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County seeks comments on conservation ordinance

Wednesday, November 22, 2006 by

The conservation development ordinance, on its 15th draft, will make its way back to Travis County Commissioners Court on Dec. 5, giving stakeholders a chance to comment on both the ordinance and its accompanying manual before final approval is given.

On Tuesday, Joe Gieselman and John Kuhl of the Transportation and Natural Resources Department walked through the basics of the conservation development manual, which will be reviewed with stakeholder groups over the next couple of weeks. Kuhl noted that the current draft is 50 pages long but will likely be “slimmed down” as language is refined.

The aim of the ordinance is to view environmental features in the same light, and with the same procedures, as other features, Kuhl said. An agricultural feature adds value and provides an exemption to a landowner. The intention is to develop the mindset that canyon rimrocks or native prairie also are a land feature that should, and could, be protected through a management plan. In that light, many of the forms and procedures will be similar for both types of features.

The manual will provide guidance and case studies once the first couple of conservation contracts are signed, Kuhl said. Guidelines such as dark sky lighting, water conservation measures and landscaping requirements are defined. Less clear is the concept of the preferred commercialization areas, which would be the areas of the county where commercial development is encouraged. Those guidelines may be more obvious for the southwest than the northeast, so a placeholder has been put in the manual while the county seeks more input on specifics for the manual.

Commissioner Gerald Daugherty raised the issue of incentives. Suggested payments are a one-time $1,500 per acre, followed by $250 per acre per year. Assistant County Attorney Tom Nuckols noted that the county could choose to give, or not give, incentives.

Commissioner Karen Sonleitner, who is stepping down on Jan. 1, would like a vote on the ordinance before year’s end, so a proposed hearing on the ordinance was rolled forward one week, to Dec. 5. That would give commissioners two meetings before the end of the year to take a vote.

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

Save Barton Creek Association chooses new officers . . . Former Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman has been elected president of the Save Barton Creek Association and Jon Beall will serve as vice-president . . . Wildlife Habitat . . . Waste Management has received habitat certification from the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) for its contribution to wildlife habitat conservation for the new Wildlife Habitat Park built at its Austin Community Landfill in northeast Travis County. The Austin Landfill was among nine Waste Management sites certified for habitat by WHC, which recognized Waste Management for having more certified habitat programs in 2006 than any other company in North America, according to the company. WHC presented the award to Waste Management last week at WHC's 18th Annual Symposium in Baltimore, Md. In addition to Austin, three other U.S. landfills received WHC habitat certification this year: Springhill in Florida, Pine Grove in Pennsylvania and High Acres in New York. The Austin Community Landfill, located at US 290 East and Giles Road, developed a Wildlife Habitat Park off Springdale Road to improve the wildlife habitat on the landfill's property and to create a park. The 30-acre park includes a 2.1 mile trail that passes through a Texas wildflower meadow and prairie habitat. Neighbors, wildlife and agricultural experts, and Waste Management employees served on the Wildlife Habitat Team, which recommended steps to increase the diversity of the bird, bat, butterfly and insect populations in the area. For more information, visit WHC online at www.wildlifehc.org. . . . Looking ahead . . . Austin State Senator Gonzalo Barrientos is retiring at the end of December after thirty-one years of public service. Some of his friends are holding an appreciation event for the him and his supporters on Friday, December 15, 2006 at the Palmer Events Center from 5:30 to 11:30 p.m.

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