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Council members seek study on how to keep MUNY

Wednesday, October 15, 2008 by Austin Monitor

The Austin City Council will vote tomorrow on a resolution instructing the City Manager to conduct a feasibility study on the prospect of acquiring the land used for the Lions Municipal Golf Course (MUNY) and the West Austin Youth Association. That land is part of UT’s Brackenridge Tract, which is being studied by UT for future redevelopment. The Council resolution seeks options from the City Manager by Dec. 18 for preserving the golf course and West Austin Youth Association facilities.


Individual members of the Council, West Austin neighborhood leaders, and even former City Manager Toby Futrell have all publicly pushed for the University to keep the golf course intact. Thursday’s resolution, said Council Member Lee Leffingwell, would escalate that support to the next level. “A resolution…changes that dynamic. A resolution passed by the Council will now be the policy of the city of Austin,” he said. “It will be documented and on record.”


So far, University officials have not made any direct commitment regarding the golf course. “I think they’ve been…on a fairly consistent basis…saying they hear our cry,” said Leffingwell. “They have not made any statement that they are willing to enter into negotiations. We hope that that is a process that will occur.”


Leffingwell said he is optimistic that whatever decisions UT officials make regarding the Brackenridge tract, they will take the will of the community into consideration. “Although the city has no direct control over what the University of Texas does with regard to developing its property, they have always shown the highest degree of responsibility with regard to aesthetics, with regard to environmental quality,” he said. “They’re on the leading edge, so we feel that the University of Texas will want to continue that reputation and relationship.”


Joining Leffingwell at the Lions Municipal Golf Course Clubhouse on Tuesday were Council Members Mike Martinez and Laura Morrison, along with several West Austin neighborhood representatives and local golfers showing their support for the Council’s resolution.


“The resolution that we’re proposing that acknowledges the fact that over the decades, all of the uses on the Brackenridge Tract have become an integral part of our community,” said Morrison. “We’re showing that we understand the needs the University has as it goes forward, but also that we’re committed to working with them to achieve the goals we have as a community that are represented here.”


At this time, the city does not have an estimate of the cost for purchasing the 142 acres occupied by the golf course. Developer Dick Kemp, who worked in previous negotiations for the city to lease the land from UT, said on Tuesday that the value of the acreage would be difficult to determine.


“We’ve heard that this land is worth $150 million. If you put lots that are similar size to those in Tarrytown and charge $500,000 per lot, you could probably get 300 lots,” he said. “But if you back out the land, $100,000 per acre for sewer and water, the engineering, and all the things it takes to develop it…I don’t see where you could get near $150 million value.” He also warned that development on the tract would need to take traffic in the surrounding neighborhood into account.


During the presentation, Leffingwell mentioned the possibility that the public could be asked to approve the purchase of the land as part of a bond election. He noted that while the current financial market may not be favorable, the city’s lease on the golf course runs through 2019. The City Manager will also be instructed to consider trading city-owned land to UT for the golf course and the youth facility.


The city staff has already assembled a list of city-owned properties for the Manager’s review. “It is our job as Council Members to have the City Manager explore every option to purchase Lions,” Martinez said. “Someone is going to get the rights to develop that tract, so it’s our duty to see if we can have ultimate control over how that happens and ensure it is in Austin’s best interest.”

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