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Spelman does a double take on water plan at racetrack site

Monday, August 9, 2010 by Michelle Jimenez

Sometimes things can go by pretty fast at City Council meetings, but one item last week seemed to go by at the speed of a Formula One racer, and Council Member Bill Spelman decided to slam on the brakes.


Spelman, unsure about an item approved on the consent agenda vote, asked Mayor Lee Leffingwell to it take up a second time later in the morning.


The Council had approved extending for an additional two years an agreement with Wandering Creek Investments, L.P., to reimburse the developer for $4.4 million in water utility infrastructure it will install at an East Austin development site — more specifically these days, the proposed Formula One race track site.


The problem, Spelman explained to Assistant City Manager Rudy Garza, is that he wasn’t aware when he voted that the agreement pertained to the same property as the proposed racetrack. He learned after the vote about the sites being the same and appeared worried that his earlier vote might have been an approval to reimburse Wandering Creek for infrastructure installed for the racetrack development.


When the Council approved the service extension request in 2008, the land was proposed as the site of a housing development, Spelman said. Staff members did not include a map or specify that the sites were the same in back-up materials for the agenda item.


“Are you familiar with the fact that these two sites happen to be the same?” Spelman told Garza.


“Clearly, everyone knows that this is the site for the proposed Formula One track,” Garza said.


“I did not know that until a few minutes ago, Mr. Garza,” Spelman said.


“I’m sorry. It’s been pretty public knowledge, but you’re right,” Garza said. “There was not a map to describe this site.”


Garza went on to explain that the earlier vote was merely a two-year extension of the current agreement — it would have expired Aug. 15 — which assumes construction of a housing development. A new reimbursement agreement would have to be executed if the track comes to fruition, Garza told Spelman.


The Council unanimously passed the item on a second vote.

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