Naked City

Austin Stories

In case anyone was worried, there'll be no shortage of lawyers at the Save Our Springs Alliance during the yearlong absence of chief counsel Bill Bunch, who leaves this week for the Czech Republic. Melanie Oberlin, a recent UT law school grad, is now on staff, joining new Deputy Director Brad Rockwell, an attorney who moved to SOS from the Scanlan, Buckle & Young firm where he represented a number of municipalities. Amy Johnson, an environmental attorney in private practice, will also continue representing SOS on some issues. -- Amy Smith

The Hyde Park Neighborhood Association had originally decided not to appeal the site plan extensions requested from the city's Watershed Protection and Development Review Dept. by the Hyde Park Baptist Church, but has since changed its mind. The Hyde Park Planning Team, a separate group working with the city on planning matters, has also decided to appeal the extensions. Karen McGraw of the HPPT said plans for two of the sites violate a prior agreement by the church to build according to standards "compatible with the neighborhood plan," and that plans for the third tract are nowhere near completion. Neighborhood Association co-president Gary Penn said the group decided that not to appeal "would imply acquiescence" in what he called "sham plans," filed pro forma "without actual intent to build" in accordance with previous agreements. "We think the continuing delay suggests an attempt to exhaust the 1990 binding agreement," Penn said, "and we oppose extensions merely for the convenience of the applicant." -- Michael King

Longhorn Partners Pipeline is still looking for financing to jumpstart its gasoline pipeline project, raising doubts of an Oct. 1 start-up. The project hit a roadblock in August due to financial difficulties of a key partner, the Williams Cos. Inc., which owns 31.5% of the venture. Longhorn spokesman Don Martin said Williams is seeking its own refinancing, and likely won't make additional investments in Longhorn. The setback has forced Longhorn to look for more "traditional" funding through loans as opposed to equity investment, he said. Any delay is good news to opponents, who hope the project will ultimately be scrapped for legal or financial reasons. The city of Austin, meanwhile, is appealing a federal court ruling and asking that the pipeline undergo a more extensive environmental review. -- A.S.

The City Council decided last week to solicit bids for building the new City Hall using what's called the "construction manager-at-risk" (CMR) method, under which the city can look at factors other than price. (State law was amended in 2001 to allow cities to not always take the lowest bidder.) One such factor can be minority subcontracting, and both the black and the Hispanic contractors' groups strongly endorsed CMR for the $40 million project. However, Council Members Daryl Slusher and Will Wynn both voted no, citing the delay CMR would cause. City staff say they won't be ready to ask the council to approve a CMR contract until May, five months behind the original City Hall schedule and, as Wynn noted, just in time for the next council elections. -- Mike Clark-Madison

Woodlawn, the historic Pease Mansion, is once again for sale. Investor Jeff Sandefer withdrew his offer Aug. 19, citing the cost of foundation repair for the dilapidated West side manse, former home to two Texas governors. -- M.C.M.

Reporters and prosecutors' knickers were in a twist Aug. 27 after KXAN obtained and aired portions of the 20-hour videotaped confession of yogurt shop murder defendant Michael Scott. After the NBC affiliate aired portions of the video during its Aug. 27 newscasts, court sources say, other reporters complained to the court that they hadn't been afforded the same access -- and they were right, because KXAN wasn't supposed to have the video. According to the Austin American-Statesman, defense attorney Carlos Garcia "dropped" his copy of the video outside the courthouse Aug. 23, where lucky KXAN reporter Sally Hernandez found it. The station has since returned the video, but whether they dubbed a copy first remains to be seen. -- J.S.

The chair of the Cedar Park city parks board quit in protest last week after the City Council voted to buy 48 acres -- at a cost of $1.3 million, well above the city's own appraisal -- for a new destination park. Dissenters note that a longtime friend and supporter of Mayor Bob Young owned the land. Cedar Parkers approved last year a $10 million bond measure for parks and recreation, but the city's 2000 master plan calls for acquiring smaller parcels all over the city. The 48-acre site also adjoins the proposed route of the U.S. 183-A toll bypass. -- M.C.M.

Speaking of U.S. 183-A: According to state Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, Travis and Williamson Counties are nearly ready to form a "regional mobility authority" to go out and get financing for the bypass. The Legislature created RMAs in 2001 to shift the road-bucks burden onto local governments, but flaws in the law (which Krusee plans to fix) have kept any from forming. Meanwhile, the Texas Dept. of Transportation -- for the first time ever -- has sold bonds to fund U.S. 183-A's fellow toll roads, SH 130, SH 45 North, and MoPac extension. The first section of SH 130, from Georgetown to Bergstrom, is now set to be open for traffic by 2008. -- M.C.M.

Calling hikers and bikers: For the next four months, the Shoal Creek Hike and Bike Trail will be closed between Town Lake and West Avenue for repairs and reconstruction that the city's Public Works Dept. will begin today (Thursday). When all is said and done, the trail will be concrete and wider by 5 to 10 feet, with a new ramp installed on the west side. -- L.A.

Praise Tabernacle has sued Capital Metro for $19,500 -- money the Eastside megachurch says it's owed by the transit authority, which operated a controversial park-and-ride at the Praise site from 1997 to 2000. (The deal, which was investigated by the FBI, was one of the mishaps that led to the 1997 firing of the Cap Metro board.) Capital Metro says it's followed the terms of its Praise lease and will defend itself against the lawsuit. -- M.C.M.

Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle