Sharing Concerns About Seaholm

RECEIVED Fri., March 14, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Katherine Gregor’s “Developing Stories: Don’t Rush Seaholm East” [News, March 7] is dead-on, and I want to add additional concerns.
    One concern is that the city of Austin charter that strictly prohibits the City Council from doing exactly what they are in the process of doing; that is, “sell, convey, or lease all or any substantial part of the facilities of any municipally owned public utility.” Now, city legal staff may dance around the definition of “substantial,” but I (and other Austin voters) would view this parsing of what it means with some disdain (since the charter’s intent is pretty clear).
    Now, let me explain that I am a strong supporter of smart, dense, mixed-use redevelopment of the Green Water Treatment Plant. But, I add the concern that the redevelopment of the Austin Energy Control Center site will limit choices in regard to a future regional mass-transit/rail system.
    That is because if anything other than streetcar rail vehicles are ever to be brought across Downtown Austin (such as light rail or commuter rail vehicles and tracks), these vehicles and their tracks will need to cross from Fourth Street to Third Street somewhere (because Fourth Street ends at Shoal Creek and because light rail and commuter rail vehicles need a greater turning radius that can be accommodated in Downtown Austin street right-of-way). This switch from Fourth to Third Street can easily occur at two sites owned by the city of Austin: the surface parking lot immediately south of Republic Square and the Austin Energy Control Center site.
    I hope the Austin City Council can be persuaded to slow down the redevelopment of all the municipally owned public utility facilities (the Green Water Treatment Plant, the Austin Energy Control Center, and even the Seaholm Power Plant) until the consultant for the Downtown Austin Plan (ROMA) can fulfill the $250,000 amendment to their contract (just passed by city council on Feb. 28) to study “Downtown transportation options.” I hope they can be convinced without [our] having to accuse them of violating the City Charter, because I think it is in the best interests of the citizens of Austin (and the Central Texas region) to let the Downtown Austin Plan consultants, and the CAMPO Transit Working Group, decide transportation options, routes, and technology before proceeding with urban redevelopment projects (on land the public owns) that could preclude some of those very same transportation decisions still to be made.
Andrew Clements
former Chair,
COA Urban Transportation Commission
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