The White Horse
"...Unwelcome news, but not surprising following the Save Our Springs Alliance's recent blow in court. Here's SOS' press release: SOS Alliance Files for Reorganization in Face of Collection Efforts by Sweetwater Ranch Developers Following the Texas Supreme Court’s refusal to hear its petition for review in the case Save Our Springs Alliance v..."
"...Yet at this writing, once again, City Hall is being battered and bruised over expanded development in the Barton Creek watershed, and water quality in the creek and the Springs is still suffering, and growth and sprawl are still marching toward the sunset in the west. So, did SOS really matter?..."
"...In the grand scheme of things, the SOS regulation was supposed to eliminate the time-honored tradition of developer-dealmaking at City Hall. But old habits are hard to break: hence the elaborate Stratus deal, which was preceded by the Bradley agreement two years earlier and the still undeveloped Forum PUD a year before that ....."
"...I don't know whether the city and its citizens should repeal the Save Our Springs Ordinance and pursue other strategies for managing growth and protecting water quality in the southwest quadrant of town. But I have a pretty low tolerance for hypocrisy and cant, and I've wondered for a while, both silently and aloud, whether City Hall's history of cutting one deal after another with aquifer landowners, allowing them to evade the restrictions of SOS, means Austin has already executed a de facto repeal of the ordinance...."
"...Last week, the environmental activist group Save Our Springs Alliance announced that it's filing for bankruptcy reorganization in federal court. The clean-water watchdog recently suffered the largest financial blow in its decade-and-a-half history, when the Texas Supreme Court refused to hear SOS' appeal of its lawsuit against the Lazy 9 Municipal Utility District, and its Sweetwater development, and ordered the organization to pay the MUD's attorney fees of $294,000...."
"...In Austin, we’ve been trying to follow a different path. The Town Hall citizen rallies and subsequent SOS Ordinance of the early Nineties pointed toward a different kind of city, one that would consciously maintain its connection with nature..."
"...The Circle C Neighborhood Association has joined SOS in the suit. The Save Barton Creek Association voted to join the suit Monday, but later withdrew after taking a poll of all board members..."
"...Environmentalists fought back with the formation of the Save Our Springs Coalition, whose members included leaders of the Save Barton Creek Association, the Austin Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, and other green activists who crafted the SOS ordinance to limit the amount of development allowed within the Edwards Aquifer recharge and contributing zones. The group kicked off a petition drive that gathered more than the number of signatures required to force the SOS Ordinance on the ballot in time for a May election...."
"...On August 2, the editorial writers at the local daily said the decision was "hollow," "no real victory," and that it was "largely symbolic." Councilmember Ronney Reynolds said the only winners in the ruling were "the lawyers." Mayor Bruce Todd, who, contrary to what has been reported in the local daily, has never supported SOS, said the ruling was "subject to legislative control."..."
"...In her ruling, State District Judge Margaret Cooper declared the December 2004 judgment "void and of no force and effect." Attorney Phil Durst, representing SOS, argued for nullification of the judgment on grounds that the judge who assessed the penalty – visiting Judge Bill Bender of Seguin – was not qualified to hear a case the group brought against a municipal utility district created by developer Bill Gunn. Bender, SOS argued, was unqualified to preside at the trial because he had lost a Republican primary in 1998..."
"...8, is a victory for Austin developer Bill Gunn, who had sought the dismissal. However, it doesn't altogether clear the ground for him to stake a claim on SOS' assets in trying to collect on a $500,000 judgment he won against SOS in 2004..."
"...That portion contested the legality of the deal Stratus made with the city last summer. SOS says that deal was brokered from a starting point of Stratus' "grandfather" claims, meaning the developer wouldn't have to comply with the existing Save Our Springs Ordinance..."
"...Dear Mr. Editor: I was excited to read the Save Our Springs retrospective in this week's edition [“The SOS Ordinance Turns 20,” News, Aug..."
"...Current policy exacerbates the loss of open space with roads and sprawl. SOS Alliance argues: "We should stop development over the aquifer." There’s a disconnect between property rights (the right to develop that is quintessentially Texan) and the public right to enjoy the natural environment..."
"...The complaint alleges that Daugherty, a lead proponent of the controversial tollway, illegally deleted cell phone text messages and email correspondence related to the road project, a violation of the Texas Public Information Act. SOS first sought to obtain Daugherty's records on SH 45 last May, and when given only partial access to information, the environmental group responded with a civil lawsuit in November..."
"...SOS and the other environmental groups supporting the amendment say it is necessary to protect the aquifer and the watershed from explosive commercial development, represented currently by the decision of AMD to move its major Austin facility to the Lantana tract on Southwest Parkway, in the contributing zone to the Barton Springs watershed. Groups opposed to the amendment are also mobilizing, charging that it will mean economic damage to the city and continuous lawsuits by property owners and developers over development rights and conflict with state law an argument that will ensue at megaphone volume over the next two months...."
"...Dear Editor, I am so tired of hearing about the whiners from the SOS Alliance. In my opinion, they have lost all of their credibility because they are against everything: AMD bringing jobs to the west side of town, shopping malls in Bee Cave, highways, Lowe's on Brodie Lane, development along 71 West, etc..."
"...Mike [Clark-Madison], You make thought-provoking points in your analysis of the Temple-Inland (not quite yet official) proposal ["Time to Repeal SOS?," News, Jan. 16], but you overlook a major component: potential environmental benefits. At my first meeting with Temple-Inland, I told them – and they acknowledged – that despite local job creation being my clear priority, there would have to be significant environmental reasons for my colleagues and I to want to waive the SOS Ordinance..."
"...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..."
"...However, in addition to environmental concerns, there are other forms of moral and ethical responsibility to which I would expect such an organization to adhere. SOS played with fire by running up huge unpaid bills at a number of local Austin legal firms and other providers, as well as causing huge expenses for the targets of their environmental issues..."
"...Dear Editor, Re: SOS anti-AMD billboards: Hmmm ... so it's not OK to build wisely over land that is bound to be developed already, but it is OK to pollute my view of downtown with a whiny billboard [“Discrepancies in AMD Lantana Traffic Data?,” News, July 29]? Are there no other projects (maybe ones they can actually do something about) to go stop? When are we going to stop giving attention to SOS' extremist shenanigans? Give it up ....."
"...I don't know how much more “local” and “stakeholder” that can be. Surely Mr. Bunch is not arguing that SOSA are the only ones that care about the environment. Mr..."
"...Judge Bill Bender slapped a $5,000 fine on the executive director of the Save Our Springs Alliance for filing a frivolous lawsuit against developers who plan to build 3,000 homes in the rural Hill Country environs west of Austin. Worse still, Bender ordered the SOS to pay some $200,000 of the developer's legal fees an unusual judgment by Travis Co..."
"...Katherine Gregor’s article “Watershed Redo” [News, Nov. 2] mentioned some of the concerns that have been raised by the environmental community about harmful unintended consequences of this rewriting of the SOS Ordinance. Left unmentioned by the article is the fact that redevelopment under the proposed SOS amendment could bring hundreds of thousands of additional car trips per day to the Barton Springs Watershed through administrative approvals..."
"...Dear Editor: In 1991, before very many people had even heard of SOS, I made a substantial contribution; I spent many hours entering voter registration numbers on petition sheets – unpaid of course, petition drives weren't a business in those days. I helped create Travis Audubon Society's support of the original proposition..."
"...Now the white dove – their iconic logo, both fragile and resilient – flies again, with SOS the last stop on a summerlong reconnection. It's been a return to the old days and Rickly's sing-scream call-and-response with the crowd, face to face, eye to eye...."
"...Wading through the Statesman's letters-to-the-editor page, something stands out amidst wheezing, watered-down Las Manitas outrage and a confused offering of "but Clinton lied too!" so old it's ready to collect a pension, something rather interesting: a letter from local political consultant Mike Blizzard regarding the article on Lee Leffingwell's SOS "loosening" that ran last week: I was paraphrased as saying that current limits on redevelopment over the aquifer "cut into profits for developers." I never said that. I did say that there are old developments over the aquifer that have no water quality controls and are polluting Barton Springs. The problem is that the amount of impervious cover is directly related to the amount of square footage and parking, so even a deteriorating structure can generate more money for a property owner than ripping up 75 percent to 80 percent of the concrete to redevelop under existing rules..."
"...9]. Long story short: The workers' environment will take a hit while SOS claims a victory...."