Naked City

Austin Stories

The Save Our Springs Alliance may be tacking another claim onto its pending lawsuit against the city of Austin and Stratus Properties. SOS leader Bill Bunch says the City Council erred when it consolidated all of the Stratus proposals into a single vote, combining a contract agreement with several zoning cases. "The law prohibits contract zoning," Bunch said, adding that the combined vote demonstrated "the zoning was part of the deal ... and the public hearing on the zoning cases was just a charade." -- Amy Smith

West Nile week: Public opposition to spraying to kill mosquitoes is still sporadic in Austin, but citizens in Wimberley have deluged the Hays Co. Commissioners Court with complaints over Hays' blanket-spraying plan. County officials will, for now, only spray selected areas if residents request it, with approval from the county commissioner for that precinct. To get on the no-spray list for Travis Co., call 972-5600. Williamson Co. does not have a spraying program. -- Mike Clark-Madison

The city's newly appointed historic zoning/gentrification task force held its first meeting this week, providing a venue for Eastside leaders to express concerns about both topics. Horace Carrington is chair of the task force, which includes members of the Planning, Zoning and Platting, Historic Landmark, and Community Development Commissions. The group is slated to report to council late next month, when the current moratorium on Eastside H-zoning cases expires, but that timeline may be extended. -- M.C.M.

Houses, not horses, will be coming to U.S. 183 and Riverside Drive near Montopolis. The owners of a tract originally slated for the now-abandoned Austin Jockey Club racetrack now want to build mostly single-family homes and townhomes, with some multifamily and a small commercial node. With support from Montopolis neighbors and Eastside environmentalists PODER (both groups had vehemently opposed the Jockey Club), the Zoning and Platting Commission unanimously endorsed the plan last week. -- M.C.M.

The Travis Co. Commissioners Court held hearings this week on its proposed $524.7 million county budget for fiscal 2003. Unlike the city, the county wants a two-cent hike in its property tax rate, which would make the county's rate (46.6 cents) higher than Austin's (45.97 cents) for the first time. Also unlike the city, Travis is planning a 3% pay raise for its employees -- and officials. County Judge Sam Biscoe ordered the cap on topsiders' pay raises; last year, the commissioners gave county officials raises of up to 11%. -- M.C.M.

Taxes are also on the rise in Cedar Park, which has proposed a 46.6-cent rate -- the "rollback rate," the highest it can go under state law without triggering an election. Much of this hike is to service debt for the $60 million bond package Cedar Parkers passed last year. They may add to that burden this November if they approve the ice arena and outdoor music venue Cedar Park wants to build in partnership with the Dallas Stars' parent company. -- M.C.M.

San Antonio Mayor Ed Garza paid a visit to PGA officials in Florida to try to salvage the wildly unpopular PGA Village project, proposed for development by Austin's own Lumbermen's Investment Co. PGA officials bailed out earlier this month, after opponents gathered 77,000 signatures in three weeks (more votes than Garza got when he was elected mayor in a landslide) to force a referendum on the mega-resort planned over the Edwards Aquifer. -- M.C.M.

Something to think about as you send the beloved fruit of your loins back to class: The Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice reports that school buses from across the state are getting makeovers at TDCJ's Ellis Prison Unit in Huntsville. Yes, hardened criminals may have revamped the bus that your child is taking to school. Officials say using prison labor saves school districts thousands of dollars in repair costs. "The majority of inmates take pride in what they do because they know it's for kids," said Plant Manager Robert Cousins. "It might be different if we were working on police cars." -- Lee Nichols

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