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Thursday, June 29, 2017 by Jo Clifton

City, AISD agree on Bowie expansion rules

The city and the Austin Independent School District have reached an agreement on how the district can expand Bowie High School even though it is over the environmentally sensitive Barton Springs Zone of the Edwards Aquifer.

City Council voted unanimously at last week’s meeting to adopt the agreement, which includes swapping impervious cover from three sites so the school can be expanded but still keep impervious cover at or below 25 percent. Council Member Ellen Troxclair, who pushed for a solution allowing for Bowie’s expansion, was absent.

The district is also planning to use any additional impervious cover credits in order to expand other schools within the Barton Springs Zone.

The city, the district and environmentalists have been working on revising a 1994 agreement between the city and AISD for several months.

“We ended up getting almost everything we wanted,” said Bill Bunch, executive director of the Save Our Springs Alliance.

City environmental officer Chuck Lesniak told the Austin Monitor, “I think it came out as a pretty significant win-win. … We’ve got a pretty large campus with a lot of impervious cover that’s got very old technology,” for water quality treatment. “And we’re going to get SOS water quality and no new high school over the Barton Springs Zone – without any increase in impervious cover over the Barton Springs Zone.

“So I think from an environmental standpoint it’s a really good thing and it allows the district to address their needs,” he said. “Hopefully, the district is happy about it. And, as a result of last-minute negotiations, the Travis Country neighborhood got what they wanted,” essentially a neighborhood park.

During last Thursday’s hearing, Lesniak also told Council that the new agreement would require the district to abide by the city’s heritage tree regulations, which is not a requirement under the old development standards agreement.

In order to keep overall impervious cover for the school at or below 25 percent as required for new development by the Save Our Springs Ordinance, AISD is purchasing two tracts of land close to the school, which is at 4103 W. Slaughter Lane.

In addition, the district has agreed to dedicate a site in the Travis Country subdivision for conservation purposes. Travis Country residents have been pushing for the land to become a park for at least five years.

The developer of the subdivision gave that approximately 13-acre tract to the district for a future elementary school. However, the district decided that it did not need a new elementary school at that location.

Paul Turner, executive director of facilities at AISD, explained that the district had previously put the property on the market. “At one point the city was interested in it for a park, but they changed their minds,” he said.

Turner said the district is purchasing one site of about 40 acres and another that is about 12 acres adjacent to the school. He said those sites would likely be used for new detention ponds and for spray irrigation of wastewater.

He explained that whatever additional impervious cover credits the district has after the expansion of Bowie would be used for improvements at other schools also located over the Barton Springs Zone. Turner declined to name which schools might be expanded, but previous discussions have indicated that the district might be interested in expanding Zilker and Barton Hills elementary schools.

AISD and the city will return with information about their plans for use of the additional impervious cover in August. Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo said Tuesday, “I support the measure we passed last week and I anticipate,” hearing about the possibility of transferring the Travis Country impervious cover rights for other schools.

She added, “We’re limited from regulating portable buildings, but I would like to understand how the need for them might be eliminated from future long-range expansion.”

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

AISD: Austin's largest school district, AISD is the Austin Independent School District.

Save Our Springs Ordinance: A 1992 ordinance to restrict development in the Barton Creek watershed.

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