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South River City Citizens (SRCC) Neighborhood Association

May 2, 2005 General Meeting Minutes (Toni House, substituting for Tim Mahoney as Secretary)

7:00 p.m., May 2, 2005,

1. Introductions

2. Treasurer’s Report (Terry Franz): Received $80 in dues during April, which were allocated to the uncommitted fund; report on balances of various accounts (Stacy Park, parks, 4th of July, uncommitted fund, etc.

[Agenda Item 3 omitted as Sherri Ancipink was unable to attend to discuss the resurfacing of Stacy Park Tennis Courts.]

4. Twin Oaks Library Move; Guest Speaker: John Gillum, Austin Public Library

John Gillum, Facilities Services Director for Austin Public Library announced the moving of Twin Oaks Library from S. Congress to the Post Office location on W. Mary and S. 5th St. The current Twin Oaks Library will remain in its current location until the new facility is ready sometime in February 2009.

Mr. Gillum builds and maintains libraries. Bond money funded a permanent home for Twin Oaks Library and the City funded the land purchase of the post office location in 2003. After approval, this project, like many others at the time, was put on hold due to budgetary constraints. The City now has the funds to begin the design of the new library, probably in October 2005. When the architect and engineer are under contract, the neighborhood will be notified of the library design meetings which will be held at Twin Oaks Library. Due to the library’s small size, its regular operations may have to be suspended during the neighborhood design meetings. Mr. Gillum looks forward to having neighborhood input. The current library is slightly more than 5,000 sq. ft. The new library will be approximately 10,000 sq. ft. Mr. Gillum’s intention is to make the library location something of a small pocket park. Obviously, the City will have to reclaim some of the paved over parking lot.

One of the questions raised concerned transportation to and from the library for those who now can walk there and will not be able to do so after the move. Mr. Gillum pointed out that W. Mary and S. 5th is an established bus stop and has good bus coverage. Mr. Gillum does not foresee another bookmobile, but he will keep in mind the difficulty some patrons may experience in getting to the library’s new location. It was suggested that a postal store inside the library would be a valuable asset because there are so few mail drops in the area and because the post office has moved so far south.

Twin Oaks will remain open until it’s time to move. The library will close one Friday and re-open within a few days in its new location. After the move, The Friends of Austin Libraries may take over more of the old Twin Oaks’ space and use it to hold their large book sales; the Austin Public Library may even operate a little book store out of the front.

5. Austin Clean Water Project (ACWP); Guest speakers: Gopal Guthikonda, P. E. Division Manager of the Austin Water Utility’s Collection System Services Division; Joe Hoepken, P.E. Project Manager for the Govalle 2 – Travis Heights Wastewater Improvements Project; Rick Colburnn, Project Manager with the Public Works Dept.; Crispin Ruiz, public outreach duties; Brigid Shea, environmental consultant; Pete Vujasin, a design services consultant with EarthTech

The above representatives of the Austin Clean Water Project (ACWP) came to notify the neighborhood of its plans for wastewater system improvements in the SRCC and surrounding areas. The wastewater system must be improved for health and environmental reasons. The EPA has mandated that the water system be fixed by 2007. Flow monitors were installed and the City has been diligently inspecting the wastewater system. During heavy rains, ground water and storm water flow into the wastewater mains and eat up the capacity of the wastewater pipes. Even when it isn’t storming, in some locations ground water gets into the wastewater pipe and diminishes its capacity. Another concern is that certain gases mix with water to form a gas that destroys the pipe, many of which are already in a fragile condition. There are many causes for the pipes needing to be replaced: root intrusions, especially during drought years because the pipes are where the water is; cracked pipes; offset pipes; holes in pipes, and missing pipes. The City switched to using PVC pipe in the 1970’s.

There are over 100 projects under design now. These projects are funded by the wastewater portion of the City of Austin Utility bills and federal grants. The City has too many wastewater projects going on at one time to be able to do them all itself and meet the EPA deadline. It has had to bring in outside contractors. The work is being closely coordinated with City Departments to cause as little disruption as possible to the neighborhood. However, Mr. Guthikonda advised us that this work will be fairly disruptive and will impact traffic. ACWP asks for our patience and stated that street closures will be carefully planned. Information regarding the project, including the schedule and maps, will be posted on the City website: Click on Water and select ACWP.

Much of the work in our area will be to remove wastewater lines completely from creek beds wherever possible and lay new lines in more environmentally appropriate locations. In those instances where removing a line would create more problems than it would solve, a new line will be laid to handle new development. The lines that will remain in creeks have been inspected and approved and will be monitored every 5 to 10 years. ACWP is trying to remove as many lines as possible from the creeks and will try to protect the creeks. Brigid Shea said that by taking the bulk of through-flows [by diverting storm run-off into the new line?] through the new line, the old line will continue to carry the homes that are currently on it. They will be able divert a large percentage of through-flow to the new line. The question was raised whether this was the beginning of the City improving the infrastructure to support the increased density the City has been supporting. Brigid Shea assured us that this was not a Trojan horse for increased densification. The city staff said this improvement project would not in any way provide for expanded capability that would support densification.

Several examples of bad lines that will have to be improved/replaced are: S. Congress and Gibson; E. Monroe (wastewater line work will be coordinated with a street paving project); Annie/Woodland; Riverside & I-35, and South Congress. Some of the projects will begin in October 2005 and should be completed within 5 to 6 months. Residents will receive door hanger notifications when construction is to begin in their area and the information will be posted on the City ACWP website. Surveying crews have already begun work on Alameda. The trees being tagged are not being marked for removal. Mr. Guthikonda agreed to check with the City Arborist to address concerns raised about the construction’s impact on the spread of oak wilt. Neighborhood wants to ensure that the construction will not negate the results of the trenching work that has already been done to halt the spread of oak wilt. The City arborist is supposed to review the wastewater plans prior to construction.

In addition to replacing the wastewater mains, should ACWP identify any problems with the water main at that location, the water main will also be replaced/improved. Since 2001, they have had only 2-3 breaks while working on these projects. This construction should not impact gas lines. They contact the gas company before they begin, and should they run into any problem, the gas company would be called immediately.

6. Norwood Dog Park; Guest speaker Paul Addington, V.P. Friends of Norwood Estate Dog Park

Mr. Addington would like neighborhood support to keep the Norwood Estate Dog Park in its current location. The Friends of the Norwood Estate Dog Park have been good stewards and have worked hard to improve the park. They have applied for and received grant money for some of their improvements. They have raised awareness at PARD of the needs of the dog park. Auditorium Shores now has too much dog traffic and some of that has overflowed to the Norwood Estate Dog Park. More dog parks are needed in the City. Mr. Addington believes it is important to convince the City that dog parks are good for the City. Due to the efforts of Norwood Estate Dog Park users to maintain and improve this park, Mr. Addington does not believe that this dog park contributes to run-off that is detrimental to the water quality of Town Lake. Due to a lack of City funds for park improvements, most, if not all, improvements to the Norwood Estate Dog Park will have to be made by citizens. The Friends of the Norwood Estate Dog Park are committed to working hard to maintain and improve this park, which they believe is an asset to the City, and want to keep it in its current location.

7. Zoning/Variance Issues

Pleasant Valley HEB – Toni House: HEB currently has a contract to purchase the land behind its current location at Riverside and Pleasant Valley (where a storage facility, Burger King, etc. are now). If HEB decides to go through with this development, within two years they will build a new HEB behind the existing HEB that is more than double its size (from 65,000 sq. ft. to approximately 150,000 sq. ft). HEB intends to include a gas station (there are already two gas stations at the intersection of Riverside and Pleasant Valley). The current HEB would stay open until the new one is complete and open for business. Then the original HEB would be torn down (over a 60 day period) and that area would be converted to parking spaces. HEB has held two meetings with neighborhood representatives from the east side, including SRCC, to discuss this project and request input and support. HEB may exceed the 2,000 trip limit by approximately 600 trips. If HEB needs a variance due to traffic concerns and requests support from the neighborhoods, we may be able work an agreement limiting the number of pumps for their gas station, require additional green space and landscaping, and better retention pond design. The neighborhood representatives also would like to see a better siting of the building, better access off of Riverside, better pedestrian access, and traffic flow improvements for easier access off Riverside and Pleasant Valley. If this goes forward, HEB has already committed to funding a center left turn lane on Pleasant Valley between Riverside and the HEB entrance(s) off of Pleasant Valley.

I-35/Riverside/Summit Mediation – Toni House: Neighborhood participants and property owner representative John Shuler have agreed to meet a minimum of four times per month over the next three months to attempt to reach a settlement of the Shuler Family Trust’s application for zoning changes. This case goes before the City Council again on May 26th, at which time the City staff will request a three month postponement of action on the application. Two meetings have been held as of May 2nd and Toni House is guardedly optimistic that the property owner and neighborhood will be able to come to an agreement. Details of the ongoing discussions are confidential at this time. Per Dawn Cizmar’s request, Toni House will find out how the request for an additional three month postponement will affect the owner’s application.

1213 Newning Update – Danette Chimenti: Builder and owner will be going to the Board of Adjustments ("BOA") next Monday, May 9th, for a variance to build 39 ft. high and have 0 setbacks on either side (Case No. C-15-05-038). The lot is long but very narrow and a 39' structure would be out of scale with the surrounding single-story houses. The builder won't return calls. Three stop orders have been posted on that property and SRCC now has the documentation to prove that builder did know about the stop orders. Please plan to attend the hearing or send letters to the BOA if you are unable to attend. SRCC supports no variance for height and no variance for 0 setbacks - the property should have the typical 5 ft. setbacks.

502 Sunny Lane – Danette Chimenti: Variances requested for the construction of a garage and garage apartment (a 3-story structure). The owner, Dean Van Landuyt, needs a variance to construct the top floor (3rd story) and needs a variance to allow the top two floors to exceed the amount of square footage currently allowed for garage apartments. The Code allows approximately 550 gross sq. ft. for the top level and he would like the two upper levels to have 850 sq. feet, so that he can install an interior stairway. (The City Code changed to limit the sq. footage while he was in the design process which he said took him 2 years.) If he doesn't receive the variance, the stairway will have to be installed on the exterior of the structure. He is also requesting a variance for a 10' setback instead of the required 25' setback from the front of the property (Sunny Lane). He previously had a variance for this setback but the time lapsed so he needs to renew. The lot is narrow and sloping. He needs three floors so that the rental unit will have a downtown view. The letters from nearby residents that the owner provided showing support for his requests for variances referred to only the request for the 10' setback variance. The letters did not address his requests for the height and square footage variances.

David Coufal moved to oppose the third floor variance and the variance to exceed 550 sq. ft. for the top floor (noting that when the Code changes, you simply adapt your plans), and to support the variance allowing a 10' setback rather than 25' setback. Carl Betancourt seconded the motion. Motion passes: 18 for; 0 opposed; 2 abstentions.

This case is on the BOA agenda for Monday, May 9th, several cases after the 1213 Newning case. Request is made to attend and/or write letters.

8. Neighborhood Planning Report – GSRC and NCCD Overlays – Jean Mather: Discussion of meeting regarding overlays held Saturday, April 30, with neighborhood representatives involved in the E. Riverside/Oltorf Combined NP area. Both west and east neighborhoods want an overlay that limits the height of single-family structures. Reading of proposed overlay by Danette Chimenti that would limit height. Discussion of developers pushing the envelope with height; existing 35’ height restriction is not enough (developer can gain another 7-8’ by making a very steep, tall pitch of the roof). Discussion re any possibility of financial incentives to keep developers from destroying older, affordable homes in order to build large, out-of-scale mansions; concerns re how the proposed height overlay would affect those lots/homes currently sandwiched between two 35’ tall homes – if overlay is in place, how could they mitigate adverse affect of the surrounding tall homes? Would become necessary to apply for a variance. Terry Griffin would like to know what can be done to protect the older homes. The City doesn’t seem to care about preservation. David Coufal notes that sometimes, in some locations, the 35’ height designs can be done properly. The proposed height restriction is a shotgun response to what has happened in this area. Jean Mather remarks that it’s more than that – it’s a scale problem. Because you can’t write design guidelines with any teeth, you have to have an overlay zoning ordinance. Danette Chimenti points out that there is always a method for obtaining a variance, but there is no current method to protect neighborhoods. The overlay would be part of the neighborhood plan. Teresa Griffin would like the overlay rewritten to make it more flexible.

Terry Franz moves to adopt the height overlay; Jeff Kessel seconds it. The height overlay is adopted with 19 votes for and 2 abstentions.

9. Committee and Project Reports Blunn Creek Committee - Jeff Kessel reported on the WalMart monitoring: WalMart has gone above and beyond the current water quality requirements. WalMart doubled the site of its water quality controls. Even though they doubled the impervious cover, the retention pond has extra capacity and will be metered out over time so that Blunn Creek will not see a huge impact of water all at once. One problem with what WalMart did, however, was to lay the wrong type of soil (clay). WalMart is going to remove the clay and replace it with the proper soil type. For the parking lot, WalMart used a new type of concrete that is pervious. The parking lot planters were supposed to be placed so that water running off the parking lot would water the planters, but the lot was not graded properly for that to occur. SRCC will ask for trench drains to resolve this problem. SRCC requested a rain water cistern and WalMart installed a large water tank. Unfortunately, it’s open (mosquito problem); will ask for something that will work better, possibly turn it into a pond – need something to take care of mosquitoes. The water quality and storm water controls put in place are a veritable smorgasborg.

Discussions re going into the next job, need to determine how to better monitor the situation; need to figure out how to have someone there when necessary. Payload Pass project is starting up and we need to determine how it can be properly covered. It’s very labor intensive to monitor construction. Jeff will talk to Glen Rose regarding what they can do to assist. Jean Mather asks Jeff whether he could be retained to monitor the construction. He’ll come up with a proposal.

Building Permit Review Committee – Danette Chimenti requests volunteers from each SRCC area for the new Building Permit Review Committee which has been created in order to keep the neighborhood better appraised of potential construction concerns and requests for variances.

10. New Business and Other Announcements – Reminder to everyone to vote in upcoming City election. Meeting adjourns.