Our City, Our Lakefront and Our Views, here today, gone tomorrow?

From: “Jeff Jack”

Friends of SaveTownLake.org

City Council to decide the fate of the shores of Lady Bird Lake this
coming Thursday, May 21, 2009

Each day when we travel around our great city, we know it is unique,
it is NOT anywhere USA. We can feel that it is apart of Texas and Not
any other state. But what gives us this sense of place? To many of us
it is the scenic expanse we unconsciously understand, the beauty of a
sky reaching to the horizon along the tree line that gives us a
special insight into the vastness of this special place. We are
fortunate that we can even experience this spaciousness in the heart
of our city along the banks of Lady Bird Lake. But may be not for
much longer.

Our community has come together repeatedly over the years to protect
this incredible open oasis that gives us such scenic vistas to the
hill county, gives us great recreational opportunities and affords a
wonderful relief to our urban lives. The zoning code protections of
our lakefront that were adopted in 1986, the Waterfront Overlay
Ordinance, served us well until 1999 when the Austin Land Development
Code was re-written and unfortunately in this “plain English” re-
codification left out important safeguards for our lakefront and
parkland along what we now call Lady Bird Lake. But this week the
City Council has an opportunity to correct that mistake and put back
the height limits, setbacks and impervious cover requirements for new
construction around the shoreline and next to our great Town Lake park.

The Council last year appointed a Waterfront Overlay Task Force and
that task force has recommended that the City Council re-instate ALL
of the provisions of the 1986 code. The City Council will be voting
on final approval of these recommendations tomorrow and it appears
that most of the recommendations will be accepted. However there is
one problem yet to be resolved. In the 1986 code the protections
established by the Waterfront Overlay Ordinance “Superceded” all other
aspects of the Land Development Code, no exceptions! It was a clear
statement that these protections should not be compromised at all.
But the ordinance drafted by the city staff has exempted what are call
Planned Unit Developments (PUD’s) that would not have to comply with
the height, setback and impervious cover limits in the Waterfront
Overlay Ordinance. While PUD’s may be a good tool for some zoning
cases, and the new PUD ordinance is stronger than the old one, there
is great concern that developers who want to capitalize on our
lakefront, will attempt to use the PUD ordinance as a way around our
lakefront protections.

And unfortunately those who oppose the re-instatement of the
Waterfront Overlay Ordinance protections are suggesting that this is
really not a city wide concern, and that only a few folks who live
around Lady Bird Lake are pushing to put back these safeguards. But I
think all of Austin understands the importance of protecting this
incredible scenic asset we have and making sure we continue to have
the open green space along our shoreline for generations to come. We
do not want a waterfront like cities on the east or west coast, and
that while we understand that downtown is very urban, we do not want
to wall off our views of the hill county with high rise buildings on
both side of Lady Bird Lake stretching from one end of the lake to the

If you live outside downtown or beyond the surrounding neighborhoods,
the City Council needs to hear from you that protecting this great
community asset IS a concern for folks from all over our city. And
the Council needs to make this the strongest ordinance possible by
either making it superceded ALL other aspects of the Land Development
Code, including PUD’s, or raising the bar on approving PUD’s that are
in the Waterfront Overlay District by making them require a super
majority vote of the City Council. Adding this requirement to the PUD
ordinance would then require a vote of 6 of the 7 council members for
any project that would violate the height, setbacks and impervious
cover limits of the Waterfront Overlay Ordinance. This is not a fail
safe solution but it would put the protections for Lady Bird Lake at
the same level as the Save Our Springs Ordinance and certainly the
shoreline of Lady Bird Lake deserves such protections!

To email all Austin City Council members please use this link or you
can go to the City’s Webb site main page and click on City Council, go
to the bottom of the page and click on “e-mail all City Council


Please send the City Council a message today and if you have the
opportunity to attend the City Council meeting on Thursday, May 21,
2009. The item is number 63 on the agenda and is scheduled for the
6:00 Public Hearings. There are several public hearing that evening
so this item may come up anytime after 6:00.

And please forward this message to everyone you know who loves our
Lady Bird Lake.

Jeff Jack

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