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Road extension causes concerns over Lamar Beach master plan

Thursday, June 12, 2014 by Michael Kanin

An item on today’s City Council agenda calling for the expedited perusal of a master plan for the Lamar Beach Metro Park merged with community and Austin Independent School District concerns about the extension of Pressler Street– included in the master plan – at Councils’ Tuesday work session. Council Member Bill Spelman also expressed specific concerns over whether language in the resolution was overly restrictive.


“This (is)…a little bit more specific with respect to the results than the average resolution,” he said, noting that he wanted to get a measure of whether the resolution would hamstring the affected departments.


Officials with the Parks and Recreation and Animal Services departments were not particularly direct in their responses. However, both noted that suggestive language would be more conducive to flexibility – a term that Spelman later linked to a wider range of possibility for the project.


Council Member Mike Martinez, the main sponsor of the item, insisted that his resolution was not restrictive. “The way the resolution is drafted gives complete flexibility, because everywhere it gives directives it says it could, it doesn’t say it should,” he said.


Still, language is likely not the largest issue for the park, which sits in a prime spot along Lady Bird Lake. As Council discussion proceeded, Mayor Lee Leffingwell pointed to a request from interim AISD interim Superintendent Paul Cruz to conduct traffic studies on the Pressler Lane extension with school in session.


“I think we all received an email from…Paul Cruz expressing his concerns about Pressler – the Pressler extension and the impacts on traffic that it’s going to have for Austin High School,” said Leffingwell. “And his recommendation and request was that we do a full (Traffic Impact Analysis) at a time when school is in session and during the rush periods for school.”


Should the city opt for that approach, it could push work on the extension forward as officials wait until September to conduct the study. That, in turn, could delay any master planning for the park.


Martinez suggested that it was not necessary to wait for school to start to conduct the traffic impact analysis. “I think that we can do the TIA with modeling and move forward with the Pressler extension. In fact, I think we should do that,” he said. “Because once we decide the full impact of the Pressler extension and define the project, we move forward – that’s a necessary transportation component – and then we continue master planning Lamar Beach.”


The resolution calls for a traffic study, but does not specify a date.


On top of it all, the resolution calls for Austin Pets Alive to be the proprietary organization behind a new adoption center, paid for by that organization, in the area. Austin Shelter Director Abigail Smith told Spelman that she would not “say (the idea) is unreasonable.”


“It’s going to come down to what does the operation look like. If the sole focus of that space is to find homes for the city’s homeless pets that come from the shelter, clearly there wouldn’t be an issue with that,” she continued. “That said, our vision for that space was to have it be not only a satellite adoption center, but also to host some educational programs, to do some partnership programs with the ‘Y’ – and maybe even (the West Austin Youth Association) – to do more from the city’s point of view to contribute to the park that it sits on.”


The item has generated enough interest to warrant a time certain of 6:15 p.m. or later.

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