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South Park sports bar on track

Friday, September 22, 2006 by

Some neighbors protest zoning for open air patio bar

When South Park Meadows was an outdoor concert venue, South Austin residents who lived within earshot took the rock ‘n’ roll concerts in stride, tolerating the occasional traffic and noise. But now that the area around I-35 and Slaughter Lane has been converted into one of the city’s largest commercial developments, a proposal to build a sports bar with a large outdoor patio and music venue is catching some static from the neighbors.

Promoters of the South Park Meadows commercial development want to build a branch of Little Woodrow’s, a sports bar on Sixth Street, in the center of the development. Attorney Richard Suttle, representing SP Meadows Central, told the Zoning and Platting Commission Tuesday night that the proposed project would cover a total of 15,534 square feet – 3,534 feet inside the sports bar and a total of 12,000 square feet of outdoor pavilion space.

“It is going be in the middle of a 400-acre development, with at least 500 feet between it and any residences,” Suttle said. “It’s at the intersection of two major arterials, I-35 and Slaughter Lane. There isn’t a more appropriate place for this type of facility.”

But a number of people from the nearby Park Ridge neighborhood said having such a facility in the area would contribute to an increase in noise, light pollution, drunk driving and crime in the area.

“This just doesn’t need to be there,” said Jim Hanneman, a Park Ridge resident. “We’re not trying to shut down something that has already been operating. We’re trying to stop someone from taking a big piece of dirt and turning it into a big nuisance. The developers will get the financial benefits, and we’ll get all the problems. ”

Some 45 members of the nearby neighborhood signed up in opposition to the bar, but because none of their homes is within 200 feet of the property, it is not considered a valid petition.

Susan Hambright, president of the Park Ridge Homeowners Association, said she was concerned that future homebuyers in the area would shy away because of the bar.

“It’s a huge place designed for nothing else but a lot of drinking,” she said. “While we are talking about personal responsibility, this runs contrary to public policy.”

Suttle reminded the commissioners that a bar is still a legal use for land, and that the proposal would comply with all applicable sound and light compatibility standards, as well as other regulations.

Commissioner Keith Jackson moved to approve the zoning change to allow construction.

“This is going to be in the middle of one of the largest retail centers in the city,” he said. “It makes sense from a land use perspective to build it where they plan.”

Commissioner Clarke Hammond said the developer has been doing a good job thus far in the area.

“I am sensitive to the feelings of the neighborhood,” he said. “But it is important to plan local businesses in this area. This is a huge site for development, and it will have a sense of proportion to the area when it is completed.”

Commissioners voted 6-1 to approve a change from GR-CO to CS-1, with Chair Betty Baker voting ‘no.’

Travis judges seek additional Court-at-Law

The five County Court-at-Law Judges who handle criminal cases went to Travis County Commissioners on Thursday to request another county court to relieve their growing backlog of cases. Creating a new court requires approval of the Texas Legislature, but the burden of funding the operation would be strictly on the county.

“Right now, we have more cases pending per judge than any other county court in the State of Texas, whether you go to Harris County, Dallas, Tarrant, or El Paso,” said Judge Bob Perkins. “You’ll find more pending here. We have only five county courts at law that do criminal work here. In San Antonio, they have 10 county courts-at-law.”

Statistics presented by the judges show that the average monthly caseloads for County Courts have increased 60 percent since 2002. Currently, each county court has an average of 3,200 active cases pending.

“We expect to have a greater caseload than the other counties in the State of Texas, and we expect to do more work for our taxpayers than other counties,” said Judge David Crain. “But the basic truth of what we’re looking at here is we’re finally getting overrun with the numbers. We’re being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of cases that are filed, especially certain types of cases.”

Domestic violence, DWI, and cases involving mental health patients account for a large percent of the increase. The county created a special family violence court in 1999, and judges suggested commissioners consider a similar step for other types of cases. A more reasonable caseload, they said would be to have between 2,000 and 2,200 cases pending per judge.

The judges are making their request now because of the county’s plans for finishing out the third floor of the Criminal Justice Complex. While judges said in an ideal world, they would be able to add either two or three new courts, there would be room on the third floor for one new court plus a magistrate court already in the works.

The cost to the county for a new court would be approximately $800,000, primarily for salaries for additional staffing. If the Commissioners Court does decide to seek approval for the creation of a new court from the Legislature in 2007, funds for a new court could be discussed as part of the FY2007-2008 budget.

©2006 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Women get together to help . . . Democratic women activists gathered at the home of former State Rep. Sherri Greenberg last night to help women candidates raise money for the November election. Those benefiting from the fundraiser were Rep. Donna Howard (D-District 48) and House District 47 candidate Valinda Bolton as well as three judicial candidates- Mina Brees, Diane Henson, and Bree Buchanan, each of whom is running for a seat on the Third Court of Appeals. Invitees were urged to give to the candidates of their choice. Howard, who defeated Republican Ben Bentzin in February for her seat in the House, told the group that "I have found that it's important that even if you don't have a full fledged race going on, you still need to be raising some funds." She cited two reasons. First, she said, "It is discouraging to other people who might want to mount a race against you." And perhaps more surprisingly, "Something that I did not know too much about until I started serving is that a lot of the legislators use their campaign funds to supplement things that help us to do a better job in serving as your legislators. So, we're always going to be on the campaign trail to a certain extent." However, Howard added, funding Bolton's campaign should be a higher priority "because we need to get Valinda in office to serve with the rest of us." Howard's only opponent is Libertarian Ben Easton. If Rep. Mark Strama and Howard are both re-elected and Bolton beats Republican candidate Bill Welch, the entire Travis County delegation will be Democratic . . . For her part, Bolton, a first-time candidate for the seat currently held by Rep. Terry Keel, stressed the need to elect more women to the Legislature. She said she recently learned that there have been more than 1,000 men and fewer than 100 women elected to the Texas Legislature. That's important, Bolton said, "because not only do we think about things differently but we also think about different things." In addition to Welch, Libertarian Yvonne Schick is running for the District 47 seat . . . Texas Civil Rights Project party . . . Jimmy LaFave, Troy Campbell and Seth Walker will entertain at a fundraiser for the Texas Civil Rights Project at Jovita's beginning at 5pm Sunday night. Tickets for Rockin' for Rights '06 are available at the door or at . . . HCA hears CAMPO, Fix 290 . . . About 75 members of the Hill Country Alliance heard presentations last night from CAMPO on its Regional Growth Concept (See In Fact Daily, Sept. 19, 2006) and from the Fix 290 Coalition, which is developing an alternative to TxDOT's plan for Oak Hill, as well as an update on traffic improvements in the Bee Cave area. HCA members told CAMPO staff that while the planning project was a good idea, the lack of mass transportation made it difficult for many in Southwest Travis County to see themselves as a part of a regional plan. HCA members were more interested in Fix 290's plan to rework the Oak Hill Y by designing a divided parkway instead of the elevated toll way that was TxDOT's plan. Some members said they would not prefer to see the parkway concept extended out into the Hill Country, as opposed to the elevated road concept . . . ACLU sponsors Banned Book Reading . . . On Sept. 27, the Central Texas ACLU chapter is hosting an evening of short readings from some of the "scandalous" books that made its annual report, "Free People Speak Freely," outlining the ACLU of Texas' Banned Books Project which tracks contested, and in some cases, banned literature in Texas' public schools. Guest readers will include City Council Member Lee Leffingwell, Austin Chronicle Senior Editor Kate Messer, NAACP Austin President Nelson Linder, UT's Olga Herrera, UT's Prof. Bob Jensen, former AISD art teacher Tamara Hoover, anthropologist and documentary filmmaker Brenda Sendejo, and ACLU-Texas Development Director James Canup. The event is set for 6:30pm next Wednesday at Brave New Books, 1904 Guadalupe. For more information, call 573-6194 or go to . . . Seton groundbreaking . . . Seton Health Care officials will be breaking ground this morning for the largest hospital in Williamson County. Local officials will join hospital staff at 9am at the site on the southwest corner of University Blvd. and FM 1460 in northeast Round Rock for the groundbreaking on Seton Medical Center-Williamson. Mayors from Cedar Park ( Bob Lemon), Hutto ( Ken Love), Jarrell ( Wayne Cavalier), Leander ( John Cowman), Liberty Hill ( Connie Fuller), Pflugerville ( Catherine Callen), Round Rock ( Nyle Maxwell), Taylor ( Benito Gonzales), and a Georgetown Council Representative ( Doug Smith) will present stones from their communities to be incorporated into the construction of the facility.

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