The Austin Chronicle

Not Exactly a "Green Light" for Stratus

By Amy Smith, June 14, 2002, News

The city Environmental Board will hold a special meeting Monday, June 17 at One Texas Center, Rm. 235 (505 Barton Springs Rd.) to consider rescinding its earlier rejection of a Stratus Properties development agreement by voting for conditional approval of the plan. At a meeting Monday, a board subcommittee -- made up of chair Lee Leffingwell, Karin Ascot, Mary Gay Maxwell, Phil Moncada, and Connie Siebert -- decided to make such a recommendation to the full board. Maxwell favored rescinding the previous rejection but abstained on the conditional approval, and Siebert left before the vote. Committee member Tim Jones was out of town, but cast his no vote in advance.

Should the board sign off on the development agreement, its approval would carry at least 13 stipulations, including: "appropriate" water quality controls on several tracts in the Southwest Austin development area, Stratus' participation in a regional planning process for future development over the Edwards Aquifer, the appointment of a third party to ensure impervious cover limits are being met, and a ban on service stations and conventional dry cleaners in the area. While several board members have previously expressed strong disagreement with the city's inclusion of a $15 million incentives package in the development agreement, the subcommittee decided that's an issue outside of its purview and did not address it in its recommendation.

After the meeting, Maxwell expressed her reservations with the Stratus agreement. "They've considerably reduced their impervious cover and that's to their credit," she said. But a bigger threat, she added, may be the development plans of Gary Bradley, who already has a city-approved deal in place for his property, some of which abuts a large tract owned by Stratus. Add to this mix Bradley's planned SH 45 toll way across the aquifer and the city could have more problems than it ever imagined, Maxwell said.

The Stratus proposal returns to the Planning Commission for consideration and possible action on June 18. City Council members will try to figure the whole thing out June 27, their first meeting after an extended break.

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