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Growth envisioned for Burnet/Gateway Corridor

Monday, October 9, 2006 by

Envision Central Texas forecasts dropping 100,000 people into the North Burnet/Gateway area in the next 30 years, but to achieve that goal would require significantly ramping up development on the city’s far northwest side, consultant Gary Bellamy told the Council Land Use Subcommittee at a meeting last week.

In some ways, the 2,500 acres in the North Burnet/Gateway planning area is a blank canvas for the city, with plenty of undeveloped land waiting for growth. This is the far north end of Burnet, bounded by Walnut Creek, MoPac and US 183/Metric Boulevard.

In planning for the area, Bellamy said reaching the density goals under Envision Central Texas would require some substantial construction, including a goal of 20 dwelling units per acre, which is roughly 10 times the overall current density for the city. The goal also would be a 40-60 split on transportation, with 40 percent using a car and 60 percent using mass transit. A 30-70 split would be even better, Bellamy said.

A number of concepts came out of public workshops on the North Burnet/Gateway area: the need for a buffer for existing residential neighborhoods; greater east-west connectivity across MoPac; density with the proper amount of parks and open space; and even a possible new skyline on the north end of town. The group also proposed the creation of a museum district on the south end of Burnet in the Gateway area.

Density was not a problem to those participating in the public workshops, particularly if the location was near rail stations, Bellamy said. The area could be home to at least three rail stations. Braker and Burnet would be the major transit corridors. Proposals included added density along Burnet, with buildings up to 10 stories. The highest density would be near rail stations. Buildings would transition down to two-story buildings along Metric.

Participants also wanted an improved MoPac/Braker interchange; better circulator-level transit in the district; and additional civic-related sites. If the area could "densify," the participants wanted to add an additional rail station along the proposed red rail line.

The University of Texas has been participating in the planning process, but on a somewhat limited basis. The university has about 450 acres of undeveloped land within the North Burnet/Gateway planning area, both at the JJ Pickle Research Campus and around MCC. Participants would like to see UT do something more with the JJ Pickle Research Campus, possibly creating a north campus for the university that stretches beyond research alone.

Council Member Brewster McCracken urged the city to continue to reach out to UT. He wanted to make sure some land use plan for the UT acreage was in place, especially if the land might eventually end up in the hands of private developers. The city has a responsibility to plan for that possibility, McCracken said.

Council OKs distance waiver for Galaxy Café

Clarksville restaurant may serve alcohol

Faced with the support of the Old West Austin Neighborhood Association, the City Council overruled staff and school district opposition to a waiver on the distance requirements between a restaurant selling liquor and Mathews Elementary School on West Lynn Street.

The opposition to the restaurant appeared to be half-hearted, at best. Tammy Williamson of Watershed Protection and Review said the city opposed waiving the 300-foot buffer between school and the Galaxy Café because of the Austin Independent School District’s opposition. Agent Jim Bennett said the school district, in the past, had allowed principals to make the decision on opposition but eventually decided on a uniform policy to avoid any perceived favoritism on zoning cases.

Bennett said the waiver for the Galaxy Café, located at 1000 West Lynn, was really a 22-foot waiver, as the restaurant was located 278 feet from the elementary school.

Paul Seals of OWANA told City Council the Galaxy Café – not to be confused with the Cosmic Café down the street – had been an excellent addition to the neighborhood and that local families already frequented the café. Seals said in the two weeks it had been open, "the Galaxy Cafe has already become an attractive gathering place for families in the neighborhood. It represents a positive family-friendly, neighborhood-friendly, pedestrian-friendly development in the area along West Lynn, which many of us refer to as downtown Clarksville."

Applicant Kelly Chappell noted that his café did not depend on liquor sales for profits, barely marked up liquor and said liquor sales were no more than 5 percent of his revenue for the café on Slaughter Lane. Seals said a "bring your own bottle" would only lead to local residents buying beer or wine at a convenience store even closer to the school.

Council Member Mike Martinez asked whether hours could be limited by Council approval. Assistant City Attorney Marty Terry said the city’s decision was zoning. Mayor Will Wynn clarified that zoning was the city’s decision and hours of operation would be under the auspices of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

Council Member Lee Leffingwell moved to approve the waiver, with Council Member Sheryl Cole seconding the recommendation. The waiver won unanimous approval.

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

That's really slow Joe . . . Although the signs are now up for the new Austin Java at City Hall, the coffee shop/restaurant tucked into the corner of 2nd and Lavaca won't be opening until Christmas, according to the latest estimate. The Austin City Store, which will sell various useful items, is projected to open sometime in December, according to Jan Stephens, the project manager. Until then, and presumably after that too, denizens of City Hall will be walking down to Jo's for their java and Frito pie . . . You thought it was only Austin . . . Austin developers frequently complain that Austin is the most difficult of all places to follow regulations. The recent McMansion rules are but one example of vilified regulations. But the Dallas Observer shows that Austin is not alone in disgruntled neighbors complaining about new, larger homes moving into their neighborhoods. According to the story, in University Park near Dallas, "The code is so complex-impermeable coverage, setbacks, ridge lines, development envelopes, average natural grades, size of side lots, front yards and back yards, sky visibility-that about 60 percent of new building permits are denied because of non-compliance." For the full story on see http://www.dallasobserver.com/blogs/?p=1498. Council Member Brewster McCracken, who worked tirelessly to get the McMansion ordinance through the process, was not surprised. He said, "What University Park and hundreds of other communities are going through demonstrates again that this is not simply an Austin issue. California investment syndicates and speculative builders are teaming up throughout the country to overpay for small lots in historic neighborhoods, tear the existing homes down and replace them with profit-maximizing tract housing. Austinites can take pride that we stepped in forcefully to protect our historic neighborhoods. We can also take pride that we all worked together to produce a balanced approach that makes it possible to redevelop without destroying the character of the very neighborhoods that give our community its identity . . . Meetings … The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Transportation Policy Board meets at 6pm at the Joe C. Thompson Center at UT . . . The Board of Adjustment/Sign Review Board meets at 6pm in Council Chambers at City Hall . . . The Music Commission meets at 6pm in the Room 1029 at City Hall . . . The Resource Management Commission Transportation Subcommittee meets at 1pm at Town Lake Center . . . The Urban Transportation Commission meets at 6pm in the Boards and Commissions Room at City Hall . . . Symphony teams up with Don McLean . . . The Austin Symphony Orchestra will team up with Grammy-winning pop music balladeer Don McLean for next spring's Sarah & Ernest Butler Pops concert. McLean has produced more than20 albums but is best known for the hit song "American Pie." The concert is set for March 17 at the Riverbend Centre. It will substitute for the David Gates concert, which was canceled. . Tickets are available at the Austin Symphony Box Office, 11th and Red River. You can call 476-6064 or 1-888-4-MAESTRO, or go to http://www.austinsymphony.org . . . . Get ready to vote . . . Voter registration must be completed by Tuesday in order for a voter to participate in the November 7 election. Election officials say a registration card must be in the hands of the Tax Assessor/Collector's office or must be postmarked by midnight tomorrow in order for a person to be registered on time. The Travis County Democratic Party will be holding a voter registration drive at a variety of locations around town tomorrow. For a list, go to http://www.co.travis.tx.us/tax_assessor/press_releases/default.asp . . . Community emergency team recognition . . . Council Member Mike Martinez will recognize the Community Emergency Response Team and one of its founders, Moses Saldaña, at 2pm today at City Hall.

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