The Daily Hustle: 12/17/10

So, a salamander walks into a historic Hyde Park home … 

Before he slithers away: the Jollyville Plateau salamander
Before he slithers away: the Jollyville Plateau salamander (Photo courtesy City of Austin)

To little surprise, last night's council action saw approval of a historic district for Hyde Park, and the controversial Water Treatment Plant No. 4 shaft along Spicewood Springs.

Read on for more dirt.

The Hyde Park affair saw slightly less acrimony than the first time around, with the city playing facilitator between boosters and opponents. However, some specific issues stayed mutually unresolved – like the district directive that homes with two original front doors would have to stay so, at least as viewed from the street – and some general opposition to the plan still stood.

With a valid petition from neighbors, a supermajority of six council members was required on this final reading – which council narrowly granted, with Hyde Parker and at-times-comically-conflict-of-interest-averse Bill Spelman recusing himself from the vote. Here’s some council remarks. Take it away, Randi Shade:

I'm going to be voting for this district, but I do want to recognize the work that's been done, especially in the last couple of weeks. I was really troubled a month ago when we had the meeting. I talked to several of the neighbors afterwards on all sides on this issue. Mostly because this wasn't an issue of development versus a neighborhood. This was neighbor against neighbor. … I still think that the issues that were raised – I know several of my colleagues would agree with me –  that the process is far from perfect and definitely needs to be improved.
Lee Leffingwell:
… Valid concerns have been raised and I think this process of developing historic districts, although it's something I have long supported and still do, we're kind of new at it here this is only the third district that we've dealt with and this is by far the largest. The first two were actually very small historic districts. I do think we have a few things to learn. A few things to tweak as we go forward because we're going to be dealing with more of these historic districts throughout the city. And I think we should be doing that. So again, I will support the motion.
And the neighbor's neighbor, Laura Morrison:
… I think everybody recognizes that we're on a learning curve here and this particular district application has been in the queue for a long time. So we had some issues that you all worked with and we learned from in the previous district application, and this one was almost submitted at the same time if I remember correctly. So I think that both of those will give us a good opportunity to sort of sit back and figure out how to do it better. I know you all know that and we have other challenges in terms of the historic preservation office being able to fill all of the positions and all of that. I know that we've got – I think we have a really bright future in front of us with this very important element of our community.
Later than evening, council finally got to the Chapter 26 hearing regarding WTP4’s Jollyville line mine shaft, opposed by Spicewood Springs neighbors opposite the parkland where the big hole will go. Suffice to say, despite some new wrinkles – such as opponents insistence the City has “backed out” of the "Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances" they were pursuing with US Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the Jollyville Plateau salamander, which may bode well for the critter’s endangered listing, and an eventual construction slowdown – much of the argument spread beyond neighborhood concerns to general oppo against the plant at large.

Here’s SOS’s Bill Bunch:

… You cannot tonight find with rational basis that there's no feasible and prudent alternatives to the taking or use of the parkland or that all reasonable measures have been taken to -- reasonable planning measures to minimize the harm to the park and preserveland.

… Put this thing on ice. Your staff tells you you could put it on ice for 6 million bucks, okay? Your staff is also telling you you can save 14 million bucks every year you postpone it. So just a one-year postponement you're already ahead 8 million bucks. Postpone it two years you're ahead 22 million bucks.

The Sierra Club’s Roy Waley got in the holiday spirit, saying “I've been making a list here and I've checked it twice, and it looks like four of you are going to be naughty, and three of you will continue to be nice … There's always a possibility that just like the grinch, it's possible that one of you, your heart will grow three sizes today. And you will change your vote … although I'm afraid three sizes still might not be enough.”

The shaft then passed on the usual 4-3 vote.

… And that’s a wrap. The Daily Hustle’s calling it quits for the year in order for some much needed R&R, excepting any truly momentous news (we’re talking Ronnie Reeferseed declaring a Place 3 run, for instance).

Thanks for all your support this year – we’re sure with your continued readership, tips and comments, we’ll make 2011 an even more hustlin’ year in the blogosphere. Happy trails!

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