Louise Epstein ALAN POGUE Bonney Reynolds ALAN POGUE 10′ Gus Garcia, reading Austin Chronicle, and Bob Larson ALAN POGUE liberal/developer alliance. Barnstone cultivated the common interest between fiscal conservatives, who deplored the millions spent on subsidies to development, and environmentalists who opposed development on ecological. grounds. According to Barnstone, a few weeks before the June 7 vote, the council \(this time without 6-1 to authorize a $3 million subsidy to extend Bradley’s Circle C development in the Barton Creek watershed. “The Circle C is one of the great present threats to the springs,” Barnstone told the Observer. “Those MUDs are the vehicle for the greatest ripoffs. The City of Austin is directly subsidizing this development.” Barnstone, who lost a close race for mayor last year and is no longer involved in city politics, opposed the PUD because of its impact on the springs, but also because he thought it would inevitably lead the city down the same expensive path as Circle C stuck with the MUD. After the June 7 vote, the PUD developers threatened to use state law to incorporate their own town in the area, and avoid all Austin regulations. But that threat fizzled and Barnstone speculates that the developers never wanted to incorporate. “Freeport McMoRan [Moffett’s company] now wants two things from the city,” Barnstone said. “They want permission to develop, but they also want to hook into the city’s water and wastewater infrastructure to pay for it. Sooner or later, they’re either going to want their own MUD, or to hook into the [nearby] Circle C MUD. They haven’t incorporated because … they need $100 million of infrastructure, and there’s only one elephant big enough: the city of Austin. My main concern is that out of all this litigation and compromise, [the developers] will agree to environmental controls in exchange for the city subsidizing the MUD directly.” Developers RULE In the wake of June 1990’s unprecedented public outrage, the council scrambled to show how environmentally sensitive it was, at least until the furor died down. It voted to impose, on an interim basis, a “zero-degradation” ordinance, with stiff limitations on the the number of buildings and on the amount of impervious cover allowed in the area. While the law was supported by city staff members and scientists, developers complained that the interim clean water ordinance would cost the city $5 billion in lowered property values. A city economic impact analysis, however, showed that the ordinance would have only “modest economic consequences for the city budget and the Austin economy.” Developer allies on the council proposed their own, much weaker version of a permanent CWO. But while the interim ordinance, favored by environmentalists, used the standard approach limiting density of development and the amount of impervious cover and prohibiting increases in the total amount of pollution over pre-development levels, developers advocated “perfor mance standards,” which would allow the city to shut down development if pollutants exceeded certain levels. \(In previous cases when the similar promises were made, some of the same developers refused to halt construction when their projects were suspected of adversely affectrunoff from development to be 25 percent better than nature,” said council member Larson. Bill Bunch criticizes the developer approach because it exempts most landowners and because it would allow a greater absolute volume of polyou pave more property, you increase substantially your runoff, so that allows more loadings because there’s more water to dilute it with. But when that water flows downstream, it’s concentrated again by natural mechanisms.” Bunch also criticized the standard of comparison in the developer ordinance because it would be based on samples taken from the creek at a place where it’s already especially dirty during storm flows, which would allow the PUD to pollute more. Also, Bunch said, the new implementation rules would approve the developers’ pollution control mechanisms as long as they met the design standards submitted under the original plans regardless of how well those mechanisms actually performed. Finally, the ordinance extended the same exemptions that had weakened the 1986 law. Even if, as developers contend, their CWO is the strongest in the nation, it won’t protect the water if variances are granted wholesale. Over the next few months, the new council’s struggle to devise a permanent CWO revealed that developers controlled at least a 4-3 majority. The prodeveloper bloc was dubbed the RULE, an acronym for the surnames of its members: Ronney Reynolds, Charles Urdy, Bob Larson THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11
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