Hill Country Roadway. While the variance is officially for 3.5 feet, the building itself will actually be more than 60 feet high at its tallest point, since the base of the building will be below ground level to minimize the height. "The Hill Country Roadway Ordinance 40-foot height limit was established primarily to limit typical office building construction to three stories," said agent Jim Wittliff, who represented Uplifting Properties. "I don’t think they considered the unique construction requirements of an indoor rock climbing gym when the ordinance was established." In order to meet standards for international indoor rock-climbing competitions, the facility’s rock wall must be at least 12 meters (approximately 39 feet) high. "The United States has never had a facility capable of hosting the Indoor World Championships of Climbing," said Steve Goldstein, owner of Uplifting Properties. "Those are held in Europe or China. This would be the first facility in the country capable of doing that. It will be a hallmark for the city. It’s basically a gift to the City of Austin for my hobby." Some board members were unconvinced by Wittliff’s initial findings of fact for the variance. "On the hardship, you’re asking us to consider the use," said Chairman Frank Fuentes. "What if, the day after tomorrow, it’s no longer a rock climbing place…and we’ve granted this property a special privilege based on the use?" Board Member Bryan King said the hardship was essentially of Goldstein’s own making. "I also think it’s an issue of design," he said. "You’ve got a world-class architect who hasn’t solved a problem here, who needs a variance to overcome his design." But other members of the board pointed out that other uses with unique design needs had received variances, such as churches or schools. The board gave Wittliff some time to rewrite his findings of fact and return at the end of the meeting. But at that time, Board Members Bryan King and Greg Smith were still reluctant to grant the requested variance. "It’s a 60 foot elevation 200 feet long," said King. "That’s an encroachment, in my opinion, into the viewshed that’s pretty massive." As a compromise, the board voted to support the height variance for 140 feet of the building’s 200-foot length. ©2006 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved. Martinez hires help . . . Council Member-elect Mike Martinez will be visiting City Hall Thursday afternoon with his two aides. Joining Martinez in the Place 2 office will be Bobby Garza, former aide to State Senator Mario Gallegos, as well as Andy Moore. The third member of the staff is Viola Ruiz, who will work part-time . . . Kaspar starts PR firm . . . Reporter Mary Alice Kaspar has left the Austin Business Journal in order to start her own public relations firm. Kaspar said her company, Columbus Communications, would be doing both public relations and freelance writing. So far, the majority of her clients have ties with the commercial Real Estate industry, but Kaspar said she is not looking to only specialize. She is particularly excited about her clients involved in redevelopment of the old Seaholm Power Plant, Southwest Strategies and the Seaholm consortium ( Seaholm Power LLC). To learn more about Kaspar’s company, visit her web site, www.columbuscommunications.net . . . Jackie’s back . . . Jackie Mayo, once upon a time the spokesperson for Austin Bergstrom International Airport, has returned to city duty as the marketing manager for the Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department. In between, Mayo served a short stint in the private sector. She will be taking the place vacated by Julie Beggs, who recently moved to City Hall to handle Council agenda duties . . . Still opposed to new taxes . . . The indomitable anti-tax Republican Don Zimmerman will hold a press conference at 2pm today at the state Capitol to talk about a constitutional challenge to new state spending. Zimmerman, founder of Save Our Taxpayers, said "we are pleased to join other groups fighting to defend Texas taxpayers from the insatiable appetite of politicians" . . . Post-Katrina report . . . Austin has been widely praised for its efforts to assist evacuees from Hurricane Katrina last September. In fact, the city’s effort to assist an influx of more than 12,000 people in a very short time has been called a model response for the nation. Now, city staff has documented what was done and the lessons learned in the process in an online publication called "Hurricane Katrina Shelter Operations After Action Report." The 68-page report is the first of two that will be published. You can see the report at http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/help/downloads/katrina_action_report.pdf . . . Meetings . . . The Downtown Commission’s Transportation Committee meets at 5:30pm at 1717 West 6th Street, Suite 310 . . . The Solid Waste Advisory Commission meets at 6:30pm in room 105 at Waller Creek Plaza . . . The Water and Wastewater Commission meets at 6pm in room 104 at Waller Creek Plaza . . . Williamson fireworks ban . . . The Williamson County Commissioners Court has approved a restriction on the sale and use of aerial fireworks in unincorporated areas of the county. All skyrockets with sticks, devices with fins or rudders for the purpose of achieving aerodynamic flights (includes missiles or rockets) are restricted. The order is in effect for 90 days starting Tuesday. The action was taken due to the unseasonable high temperatures along with low humidity and high winds that have started to dry out the vegetation countywide. This does not include fireworks displays conducted with approval from local fire departments . . . Another new record . . . Austin Energy customers set a new all-time peak demand record for the month of June Tuesday that was about 60 megawatts (MW) higher than the previous all-time June record set just last year. An all-time peak demand record means that between 4:30 and 5:30pm yesterday, the demand on the Austin Energy system was greater than it has ever been on any day in any previous June in the 111-year history of the utility. The June peak Tuesday was close to 2,300 MW. Austin Energy has about 2,900 MW of generation. Austin Energy’s all time peak demand record for any month in the history of the utility is 2,445 MW set last September . . . Georgetown SWAT on Court TV . . . Georgetown Police Department’s tactical team is getting some national and even international exposure tonight when it will be featured on "Texas SWAT," a Court TV show broadcast to 85 million homes. The police department’s emergency response team, a tactical unit with full SWAT capabilities, will be profiled in the Texas SWAT episode airing at 7pm local time. The show gives viewers an inside look as the tactical team plans and then carries out two narcotics search warrant operations at Georgetown apartment complexes. Court TV is on channel 40 on Cox Cable and channel 57 on Time Warner Cable. The Texas SWAT webpage can be found at http://www.courttv.com.
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