A Redevelopment Amendment to SOS Requires Much Thought and Study

RECEIVED Tue., July 17, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Redevelopment is a hot issue all over town. City staff, environmentalists, and developers spent more than nine months looking at how redevelopment affects the Barton Springs Watershed. Some levels of agreement were reached, but some tough elements are outstanding, such as how density and traffic factor into redevelopment approvals and how to amend the Save Our Springs Ordinance without spurring a building boom over our ecologically fragile aquifer.
    The argument being made for a redevelopment amendment to the Save Our Springs Ordinance is that redevelopment with some water-quality improvements is better than having older, polluting development continue in operation because the owner is unwilling to redevelop under SOS Ordinance standards.
    That approach makes some sense if what is torn down is replaced with something roughly the same size. But if a one-story development is redeveloped into six-story condos, the result is more cars, more oil and grease, more sewage, and more demand for additional services (roads, schools), ultimately increasing pollution loads in the creeks that feed Barton Springs. Maybe some pollution is treated on the development’s premises, but lots of new pollution is created, both during and after construction, on-site and off-site.
    SOS Alliance has participated in Council Member Lee Leffingwell’s advisory group and advocated for a cap on increased density and public hearings under a redevelopment amendment. Without a density cap and public hearings, we risk inviting a building boom to the Barton Springs Watershed, increasing – not decreasing – sources of pollution and undermining city policies to steer new development downstream. Without a density cap, a redevelopment amendment would have an elephant-sized loophole that bulldozers would run right through.
    As participants in the advisory group, we are not aware of a consensus on SOS Ordinance amendments, but we will work toward solutions that increase protection for the Barton Springs Watershed. Any recommended changes should consider the whole picture (including traffic generation) and demonstrate real benefits.
Sarah Baker and Colin Clark
Save Our Springs Alliance
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