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Elizabeth Pagano is the editor of the Austin Monitor.
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Tuesday, June 10, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano
Environmental Board OKs redevelopment in Barton Springs zone
The Environmental Board gave an enthusiastic thumbs-up to redevelopment plans in the Barton Springs Zone Wednesday night.
Parkside Community School is moving from its current Toomey Road location, where rising rents have become unmanageable, to a new home at 3207 West Slaughter Lane. The school proposes to rehabilitate what is currently a chemical dependence rehabilitation facility. Because the rehabilitation facility was a civic use in the Barton Springs Zone, the redevelopment requires City Council approval.
Environmental Officer Chuck Lesniak said that, in his opinion, the redevelopment plan had little potential for environmental impact over what is currently there, and would provide significant water quality benefits. He also reminded the board that the current buildings could be remodeled without requiring the additional water protection that Parkside is planning.
Despite the fact that redevelopment in the Barton Springs Zone has been a contentious issue in the past, no one spoke against the plans for the Montessori school at the Environmental Board meeting.
“When we see projects coming forward in the Barton Springs recharge zone that impact the SOS Ordinance, alarm bells usually go off. Too frequently, there’s good cause for that. However, if more projects were as carefully thought out and considered as this one is, that wouldn’t be true,” said Austin Sierra Club’s Roy Waley. “We’re happy to support this project.”
Current and past students from Parkside spoke to the board about their school, and the respect for nature that they were taught from a young age.
“We are committed to protecting this place for decades to come. Our intentions are pure,” said Parkside Community School Founder Joe Bruno.
Environmental engineer Lauren Ross told the board that the school would be reducing the impervious cover on the site by 700 square feet, and that would be a long-term reduction that wouldn’t change in the future. She explained that, while they were taking out more infrastructure than that overall, they had to add additional impervious cover back in so that the school would be ADA-compliant and up to fire code standards.
Ross said that the water quality controls that they would install on the site would mean a tenfold reduction of solids in the water coming from the site.
The new site is just under 12 acres, located in the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone, with some development in the Water Quality Transition zone. Currently, there is 24 percent impervious cover, with no water quality controls in place.
The Save Our Springs Ordinance limits new development to 15 percent impervious cover, and has strict standards for water quality controls. The new development will implement those water quality treatments on the site, and are proposing to reduce the impervious cover slightly, from 24 percent to 23.7 percent.
Environmental Board members voted unanimously to approve the plan, with Board Member Jennifer Walker absent.
“I can assure you that Parkside will be a model of what to do in the future with this ordinance, and this project will be a showcase for the city of Austin,” said attorneyJimmy Nassour, whose four children have attended Parkside Community School. “Once this is complete, you will find yourself using this as a benchmark for future cases that come before you.”
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
Barton Springs Recharge Zone: a region from where groundwater funnels into Barton Springs. Includes land around Williamson, Bear, Little Bear, and Onion creeks.
Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone: A narrow belt of contributing water features that is part of the Edwards Aquifer.
Save Our Springs Ordinance: A 1992 ordinance to restrict development in the Barton Creek watershed.