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August 1, 2005, SRCC General Meeting Minutes

Grace United Methodist Church; 7:00 – 9:15 p.m., (Minutes largely by Toni House, some additions by Tim Mahoney)

1. Introductions.

2. Treasurer’s Report (Terry Franz): During June and July 2005, paid out newsletter expenses; made a donation to Family Eldercare for fans ($100); reimbursed Rene Barrera for expenses associated with park tree planting (Subtotal $50) – Total expenses paid out for the two months: $334.40; income during those two months $525.

3. Historic Districts

a. Pursuing a Local Historic District;

Guest Speaker: Laurie Limbacher

Laurie Limbacher is volunteer who serves on the board of the City of Austin’s Landmark Commission. She is not a City of Austin employee. The City of Austin is really just getting started in the development of the application process, forms, and criteria for establishing Local Historic Districts ("LHD") for the City of Austin through the use of conditional overlays. The ordinance to create the process for establishing LHDs in order to recommend and protect areas that are historic was adopted by the City in December 2004. The application procedures and criteria are still being worked out.

The purpose of creating an LHD is to promote public awareness and education of historic areas which may prevent the destruction and removal of historic structures and sites. By letting people know in a public manner that a neighborhood is historic, it may assist the community in preventing the demolition or relocation of historic structures. If a neighborhood is designated an LHD, the neighborhood may choose to establish specific design standards to ensure compatibility with the existing historic structures. There is a City intention to protect historic buildings from demolition and relocation. The creation of an LHD may allow and promote cooperation among property owners of historic buildings and the neighborhood to work on other issues together. Being designated as an LHD also makes people aware, prior to purchasing a structure that they intend to tear down, that before being allowed to demolish or remove an historic structure, they will need to go through a City permitting process to do so. This may cause some developers to think twice before moving forward.

Another advantage of being in an LHD is that there are incentives for the restoration and preservation of historic structures through federal tax breaks. This will also encourage buyers to renovate rather than tear down historic structures. There is a long process review, with public hearings throughout the process. The application process is "daunting," but well worth it. The procedures and application forms are still being drafted. If a neighborhood wants to become an LHD, it must go through this process. The neighborhood must have at least 30% of the people within the proposed boundaries of the LHD sign and agree to support the District. Boundaries must be established for the District.

Fees amounting to several hundred dollars will apply in order to get through the process. The neighborhood will need to research the history of development and settlement of the proposed LHD. A survey of the LHD indicating what is historic will need to be recorded as part of the application form. Some of the information that would be included in the survey would be what the porches looked like, the building materials used for construction, the types of character defining features, etc. It is important for the neighborhood to build consensus and support throughout the process. The boundaries of the LHD must be determined in the beginning in order to identify who to contact so that the neighborhood meets the 30% requirement.

Maps will need to be collected. Good examples of maps that could be used are Austin tax maps. Especially helpful are the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps. These are very good as they are very specific documents, often detailing the building’s use, the materials used for construction, the lay-out of doors, and other helpful information. Some of these maps are located at the Austin History Center, and some are in the possession of UT’s American Studies Dept. It is important to prepare an inventory of the characteristics, etc. of the area. The photographic inventory is not limited solely to buildings, but should also include streetscapes, and other items of importance.

Assessment is an important element in determining whether a neighborhood can become an LHD. The neighborhood must determine what is historically significant and also identify what is not significant in order to calculate the percentage. It is necessary to describe the predominant architectural style in the neighborhood. Occupancy and ownership history are important. All of the above information should be included in the narrative of the application. The application will need to have a list of property owners and a clear identification of the historic properties. The District Preservation Plan defines which properties or sites need to be protected, restored, and preserved. During the research process, the neighborhood will learn about the differing setbacks in use at various times and other compatibility standards that may have applied. An LHD may decide that it wants to allow different setbacks, heights, etc. than current Code, based on the prevailing historic setbacks, height, etc. in keeping with the historic character of the neighborhood.

An NCCD is not enforced by just one City department which is why builders often run afoul of the Landmark Ordinance.

b. National Historic Districts

Guest Speaker: Gregory Smith, Texas Preservation Office

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 provides some protection for historical sites by requiring that federal agencies consider what effects their actions may have on historic properties. Documentation standards were established for the review of applications for the National Register Programs. Once the City LHD procedures are completed and the ordinance is enacted, the City designations may be more stringent than the national program. Being listed on the National Register of Historic Places does not carry any restrictions. The City program will. Listing a structure with the National Register can be a way of demonstrating historic significance. Properties that are of local historical significance can be listed with the National Register. A National Historic designation may allow a tax break for income-generating structures. There are not too many of these in Austin. They are found mostly on Sixth Street, Congress Avenue, and the Hyde Park area. Owners of registered properties may be eligible for grants.

The national nomination process is not as rigorous as the City’s proposed criteria. It usually takes 1-2 years to prepare for an area of this size. The largest historic district in Texas is the Old West Austin Line District, which includes the Enfield, Pemberton Heights and Brykerwoods neighborhoods. The more intensive the survey, the better. This might get the application through the process faster. The nomination can be prepared by anybody. Old West Austin hired a professional firm to prepare its application. That application probably took 25-50 black and white prints; two sets of photos are needed. The Neighborhood Association held fund drives, collected donations, etc. to raise money for the survey, pay fees, etc.

Once the nomination is prepared and submitted, it may take several tries to get it through. The map requirement is very important. The key is to show what contributes to the district and what does not. The district must have a defined boundary. Begin with the historical growth patterns of the neighborhood and make that the starting point. A drive through the neighborhood -- a "windshield" survey -- will assist in setting the boundaries. A property does not have to be pristine to be considered. The threshold of what contributes to a district nomination rather than an individual structure is lower.

Depending on the importance of a structure, the Local Historic District will consider properties that are less than 50 years old. Nationally, some post-war structures can be considered. Fifty years is a good rule of thumb to follow for consideration for historical designation.

It is important to be sensitive to confusion on the part of residents regarding the criteria for preservation and concern over the possible loss of property rights. There are currently 6 or 7 national historic districts in Austin. OWANA may still have their application up on their website. A good resource for information would be to contact other neighborhood associations that have pursued historic designation. Another resource would be the City Historic Preservation office. Steve Sadowski is the sole full-time employee. He is assisted by two part-time employees. To help speed up the preparation of the criteria and application procedures for the LHD, it would be helpful to contact the City Council and request for funding for the City Historic Preservation Office.

A motion is made, seconded and passed unanimously to get information to the City Council to request more funding for the City Historic Preservation Office.

There is currently no state register that could be applied for. The Texas Historical Commission has an excellent website located at

4. July 4th Proceeds – ad-hoc committee recommendation and vote

Betty Weed gave a brief overview of the picnic and parade. They were a great success. She recognized everyone on the committee and other volunteers for all their hard work.

In July, the Executive Committee selected an Ad Hoc Committee to make a recommendation as to how the funds raised from the July 4th picnic (fundraising, silent auction, income from Save Austin Oaks donations, merchant donations) should be allocated. Members of the Ad Hoc Committee are: Terry Franz, David Todd, Elloa Matthews, Sherri Ancipink, Jeff Kessel, and Betty Weed. Sherri Ancipink gave the report, recommending that, of the $7,312.01 that was left after expenses, $3,480.11 of the funds would go towards keeping Little Stacy Pool open and the remaining funds would be split between the Blunn Creek project and other park improvements. Sherri made a motion to that effect and Cathy Crane seconded the motion. Approved – 20; opposed – 0; abstentions – 2.

5. Update on Wal-Mart and Payload Pass – Jeff Kessel

Jeff has been inspecting the site and analyzing Wal-Mart’s plans for compliance and is satisfied with the outcome. The specific hard numbers that were put in to the Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU"), which requires Wal-Mart to go above and beyond City standards for water quality, have been complied with. Overall, the goal of protecting the Blunn Creek upper watershed has been met. He’s happy with the infiltration system. The problem with a seam blowing out in one part of the system routing water to planters (something Jean Mather had suggested) instead of merely running off, is in the process of being patched.

The pervious cover (a special type of concrete) that was used on a portion of the parking lot, instead of the usual impervious concrete, has worked well. The pervious cover is located at a southwestern portion of the parking lot; it is approximately 100 by 150 square feet, easily distinguishable from the surrounding blacktop, and if you never otherwise go to Wal-Mart, that alone is worth the trip. Such pervious cover should become increasingly standardized for such developments, and in the future, perhaps even roads… If you pour water on it, you can watch it just drain into the surface and not run-off into…… storm water collection systems…..necessary because we have put impervious cover on the surface…..

A lesson to be learned from the Wal-Mart project is that it is very important to be involved in monitoring the project from the very beginning -- during the initial grading and throughout the development process, in order to ensure that the agreement is complied with and that all requirements are met.

Payload Pass – Jeff spoke to Carol Stewart, the developer’s agent, regarding this project. The site development permit is expected to be obtained in September. The demolition was begun prior to obtaining the proper permit – the ground was disturbed, but no permanent damage done. The project is going forward, but with a different developer who is using the same engineer. This project will be monitored very closely to ensure compliance.

6. McMansion Update – Danette Chimenti and Jean Mather

Danette and Jean met with Alice Glasco, Ricardo Soliz and Greg Guernsey, all with the City of Austin Neighborhood Planning Department, to discuss the McMansion problem, making it clear to them that Travis Heights and other neighborhoods have no protection from this problem, and that we want an overlay to address it. Danette and Jean followed this meeting up with meetings with three City Councilmembers, who suggested that the problem be addressed in the neighborhood plan. The neighborhood planning staff confirmed that it is a city-wide problem, so it needed to be addressed by the City Council.

Neighborhood Planning and Zoning staff have agreed to investigate the problem and initiate a city-wide ordinance to limit height and/or apply a FAR (floor to area ratio)-based restriction that would ensure compatibility with the scale and character of the surrounding residences. The neighborhood planners hope to have the ordinance ready by the time the GSRC neighborhood plan is ready. 

The neighborhood planners now recognize that the McMansion problem needs to be addressed now, and not wait the two years before the Land Use Code is completely rewritten. Greg Guernsey called Jean Mather on August 1, 2005, requesting examples of specific McMansion examples in the GSRC planning area. Meeting attendees suggested 1422 Newning, 1605 and 1607 Travis Heights. Danette said that she would provide additional addresses.

7. Neighborhood Planning Reports

East Riverside/Oltorf Neighborhood Plan – August 9th Planning Commission hearing – Jean had confirmed with Alice Glasco, Ricardo Soliz and Chris Riley, Planning Commission Chairman, that the Riverside portion of the Plan would be postponed for consideration until October 11, 2005. Updated from 8/1 – Neighborhood Stakeholders (with special thanks to Tim Mahoney, Jean Mather, and Gayle Goff) were successful in postponing the public hearing on the entire Riverside/Oltorf Neighborhood Plan until October 11, 2005, at which time the Plan will be heard in toto, rather than being unexpectedly bifurcated as two completely separate plans. This allows Stakeholders time to complete the Neighborhood Plan, as opposed to the City’s plan, for this very large, complicated planning area. Mandy Dealy, the newest Planning Commissioner, contributed to this outcome with her pointed, specific, and common sense questions to the Neighborhood Planning Manager.

GSRC – Neighborhood Planning Contact Team and meeting with Adam Smith – Discussion regarding the formation of the NPCT – more members are needed, especially business owners and renters, and McMansions (see No. 6 above); Neighborhood Committee meeting of the Planning Commission will discuss the GSRC Neighborhood Plan during its regular meeting on August 10, 2005.

8. Committee and Project Reports – Danette – Ellen Ward is starting up a Neighborhood Watch. Current Plan is to have the first Neighborhood Watch sometime in October 2005. Ellen is coordinating with Bobby Riggs and Officer Scott.

9. Announcement of National Night out at Christ Lutheran Church at 6:30 p.m on August 2, 2005 – Danette (Ice cream social)

APD Commanders’ Forum on Tuesday, August 9, 2005, at Christ Lutheran Church

General – Chip McElroy wanted to know how the neighborhood could cut down on the amount of money the McMansion developers can make in the SRCC neighborhoods. Is it possible to make it known to developers that these types of homes are not welcome? Perhaps putting signs up in neighboring yards? That might generate press coverage. It appears that it is the same developers throughout the area that are purchasing lots and building McMansions. He suggests that we tell the realtors who are showing these homes that we will not use these realtors. It is noted that we have responsible realtors who live in the GSRC area who support the neighborhood and it is important not to penalize them. The suggestion is made that Chip chair a committee to come up with ideas and follow through. The most effective way to work on the McMansion problem is to work on the Land Use Code, and long term, through the new Local Historic District. Chip is asked to post his name and contact information on the SRCC list serve and spearhead this effort.

Jean Mather brought up the Travis County Bond Program which proposes funding for parks improvements and open space. One of the recommendations for the bond program is to set aside $60 million to buy open space. Jean moves to write a letter in support of this proposal and Danette seconds the motion. The motion passes with 11 for and 1 abstention.

Harriet Buxkemper, of the Texas Star Barbershop singers, announced that they are looking for anyone who would like to join them. Please contact Harriet for additional information.

Meeting adjourned at 9:15 p.m.


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