Wooten Neighborhood Association meeting minutes
November 12, 2012
President Joshua Merritt called the meeting to order at 7:07 pm in the Redeemer Lutheran school cafeteria.
Burton Anderson made a motion to approve the minutes from the September WNA meeting. Chris Gregory seconded the motion, and the motion carried. All members voted to approve the minutes.
Treasurer Marilyn Rogers gave the treasurer’s report. The current balance of our checking account is $1696.34, and we have $25 in savings. We paid Sustainable Neighborhoods a $200 donation. We also have 2 outstanding bills: $202 for the printing of the WNA newsletters and $58 to renew our P.O. box. Also, Marilyn announced that she will be accepting dues for people to renew their memberships.
President Merritt asked for members to report on the tree planting sponsored by Sustainable Neighborhoods. Dave and Laura Tomlinson attended the tree-planting, and they said that the planting was quite successful and well-organized; over 37 trees were planted in the area. The only minor problem happened at Dairy Queen on Burnet and Ohlen because the manager changed his mind about having trees planted there. Burton Anderson asked if any other tree plantings are planned. Victor Engel said that Sustainable Neighborhoods had planned to plant trees along Anderson, but he is not sure when. He helped Steven Zettner scout sites a month or so ago. Joshua Merritt also helped scout sites a couple years ago, and he is glad to see that the plantings are now happening.
President Merritt gave an update on a City of Austin notification–they will be pruning and removing trees that are near high-voltage lines. He has contact information if neighbors are interested. Victor Engel said that you have a right to have an arborist present when the city prunes trees on your property. Betsy Thaggard said that the city killed her sycamore tree. Steve Rogers clarified that the city will only prune trees that are near electrical wires, not cable or telephone wires.
President Merritt gave an update on an email that he received from Mary Rudig, the president of the North Austin Coalition of Neighborhoods. Because voters approved the proposition to create 10 single-member city council districts, she would like to see North Austin neighborhoods come together to discuss how the lines should be drawn. She would like our neighborhood groups to have a clear idea of how the draw the lines before the city makes their proposal so that we can have stronger representation. She would like interested neighbors to attend meetings on this subject.
Steve Rogers said that the city has not announced how they will form the committee to determine boundary lines yet. He asked neighbors if they would rather draw the line along 183 or Anderson and if we more closely identify North or Central Austin. He recommended that we decide this as a group before we respond to Mary Rudig’s email. Opie Gonzalez asked about the criteria for drawing lines, and Sam McGlamery said that it would be population-driven. Steve said that the city would take the 82,000 population and divide by 10, so each district would have approximately 8,200 people. Also, the city plans to group minority groups together. Betsy Thaggard pointed out that school district attaches us to the north because our neighborhood feeds into Lanier High School. President Merritt pointed out that if we join with the neighborhoods south of us, we’d be the group with the lower SES, and if we join with neighborhoods north of us, we’d be the group with the higher SES. He agrees with Steve’s call to action and would like to have a special meeting in December to address this issue. Burton Anderson said that he would appreciate the meeting and would like to know more about the city’s criteria for drawing the boundaries. Steve Rogers pointed out that somewhere in South Austin there is a neighborhood that is like us, with a similar distance from downtown and groups of marginal apartments. Sam McGlamery added that over the years, because of population growth, our neighborhood has become the population center of the city.
Chris Gregory offered to gather some resources on the city’s process for drawing boundary lines in preparation for the special meeting. David Tomlinson said that he would appreciate these resources being posted on Facebook or the yahoo listserve. Steve Rogers underscored the importance of this issue because in the future we will only be able to vote for 1 city council person and our mayor, and deciding where the boundary lines are drawn will determine how pleased we are with the outcome of our voting. Marilyn Rogers pointed out that the new voting districts won’t happen for the another 2 years.
Betsy Thaggard offered to draft a notice for the special meeting to send door-to-door. Marilyn Rogers said that we have money for this in the treasury, and President Merritt supported the idea.
Next, President Merritt reported on a notice that he received from Kat Correal, a member of the Crestview Neighborhood Association (CNA) executive committee. The CNA is attempting to acquire acreage at 6909 Ryan (near Justin Lane). This is the last piece of open land in Crestview, and they are asking for WNA’s support of this acquisition. Sam McGlamery said that this piece of land is near Crestview Station and is adjoined by commercial and privately-owned properties. This land is near the ball field on Morrow. President Merritt shared his stance that any land that we can get in North Austin that is park land is good. Victor Engel pointed out that Crestview does not have a park. Sam McGlamery said that they do have Brentwood Park at the other side of the neighborhood. Steve Rogers said that North Austin Optimist Club property off Morrow was designated to become parkland. However, the agreement didn’t work out, or they would have had a park in their neighborhood. In the neighborhood plan, they were expecting a park. President Merritt said that he spoke with Kat, and they agreed on the greater need to support parks in North Austin in general. Kat had some good ideas, and she has experience lobbying the city and park department. If we developed an organization for Wooten Park similar to Friends of Brentwood Park, she would advocate for us. This would be separate from the issue at hand. She would appreciate a letter that shows WNA’s support of the park.
Steve Rogers pointed out that acquiring the land would require a request to the city because the land is currently owned by Austin Energy. Crestview NA would not need to purchase the land. This would only require a change of use in the zoning. Jeb Kendrick said that he favors supporting parks in general and creating allies with other neighborhoods. President Merritt reiterated that in his opinion, more parks are a good thing. Betsy Thaggard said that her only concern is more parks means that existing parks may get less money. She does not want to see Wooten Park getting less financial support. President Merritt pointed out that he personally has not done anything to build support for Wooten Park, and he hasn’t seen the WNA lobby the city for resources. Betsy Thaggard re-phrased her concern, “So we support Crestview Park, but can you please mow Wooten Park?” Ginny Vragel pointed out that if the piece of land does not become a park, we don’t know what the city might do with the land. The other options might be far worse than a park. Steve Rogers reiterated that in the joint neighborhood plan, Crestview deserves a park. Patty Colligan made a motion that we support the formation of a park in Crestview. Chris Gregory seconded the motion, and all members were in favor.
Next, Steven Zettner from Sustainable Neighborhoods of North-Central Austin spoke. President Merritt introduced Steven by thanking him for the tree-planting. Steven explained that he would be talking about the bond package and possibility of getting improvements on Burnet Road. He said that he founded Sustainable Neighborhoods in 2007 in light of re-zoning in the area. He realized that if the city re-zoned areas of North Austin, it wouldn’t necessarily work in the “early suburbs” that were built in the 1950-70s. His organization favors development that is family- and neighborhood-friendly. Park spaces are important to this idea. Along Burnet Road, Steven sees more development, but there is not room for people to walk and ride bikes. He said that the unsolved question is is how will people, specifically families with children, live along Burnet Road? He said that getting funding for projects along Burnet Road is key to that.
Steven explained that Sustainable Neighborhoods gathered representatives from neighborhood associations along Burnet Road as a task-force and asked them to rank projects that were most important to them. Some of the options were: bike lanes, sidewalks, expanded medians, and crosswalks. From 22/22 to Anderson Lane, the city proposed making a “complete street” with an expanded median, bike lanes, and sidewalks. This would have cost $27 million for 1 mile. Fast-forward to 2012, and we are expecting a total of $5-6 million for Burnet Road between 22/22 and Anderson. Some of the money is going toward Lamar instead. So Sustainable Neighborhoods gathered the task-force again and asked them to prioritize a second time. Steven encouraged the neighborhood representatives to elicit sponsorship from private donors and business owners to support improvements to Burnet Road. Beyond that, the group agreed to support sidewalks–filling in gaps, fixing broken parts, moving them farther away from busy roads. Sustainable Neighborhoods has also worked with Lamar Middle School to make it more pedestrian-friendly. They have also worked with a new restaurant to ask them to create outdoors, pedestrian-friendly dining. Steven explained that another priority for the group of neighborhood representatives were the right turn lanes at Burnet & Anderson and Burnet & RM-2222. Because drivers can whip through the lights without coming to a complete stop, this is especially dangerous for pedestrians, particularly for the middle school students at Lamar Middle School. In conclusion, Steven reiterated Sustainable Neighborhood’s recommendation that the $5-6 million slated for Burnet Road improvements be used for sidewalks and to close dedicated right-turn lanes at RM-2222 & Anderson.
Opie Gonzalez asked how much right-of-way the city was planning to get for their projects. Steven said that the city was not going to expand the right-of-way; they were planning to shrink space on sides and widen the median. Steve Rogers asked if the city ultimately approved the elaborate “complete street” plan, if they would rip up the sidewalks. Steven Zettner said that in his opinion, it makes sense to put the sidewalks in first. If the sidewalks are put in and trees are planted, the street will be more accessible for pedestrians. He added that most of the money will be spent on North Lamar north of 183 because there are so many pedestrians there, and conditions are not good.
Steve Rogers told Steven Zettner that we were just discussing our geographic identity and whether we should be grouped with neighborhoods north or south of us. Steven Zettner said that he thought Wooten would fit better with neighborhoods north of us because a lot of the growth in Imagine Austin is focused on us. Our neighborhoods share a lot of the same issues because our streets were not designed for pedestrians. Steven feels that the North Austin neighborhoods would need a lot of money in order to become more pedestrian-friendly, so he personally likes the idea of a North Austin district.
Steven Zettner reminded the WNA that he would like the support of all the North Austin neighborhood associations to endorse Sustainable Neighborhood’s priority list. Then, Steven will bring these endorsements back to the city. Brentwood Neighborhood Association was the only neighborhood group that did not support Sustainable Neighborhood’s priorities because they did not feel that bike lanes were prioritized highly enough.
Jeb Kendrick asked where the bike lanes are in the Sustainable Neighborhood plan. Steven Zettner replied that the only bike lanes are around Lamar Middle School. President Merritt clarified that bike lanes are prioritized below sidewalks in Sustainable Neighborhood’s plan. Steven Zettner said that in reality the sidewalks will serve as bike lanes, especially for young people and students. Sam McGlamery said that it is against the law to ride a bike down a sidewalk, but Steven Zettner clarified that this law only applies downtown.
Marilyn Rogers asked Steven Zettner to outline all the points in the Sustainable Neighborhood plan: 1)improve sidewalks; 2) close dedicated right-turn only lanes at RM-2222 & Anderson; 3) create a pocket park near Farmers Market on Burnet Road; 4)expand pedestrian space near HEB bus stop at RM-2222 & Burnet; 5)move sidewalk away from road at Ohlen & Burnet; 6) create pedestrian space near Burnet from Anderson to Mahone; and 7) create a pedestrian-friendly corner at Lamar Middle School.
Betsy Thaggard asked how the Capital Metro rapid transit routes would impact Sustainable Neighborhood’s plan. Steven Zettner said that there will be a rapid transit stop near ShuShus at Burnet & Ohlen. Also, the #3 bus is going away and will be replaced by rapid transit buses. Now there will only be 6 bus stops between 183 and 35th Street on Burnet Road instead of 18 bus stops currently.
Steve Rogers said that he and his wife, Marilyn, have been asking for improved sidewalks on Burnet Road for decades, especially near 183. Personally, he would feel better if Marilyn did not have to go into the street at some places in order to travel on Burnet Road.
Steve Rogers made a motion to approve Sustainable Neighborhood’s priority list. Carolyn Spock seconded the motion, and all members approved. The motion carried.
Steven Zettner offered a “teaser” of his promotional/branding concept for the Burnet Road area by naming it “Austin’s Kid-Friendly Corridor.” He explained that he wants to embrace diversity, but he feels that it is difficult to get resources for children and branding it that way will enable our community to gather more resources. Carmen Maverick asked Steven to clarify because she does not have children. Steven explained that a lot of the high-rise growth is geared toward young single professionals and empty-nesters. Although there is nothing wrong with these age groups, when you concentrate only on these groups, families may pack up and move to the suburbs. Lamar Middle School’s population is declining and has had to bus in children from other neighborhoods. This has put pressure on academics and the school was under-performing. The school was almost shut down. Steven explained that the branding concept is not intended to focus only on families but rather to provide resources for groups that are not typically represented.
Carmen Maverick asked if family-friendly means not apartments. Steven Zettner explained that the VMU zoning designation is not family-friendly. There is less space for children to play, and while these facilities may have great gyms and pools, they typically do not have daycares or playgrounds. He explained that duplexes and townhouses are more family-friendly, and that having a good mix of different types of housing allows families to be able to afford living in the area. Steve Rogers offered a demographic point of interest–there are 1,100 students at Burnet Middle School. In contrast to Lamar Middle School, Burnet Middle School is over-populated. Most of the Burnet Middle School students live north of us in apartments that were designed for singles. Many of the elementary school north of us, such as Wooldridge Elementary, are over-populated as well. The apartments north of us are not “family-friendly”, but that is where many families live.
President Merritt brought up the subject of the Wal-Mart shopping carts at the Lulen Apartments on Lanier & Bowling Green. He does not feel that Wal-Mart is doing enough to address this issue, and he and other neighborhood leaders will be following up with them.
President Merritt made a call for additional support for the Wooten Neighborhood Association newsletter. Betsy Thaggard has been the sole person responsible for content and layout, and she will no longer continue to do this on her own. President Merritt asked for someone to step up to take over the responsibility of the newsletter or else find another way to raise funds. If you would like to help with the newsletter or have another idea for fundraising, email email@example.com.
Finally, President Merritt said that there has been a lot of interest in creating a Friends of Wooten Park group. He plans to have a member of this group speak at the January meeting.
Victor Engel announced that he has mosquito pellets for any neighbors who have standing water around property.
The meeting was not officially adjourned.