The city's proposed pipeline safety ordinance won an 8-0 endorsement from the Planning Commission Nov. 20, incorporating stricter provisions recommended by the city Environmental Board. This version would restrict new construction within 25 feet of a pipeline easement and require a 500-foot setback for schools, hospitals, daycare centers, and the like. The PC did try to address concerns from pipeline neighbors who complain the rules would make it expensive or impossible to renovate or add onto their homes. The draft ordinance allows for variances when new construction includes safety measures like fireproof building materials; the PC proposed waiving permit fees for affected homeowners to help control expenses. The draft proposal is expected to go before the City Council in December. -- A.S.
If, when hanging around Barton Springs, you think you spot Bill Bunch, you're not seeing things. Several months into his yearlong sabbatical in the Czech Republic, the SOS Alliance executive director is making a brief stop in Austin to run errands, do some research, and brave the oncoming chill by going for dips in his favorite swimming hole. -- Lauri Apple
The votes have been tallied and incumbent Austin Police Assoc. President Mike Sheffield has won a third term as the union's top cop, with nearly 75% of the vote. "I am humbled by the support," he said. "I'm looking forward to continuing on." -- Jordan Smith
Austin's Pliny Fisk III was honored last week for advocating green building before green building was cool. The U.S. Green Building Council recognized Fisk with a Public Service Leadership award at the recent International Green Building Conference in Austin. Fisk -- one of four award recipients, along with New York Gov. George Pataki -- played a key role in establishing the city's trailblazing Green Builder program and co-directs the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems (www.cmpbs.org). The other co-director of "Max's Pot," Gail Vittori, earned a White House award earlier this month for her work as sustainability consultant for renovations to the Pentagon. -- A.S.
At press time, the office of state Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander is about to release its final audit of Austin Community College. The comptroller's draft report, released in September, praised ACC's programs but sharply criticized the administration, pointing to breakdowns in communication and trust between ACC faculty and President Richard Fonté and his staff. While ACC responded to the draft with voluminous corrections, advance buzz says the final audit isn't much different. The stakes for ACC are high; the cash-strapped school wants to ask voters next spring to raise its tax rate 3 cents for an additional $16 million in annual revenue. (The current 5-cent ACC tax is the lowest in the state; voters rejected a 1999 attempt to increase the rate.) College trustees are expected to consider a referendum Dec. 2 -- it's not clear how a negative audit will affect either their vote or the reaction of citizens to the ballot measure. Fonté insists he is "personally not an issue" because he's announced his retirement at the end of 2004. "This is about the future of the institution," he told Naked City last week. "We need to come together for the best interests of the college -- as an institution and as a united community." -- Michael King
The city of Dripping Springs was sued for the second time last week over its controversial development agreements with Cypress Realty and MAK Foster. The SOS Alliance claims the city violated the Texas Constitution and the Texas Open Meetings Act in brokering the deals for large-scale multi-use communities in Dripping Springs' extraterritorial jurisdiction. The city was sued earlier this month by the Friendship Alliance neighborhood coalition on similar grounds. SOS attorney Brad Rockwell said the alliance was concerned about "government by deal-making rather than open democracy." SOS also cites an interlocal agreement between Dripping Springs and the city of Austin from the mid-1980s that allows Austin input on development issues in the smaller city's ETJ. Austin officials have never enforced the measure, says Rockwell, "and the lawsuit seeks some of the enforcement of the agreement that Austin has never pursued." -- A.S.