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WTP 4 mitigation plans revealed

Monday, November 6, 2006 by

More than two decades after Austin voters approved bond funds for it, work began in earnest last week to construct Water Treatment Plant 4 on its original site at the headwaters of Bull Creek. And despite months of wrangling over the environmental impact of the plant, city officials say they plan to build the “best built, most environmentally sensitive water treatment facility ever constructed.”

City staff from the Water Protection and Development Review and Austin Water Utility briefed members of the Environmental Board last week on plans for mitigation, best management practices, monitoring and environmental commissioning in regards to building the plant. Staff also talked about the timeline for construction, BCCP involvement, and the city’s communications plan for the project

City Environmental Officer Pat Murphy led a host of city staff members – identified as the Environmental Commissioning team – in presenting a plan to the Environmental Board designed to show that every possible step will be taken to protect the fragile area both within and outside of the 102-acre site.

Environmental Resource Management Division Manager Tom Ennis laid out the process by which the environmental commissioning process will take place.

“Environmental commissioning is the systematic process of verifying that appropriate safeguards are incorporated into the project design, that the safeguards are properly implemented and monitored during the construction process,” he said. “We will also see that the safeguards are modified or adapted as necessary to address changing conditions, conflicts or enhanced protection. We will also see that operational and maintenance safeguards for the completed project are clearly communicated and followed.”

Ennis said a new consultant would be hired to independently verify that the design, construction and start-up of WTP4 minimize the effect on the surrounding environment. He said the goals are to achieve both non-degradation of water quality and hydrologic regimes and to prevent the discharge of pollutants from the site. Other goals include reducing the potential impacts to BCCP lands, protecting the habitat for the Jollyville Plateau Salamander and to strive for energy efficiency and resource conservation.

Preliminary design work at the site was begun Wednesday by Carollo Engineering. Chuck Lesniak with the WPDR has been named the Interim Commissioning Leader for the project until a consultant is hired.

Others making presentation to the board included Jay Ullery, who will serve as project manager for the WTP4 project; Willie Conrad, AWU Environmental Conservation Manager; and Laurie Lentz, AWU Communication Manager.

Ullery, who recently was project manager of the expansion of the Ullrich Water Treatment Plant, said environmental mitigation infrastructure, such as retention ponds, barriers and other structures, will be in place before any construction begins. After all the preliminary site work is done, he said construction on the actual plant will begin in 2009, with completion scheduled for 2013.

That tight of a timeline concerned some on the board, who wondered what would happen if a problem developed in the process?

“I understand there is a need for water to flow from faucets in 2013. That is a tight timetable,” said Environmental Board Chair David Anderson. “What happens in the case of unforeseen circumstances? We don’t want the answer to be ‘Can’t fix it. Gotta stay on schedule.’ ”

Assistant City Manager Rudy Garza told the board the city was as committed to the environmental aspects of the project as it was to the timetable.

“It would be foolish to compromise on the safeguards we are planning to build into the project, he said. ”If we encounter problems, we will use all of the resources we have put in place to explore what the option area and how we should proceed.”

Environmental Board members have requested regular updates on the progress of WTP4 throughout the project’s life. See In Fact Daily, November 3, 2006..

Southpark zoning debate spurs rude comments

Council votes approval on all three readings

The Park Ridge Owners Association managed to ruffle some feathers at Council last week with a rather crude remark during testimony on a proposed bar at Southpark Meadows.

President Susan Hambright and 44 members of the Park Ridge homeowners association, just south of Slaughter Boulevard, registered their complaints about proposed zoning changes for a Woodrow’s in Southpark Meadows Central. Neighbors complained about the lights and noise connected to the bar, as well as the potential crime it would bring to the Park Ridge neighborhood, which residents say already suffers from additional crime that has occurred since the opening of retail in Southpark Meadows.

What got Council members riled up, however, was a closing snipe from past Park Ridge association President Pauline Antone, who said that crime had gotten so bad in her neighborhood that she wondered whether she needed to be armed when she left her house, citing a recent heroin bust down the street in her neighborhood. If Council members weren’t going to listen, they should just say so, Antone said.

“Hand us a tube of Vaseline and tell us to go on our way,” Antone said.

No one referenced Antone’s remark specifically, but Council Member Mike Martinez noted, immediately upon the hearing’s closing, that he might vote in a way the neighborhood did not like, but that didn’t mean that he wasn’t listening to the community. Council Member Sheryl Cole agreed, when she made a motion to approve the recommendation of the Zoning and Platting Commission, which was to approve CS-1 zoning.

“To assume that because one of us might not vote in the manner that you want us to vote that we’re not listening to you is a false assumption,” Martinez said. “We may disagree, but we listened to you and we just don’t agree. That doesn’t mean that I’m ignoring you, even if I vote a way you don’t like tonight.”

Hambright presented charts on the increased crime in the perimeter around Southpark Meadows. Paul Hannanam spoke of the prior development around the neighborhood in which local developers agreed to conditional overlays to prohibit cocktail bars and adult-oriented businesses in the retail development around Park Ridge. He also pointed out that the bar would be next to a future movie theater. Children in the neighborhood likely would be traveling by bike to go to that theater and would be forced to face the danger of bar patrons leaving the bar when they got on their bikes to go home at night.

In her speech, Antone also complained that CS-1 zoning also would open the door to adult-oriented businesses in her neighborhood, such as a Yellow Rose. In his rebuttal, attorney Richard Suttle immediately agreed to a conditional overlay to exclude adult-oriented businesses, saying it was never the owner’s intent to open one.

Council Member Jennifer Kim did make a motion to deny the zoning change, saying that it was a substantial site too close to homes and a local school, but that motion died for a lack of a second. The final vote on the zoning change was 5-1, with Kim voting against the motion and Council Member Brewster McCracken absent. The zoning change was approved on all three readings.

During testimony before the Zoning and Platting Commission, Suttle said the bar would be only one tenant in the 400-acre mixed-use Southpark Meadows development. Total development on the Southpark Meadows site will be 1.6 million square feet of retail.

Woodrow’s is on the portion of the original Southpark Meadows site that was the 21-acre CS-1 zoned property. That’s been subsequently zoned and rezoned. Woodrow’s would be about 15,000 square feet of space and more than 500 feet from any residence, Suttle told ZAP. About 12,000 of the 15,000 square feet would be outside patio area. Suttle said the business would meet all zoning and buffering standards.

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

Kim gets new position… VIAS International, Inc. announced Friday the appointment of Council Member Jennifer Kim as vice-president. According to a statement from the company, Kim will develop VIAS ' economic research and international business solutions. Kim, who holds a master's in public affairs from Princeton University, has previously owned and operated an information technology services company. VIAS offers technical support to the semiconductor industry . . . SMART Housing honored . . . The International City/County Management Association (ICMA) has recognized the City of Austin's S.M.A.R.T. Housing policy as an International Leading Practice. The city received the award Friday at the ICMA International Leading Practices Symposium in New Zealand. The S.M.A.R.T. Housing (Safe, Mixed Income, Accessible, Reasonably Priced and Transit Oriented) initiative stimulates the creation of reasonably priced homes in Austin. In the six years since S.M.A.R.T. Housing was adopted, the City has provided incentives, expedited review, and offered other assistance to create more than 7,400 homes and apartments. Of that number, 73 percent are affordable to residents earning less than 80 percent of area median income. "The City of Austin developed S.M.A.R.T. Housing in response to a 1999 community report that identified key obstacles to creating affordable homes," said Austin City Manager Toby Hammett Futrell. "While we're proud to have helped thousands of Austin residents find affordable homes, we are humbled that our efforts may be emulated to assist lower income families in communities around the world." Paul Hilgers, the City of Austin Community Development Officer, presented a case study of the S.M.A.R.T. Housing policy to the symposium on Thursday in Rotorua, New Zealand. The symposium promotes learning among local authority managers internationally by highlighting outstanding case studies of leading practices from different countries. . . . Early voting ends. . . A healthy number of Travis County voters cast early ballots prior to the Nov. 7 election. A total 98,660 ballots were cast during the two weeks between Oct.23 and Nov. 3. That’s a total of 17.76 percent of the 555,579 registered voters in the county. The Randall’s on Brodie Lane drew the largest number of early votes at 8,972. Other locations with heavy participation included Northcross Mall with 8,622, Randall’s on South MoPac with 7,358, Randall’s Westlake at 6,581, and the University of Texas with 6,078. That’s not a bad set of numbers, but it falls short of the 2002 general election, where 19.05 percent of registered voters cast an early ballot in Travis County. . . . Legal contracts. . . . City Council authorized the negotiation of contracts for legal services regarding the Water Treatment Plant 4 at last week’s meeting. Agreements were authorized with Smith, Robertson, Elliott & Glen of Austin (not to exceed $100,000) and with Scott Douglass and McConnico, L.L.P. of Austin (not to exceed $150,000) . . . Meetings . . . The Austin Music Commission meets at 6pm in the Boards and Commissions room at City Hall . . . The Art in Public Places Panel Board meets in Room 1027 at City Hall . . . Williamson voters to decide on bonds . . . On Tuesday, Williamson County voters have an opportunity to decide on a bond election regarding the issuance of $250 million in general obligation bonds. Proposition 1 is for $228 million for roads and Proposition 2 is for $22 million for parks. For information on the bond propositions, visit http://wcportals.wilco.org/Bonds/. . . . Putting Austin on the map . . . An article in National Geographic back in the late 1980 put Austin on the map for many people. Now Austin is getting another spread in the NG family of publications. The November/December issues of National Geographic Traveler will feature Austin as “The Best Little City in America,” and will highlight Austin's diverse population, endless music, eclectic shopping and regional cuisine.

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