Welcome Back, Gus!

A Heavy Agenda for Garcia's new council

Kirk Watson and Gus Garcia on election night
Kirk Watson and Gus Garcia on election night (Photo By John Anderson)

"Mayor and Council, it pains me to say this, [but] I'm going to make a motion that we postpone this item, which is the Hyde Park neighborhood plan, until Nov. 29," Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman lamented at the Nov. 8 City Council meeting. Given ex-mayor Kirk Watson's keen interventions on behalf of Hyde Park Baptist Church, long vilified by Hyde Park neighbors and opposed to their neighborhood plan, Goodman presumably meant she regretted putting off the item until after Watson's departure. (For his part, the AG candidate suggested he might speak on the matter as a citizen.) But she also must have been saddened to be loading yet another item onto the agenda for Nov. 29 -- Gus Garcia's first meeting as mayor and one that promises to be among the longest and feistiest in memory.

Potentially on the agenda:

Hyde Park, which may actually get its neighborhood plan approved if Garcia supports it. Six votes would be enough to override the Baptists' objections; they're believed to have only Danny Thomas (a minister himself) on their side.

A proposed affordable-housing project, to be built on Dessau Road by the Community Partnership for the Homeless. On the first two readings, Thomas and Beverly Griffith held out on supporting this 30-unit project. While Thomas expressed concern over the site area's lack of bus routes, Griffith worried about less-than-safe road conditions on Dessau. Again, CPH needs six votes to override neighborhood objections.

The oft-postponed delineation of duties held by the Planning Commission and Zoning and Platting Commission, the two offspring of the old PC. The commissions disagree on their respective roles, especially where neighborhood plans are concerned.

Two appeals, filed separately by Carr Development and the Allandale Neighborhood Assoc., opposing the conditional-use permit granted by the Planning Commission for a blood-plasma center on Burnet Road. Neighbors fear the center will become a crime magnet.

Several annexations, including the Wild Horse Ranch on US 290 East (near the interchange with proposed SH 130), the Avery Ranch (recently de-annexed from Cedar Park), and the Barker Ranch along Frate Barker Road, in the midst of city of Austin water-quality protection lands. The first two already have development projects in the works.

The city's own proposal to use dedicated parkland at the Caswell Tennis Center to allow for widening and adding a turn lane to Lamar -- unpopular with Westside neighbor groups who don't want to see more traffic on the historic Windsor Road bridge over Shoal Creek.

The controversial Villas on Guadalupe condo project, bitterly opposed by the North University Neighborhood Association, was originally also to be considered on Nov. 29. When Council approved the project on first reading on Nov. 8, it incorporated substantial changes proposed by Goodman that could punt the whole thing back to the ZAP for a third time. Given the Villas' projected 500-plus student residents, NUNA and neighboring Eastwoods NA have expressed to council their concerns that the project will inundate the Hemphill Park/Drag area with traffic.

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