Town Lake Setback Variances Non-Starters for Martinez, Leffingwell

CMs already against variance request coming before boards and commissions starting tonight.

As setback variances along Town Lake Lady Bird Lake begin to wind their way through the board and commissions system, City Council members are taking preemptive measures voicing their disapproval with the request. Earlier today Mike Martinez fired off this press release announcing his reluctance to "begin dismantling the Town Lake Waterfront Overlay piece by piece." We also just received an email from Lee Leffingwell stating he agrees.

Below, the text of Martinez's press release:

Today, Council Member Mike Martinez announced he will not be supporting developer requested variances to the Town Lake Waterfront Overlay.

The Overlay was created in the 1980’s through a citizen lead initiative to protect the lake front from encroaching development. It was intended to guide future development to protect the water quality and parklands – the things that make the waterfront such a valued resource to the entire community.

“The Town Lake Waterfront Overlay was a citizen-lead policy initiative that should only be overturned or amended in that same manner. If there are property owners and community members who believe there should be amendments to the overlay, there is a comprehensive public process that should be used. Granting individual property owners requested variances is not good policy for legislation that protects a crown jewel in the heart of Austin’s urban core.”

Council Member Martinez believes that protecting the core values of Lady Bird Lake such as water quality, scenic assets and view corridors are essential to the entire City of Austin and secondary to development initiatives of property owners.

“My position has nothing to do with the individual development at the center of this issue today. After having met with CWS representatives I am sure the developer would enhance the shores of Lady Bird Lake if granted the requested entitlements within the secondary setback (150 to 200 ft). For me, the policy issue at hand is whether or not the city council should begin dismantling the Town Lake Waterfront Overlay piece by piece. I don’t believe we should be taking the teeth out of the waterfront overlay, and I am taking this opportunity to state my opposition to that proposal today.”

Tonight the Parks and Recreation Board will hold a public hearing to consider the project requesting variances from the Waterfront Overlay Ordinance. The Director of the Parks and Recreation Department will then make a recommendation to the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission will vote on the site plan and, depending on their decision, it can ultimately be appealed to the City Council. This last appeal process was recently changed by the council allowing site plans requesting variances from the Overlay to be appealed to the Council.

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Lee Leffingwell, Mike Martinez, City Council, Town Lake, Waterfront, Variance, Setback

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