Northwest Austin Edition - August 2020

NORTHWEST AUSTIN EDITION

VOLUME 14, ISSUE 7  AUG. 28SEPT. 25, 2020

ONLINE AT

New!

Austin ISD delays start date to Sept. 8

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TRANSPORTATION UPDATES

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EDUCATION

IMPACTS

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In 2019, nancial, property and information company CoreLogic put out a study assessing wildre risk throughout the U.S. Austin was listed in the top ve metro areas for overall risk to property due to wildre. The map below shows which areas in the Greater Austin area are most at risk. TOP 5 ATRISK AREAS FOR WILDFIRE NATIONALLY

Police cuts ignite city’s experiment in rethinking public safety priorities

Estimated cost of reconstruction Residences at high to extreme risk

GEORGETOWN

183

BY CHRISTOPHER NEELY

MARBLE FALLS

130 TOLL

290

1 Los Angeles, California 121,589 $71 billion

Austin’s police department will have much less money this year after City Council voted Aug. 13 to remove roughly $150 million from the police budget for scal year 2020-21, a reduction of about 35% from City Manager Spencer Cronk’s original July proposal. The most dramatic police budget cut in memory reinvested some funds into community programs and reassigned some typical police functions to separate departments. Austin is the only major Texas city to make such a cut to its police budget. CONTINUED ON 18

45 TOLL

71

620

PFLUGERVILLE

2 Riverside, California

LAKEWAY

101,787

$40.94 billion

281

AUSTIN

360

3 San Diego, California

JOHNSON CITY

290

75,096 $35.81 billion

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71

DRIPPING SPRINGS

MOPAC

BASTROP

4 Sacramento, California 68,056 $27.5 billion

Medium risk High risk Extreme risk

183

5 Austin, Texas

MAP NOT TO SCALE N

53,984

$16.35 billion

SOURCE: CORELOGIC 2019 WILDFIRE RISK REPORTCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

Eorts to protect against wildre continue

A HISTORIC SHIFT

New code ordinance highlights still-looming area vulnerabilities

grew to engulf 6,500 acres, destroyed more than 60 structures and burned for 11 days before being extinguished Sept. 15, 2011. Since then, new homes, businesses and other structures built in the Steiner Ranch area and Cen- tral Texas coexist with the vast acreage of the Bal- cones Canyonlands Preserve—a 50-square-mile tract created in 1996 that continues to loom as a wildre threat. In western Travis County and Northwest Aus- tin, two of the areas in Central Texas that are at the highest risk of wildre, professionals continue working to diminish danger.

Austin's elected leaders voted to reduce the APD budget following months of community pressure. They said it will help improve safety and justice in the city.

BY BRIAN RASH

Austin Police Department’s proposed FY 2020-21 budget:

Sarah Doolittle had just moved into Steiner Ranch with her husband and children in April 2011. About ve months later, just after they n- ished hanging up their pictures and getting settled in, the wildres started. When power lines likely collided into each other resulting in sparks, according to an August 2012 report from the Travis County Fire Mar- shal’s Oce, what started as a brush re quickly

$ 434.3M

$ 284M *

Approved APD budget: *THE CITY IS STILL FINALIZING THIS NUMBER.

SOURCES: AUSTIN CITY COUNCIL, CITY OF AUSTIN BUDGET OFFICE COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

CONTINUED ON 16

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Precautions include: █ Maintaining proper social distancing in waiting rooms. █ Designating separate emergency triage and care areas for patients with symptoms of COVID-19. █ Continuing to wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). █ Screening patients, visitors, doctors, nurses and care teams before they enter the facility. █ Extensively cleaning and disinfecting all areas more often. Compassionate, personalized care – even when the need is urgent Heather’s heart health improved considerably following her surgery and rehabilitation. Her family is thankful for the immediate, comprehensive and compassionate care she received from the moment she arrived at the ER to her follow-up appointments. “They really care. They want to make things better,” she said. “They want to make sure you’re given 100 percent of their care.” Find an Ascension Seton hospital ER at GetSetonCare.com If you or a loved one is experiencing heart attack symptoms such as pain or discomfort in the chest or arm, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

procedures that support it. █ A women’s heart care program in Austin. Know the symptoms of a heart attack People who recognize the warning signs of a heart attack – whether in them - selves, friends or loved ones – shouldn’t wait to get emergency care. And it’s important to realize that women may experience heart attacks differently than men. Watch for these symptoms and talk These symptoms may also be present frequently in men but are more common in women: █ Lightheadedness, nausea or vomiting. █ Jaw, neck or back pain. █ Shortness of breath. Taking strong precautions to protect patients and caregivers Visits to medical facilities decreased when the coronavirus (COVID-19) pan- demic began because many people have been concerned about exposure to the vi- rus. But Ascension Seton is fully prepared for your safety in its care. And seeking ER care quickly for serious conditions like heart attacks can help save lives and improve recovery. about them with loved ones: █ Chest pain or discomfort. █ Discomfort or pain in arm or shoulder. Ascension Seton has implemented strict precautions throughout all its hospitals, emergency rooms and clinics, for the safety of patients and caregivers.

PAID ADVERTISEMENT Even now, timing is everything in treating a heart attack The emergency room is still the safest place for immediate care for heart attacks, with precautions in place for your safety

Heather Imel woke one morning to tightness in her chest and numbness in her arm. She didn’t ignore the pain. In - stead, she went to the emergency room at an Ascension Seton hospital. Her emergency room care teams immediately ran a series of tests that revealed she’d had a minor heart attack. “I was scared to death,” recalled Heather, “but my doctors reassured me that it was going to be OK.” She was quickly transported to a dedicated heart care center, where a minimally invasive heart catheterization revealed she had four blockages and would need open-heart surgery. “Once you recognize the symptoms of a heart attack, taking immediate action is the most important thing you can do to prevent permanent damage to your heart,” said Mark Pirwitz, MD, President of Seton Heart Institute. “Patients can trust that our emergency rooms are pre- pared to deliver urgent heart care with full safety precautions in place.” Don’t delay emergency care for heart attack symptoms “Our research shows some patients

are delaying or even avoiding trips to the ER, even when they have heart attack symptoms,” said Christopher Ziebell, MD, Emergency Medical Director at Dell Seton Medical Center. “Not getting the urgent heart care they need can have a serious and lasting impact on their health. If you have these symptoms, don’t wait – not even a few minutes.” During a heart attack, timing is critical. Every minute that goes by can lead to lost heart muscle and potentially permanent damage. The faster the flow of blood can be restored to a blocked artery, the better the outcome for patients. ERs at Ascension Seton hospitals are always open 24/7, with labs and imaging services on-site. Emergency care teams are able to connect patients to experienced cardiologists, vascular specialists and heart surgeons at Ascension Seton’s dedicated heart center, and so they can get personalized follow-up care for their heart conditions, including cardiac rehabilitation. Ascension Seton hospitals provide: █ The highest level of emergency heart care in the Austin area. █ The only heart transplant center in Austin, along with other lifesaving

© Ascension 2020. All rights reserved.

3 new rail lines and a downtown tunnel. Project Connect from Capital Metro is a comprehensive transit plan. It includes a rail system that travels under downtown—separate from traffic—designed to increase the system’s on-time performance. The plan also includes 3 new rail lines, all-electric buses, 36 miles of new MetroRapid bus service and 9 new Park & Rides.

Visit ProjectConnect.com to learn more.

2

COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

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©2020 Austin Energy

3

NORTHWEST AUSTIN EDITION • AUGUST 2020

4

COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

THIS ISSUE

CONTENTS

HIGHLIGHTS FROMTHISMONTH

FROMPHYLLIS: Sept. 4, 2011, is etched in the memory of those living here at the time. You’ll recall the wildres in Steiner Ranch and smoke pluming from Bastrop and Spicewood. Being named the fth-most combustible area in the nation by a recent wildre assessment survey should reprioritize our mitigation eorts. Read our front-page story to learn what’s being done and what residents can do to reduce the risk. Phyllis Campos, GENERALMANAGER

MARKET TEAM GENERAL MANAGER Phyllis Campos, pcampos@communityimpact.com EDITOR Brian Perdue, bperdue@communityimpact.com SENIOR REPORTER Iain Oldman GRAPHIC DESIGNER Mel Stea ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE Taylor Caranfa METRO LEADERSHIP PUBLISHER Travis Baker MANAGING EDITOR Amy Denney ART PRODUCTIONMANAGER Haley Grace CORPORATE LEADERSHIP PUBLISHERS AND FOUNDERS John and Jennifer Garrett GROUP PUBLISHER Traci Rodriguez EXECUTIVE EDITOR Joe Warner CREATIVE DIRECTOR Derek Sullivan SALES DIRECTOR Tess Coverman WHOWE ARE John and Jennifer Garrett began Community Impact Newspaper in 2005 in Pugerville, Texas. The company’s mission is to build communities of informed citizens and thriving businesses through the collaboration of a passionate team. Today we operate across ve metropolitan areas, providing hyperlocal, nonpartisan news produced by our full-time journalists in each community we serve. BECOMEA#COMMUNITYPATRON

FROMBRIAN: Hello, dear reader. I’m the new editor of the Northwest Austin and Lake Travis-Westlake editions after editing the Cedar Park and Leander edition. In June, I closed on a condominium o the north end of Guadalupe Street, so I’m a stone’s throw—by Austin standards, anyway—from this coverage area. With the help of Senior Reporter Iain Oldman, this newspaper will continue to follow issues impacting Northwest Austin. It’s nice to meet you! Brian Perdue, EDITOR

IMPACTS

6

Now Open, Coming Soon &more

TRANSPORTATIONUPDATES 9 I35 construction starts in North Austin

THIS ISSUE BY THE NUMBERS

Local sources 20

New businesses 11

School district coronavirus plans 3

Reduction in proposed APD budget 35%

DEVELOPMENT 11 Austin starts eminent domain for parkland CITY& COUNTY 13 Travis County holds court over Zoom EDUCATION 14 School districts return to learning CORRECTION: Volume 14, Issue 6 On Page 22, the name of the Canyon Creek Homeowners’ Association Director Randy Lawson was misspelled. CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE All content in this print publication, both editorial and advertisements, was up- to-date as of the press deadline. Due to the fast-changing nature of this event, editorial and advertising information may have changed. Please visit communityimpact.com and advertiser websites for more information.

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stay informed and keep businesses thriving. COMMUNITYIMPACT.COMCIPATRON CONTACT US 16225 Impact Way, Ste. 1, Pugerville, TX 78660 • 5129896808 PRESS RELEASES nwanews@communityimpact.com SUBSCRIPTIONS communityimpact.com/subscriptions © 2020 Community Impact Newspaper Co. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction of any portion of this issue is allowed without written permission from the publisher.

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NORTHWEST AUSTIN EDITION • AUGUST 2020

IMPACTS

Businesses that have recently opened or are coming soon, relocating or expanding

COMPILED BY IAIN OLDMAN

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LAKELINE BLVD.

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183A TOLL

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LAKE CREEK PKWY.

Chi’lantro

POND SPRINGS RD.

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COURTESY CHI’LANTRO

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COMING SOON 12 Shiva Jewelers will open Oct. 22 at 11066 Pecan Park Blvd., Ste. 520, Austin. The jewelry store will sell East Indian jewelry and cater to the South Asian com- munity, according to owner Amit Patel. 619-840-3526. www.shivajewelers.com 13 Rosewood Property Co. and Trinsic Residential Group on Aug. 3 announced a new partnership to build Aura Avery Ranch , an upcoming 339-unit apartment development at 13100 Avery Ranch Blvd. Jason Hauck, director of Central Texas for Trinsic Residential Group, said Aura Avery Ranch will oer 11 separate oor plans with one-, two- and three-bedroom layouts. The development, expected to open by 2022, will include three- and four-story apartment buildings with a clubhouse, a community pool, a tness center and a dog park. 512-399-3120. www.auraaveryranch.com 14 Breakfast eatery Another Broken Egg Cafe will open a location at 8012 Mesa Drive, Austin, according to the company’s website. Another Broken Egg Cafe specializes in breakfast and brunch oerings, with a menu featuring pancakes, French toast, specialty om- 15 Austin Gastroenterology , which operates a location at 8015 Shoal Creek Blvd., Ste. 118, in Northwest Austin, celebrates its 20th year of business in August. The physician group, with 34 gastroenterologists and 29 advanced practice providers serving at 16 clinic locations, specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of digestive and liver diseases. 512-244-2273. www.austingastro.com NEWOWNERSHIP elets, sandwiches and more. www.anotherbrokenegg.com ANNIVERSARIES 16 The Texas-based Sewell Automotive Companies opened its rst dealership in the Greater Austin area July 31 at 13910 N. RM 620, Austin. The fami- ly-owned company acquired Jaguar Land Rover North Austin, which opened in March under Park Place Dealerships. The newly constructed 70,000-square-foot dealership features a glass-enclosed showroom, a three-lane service drive, a service shop and more. Sewell now operates 17 full-service dealerships across Texas. 737-255-4100. www.sewell.com 35

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620

NORTHWEST AUSTIN

SPICEWOOD SPRINGS RD.

MOPAC

MOPAC

JOLLYVILLE RD.

CENTURY OAKS TERRACE

WALNUT CREEK PARK

GREAT HILLS TRL.

BONAVENTURE DR.

7

8

3

360

RIVER PLACE BLVD.

2222 5

SPICEWOOD SPRINGS RD.

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35

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CAPITAL OF TEXAS HWY.

2

ANDERSON LN.

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MAP NOT TO SCALE

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SHOAL CREEK BLVD.

NOWOPEN 1 The Backspace opened for to-go service only July 19 at 1745 W. Anderson Lane, Ste. 600, Austin. This is the second location of the pizza restaurant from Shawn Cirkiel’s restaurant group, Parkside Projects. The original restaurant is locat- ed in the back space of Cirkiel’s agship restaurant, Parkside, in downtown Austin. Parkside Projects also includes Olive & June, 7co, 800 Congress and Jugo. 512-474-9899. www.backspacepizza.com 2 Kitchen United Mix , the shared kitch- en facility at 8023 Burnet Road, Austin, has added ve new restaurants since late June, giving it a total of 12 tenants. New options include Ramen512, Korean restaurant Seoulju, vegetarian restaurant Plant B, Bad Ass Breakfast Burritos, P.F. Chang’s and chicken spot Bad Mutha Clucka. www.kitchenunited.com 3 International preschool Kïdo opened its rst Austin location July 15 at 10625 Bonaventure Drive, Austin. The 15,000-square-foot facility has become the company’s largest to date, according to the Kïdo website. The website states its curriculum promotes hands-on, inter- active learning for children ages 6 weeks to 5 years old. 512-557-1152. www.kido.school/en

4 Glow Nails Beauty Bar + Lounge opened June 10 at 2947 W. Anderson Lane, Austin. The new 3,000-square-foot salon oers services including facials, manicures, pedicures, eyelash extensions and waxing. 512-206-2982. www.glownailsatx.com 5 Flyrite Chicken on Aug. 9 held its grand opening at Lavaca Street Bar at Rock Rose, located at 11420 Rock Rose Ave., Ste. 100, Austin, in Domain Northside. The local chain serves craft chicken sandwiches, tenders and recently added wings to its menu. This location replaces the recently closed Surf N Turf restaurant at Lavaca Street Bar. 512-546-3458. www.yritechicken.com 6 India Gate in June opened its second Northwest Austin location at 12625 N. I-35, Bldg. A, Austin, inside Manpasand Supermarket. The restaurant oers tradi- tional Indian fare with daily specials and tins, which are light meals. 512-505-8900. www.indiagateaustin.com 7 CBD wellness retailer The GreenPX opened July 1 at 10000 Research Blvd., Ste. 136, Austin, in the Arboretum. The GreenPX sells a variety of CBD-infused products for pain and anxiety relief, such as creams, bath bombs, drinks and con- sumables. 512-522-9443. www.facebook.com/thegreenpxaustin

8 Sweet Paris Crêperie & Café on Aug. 17 opened its newest location at 11410 Century Oaks Terrace, Ste. 112, Aus- tin, in The Domain. The cafe serves sweet and savory specialty crepes, such as dulce de leche and croque madame oerings, as well as other traditional breakfast items including waes and omelets. 512-551-3979. www.sweetparis.com 9 The Bon Aire opened its doors to customers July 1 at 9070 Research Blvd., Ste. 101, Austin. The sports bar and eat- ery oers a menu inspired by Midwestern cities like Chicago and St. Louis. The Bon Aire serves bratwursts, burgers, kebabs and chicken wings. 512-284-7038. www.bonaireatx.com 10 Local chain Chi’lantro opened its newest location at 6301 W. Parmer Lane, Austin, in early August. The Korean fusion restaurant serves rice and noodle bowls, fried chicken wings, burritos and its signature kimchi fries. 512-800-9098. www.chilantrobbq.com 11 Boba Tea Smoothies and Sandwiches opened in late July at 9308 Anderson Mill Road, Austin. The boba tea cafe and restaurant serves banh mis, fresh tea, smoothies and more. 512-358-1181. www.bobateasns.wixsite.com/9308

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

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NORTHWEST AUSTIN EDITION • AUGUST 2020

8

COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

TRANSPORTATIONUPDATES City pushing towrapwork beforeAustin FC stadiumopener

BY IAIN OLDMAN

underway as soon as October, Crich- ton said. That would leave crews about a six-month window to nish work if Austin FC plays its inaugural home match in March 2021. The rst phase of construction will add shared-use sidewalks and further include trac signal upgrades, installations of raised medians at all

approaches to the intersection, pave- ment work and drainage upgrades. Capital Metro’s most recent Project Connect plans show the regional transit agency will build a new MetroRail station at McKalla Place. Crichton said building that station is not included in the current corridor improvement plans.

Austin construction crews will work to nish improvements at the intersection of Burnet Road and Braker Lane in North Austin before Major League Soccer franchise Austin FC plays its rst game in the upcoming stadium at McKalla Place, according to new city documents. The city of Austin Corridor Pro- gram Oce in early August published the summary report of its public hearing for upcoming Burnet Road corridor improvements. According to the report, city crews before the end of 2020 will break ground to begin improvements at the intersection of Burnet and Braker. “Our goal is to have construction of the improvements done prior to the planned Austin FC home opener,” said Dea Crichton, public information and communications manager for the corridor program oce, in an email to Community Impact Newspaper . Improvement work at the Burnet and Braker intersection could be

Work on Parmer Lane at I35 is expected to wrap by mid-2021. (Courtesy Texas Department of Transportation)

ONGOING PROJECTS

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Parmer Lane diverging diamond New lanes on the Parmer Lane bridge are currently being constructed. In late August, state crews will begin reconstructing the southbound I-35 frontage road near Parmer. Timeline: July 2019-mid-2021

The city of Austin is aiming to wrap up improvements at Burnet Road and Braker Lane, pictured here, by spring 2021. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)

620

RIVER PLACE BLVD.

BULLOCK HOLLOW RD.

MCNEIL DR.

State starts ramp work along I35 up to SH 45

45 TOLL

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BY KELSEY THOMPSON

intersection that connects the surrounding communities of Cedar Park, Pugerville and Round Rock to Austin,” TxDOT Austin District Engineer Tucker Ferguson said in the Aug. 4 release. The project’s cost is estimated at $8.2 million, with funding provided by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and TxDOT. State planners anticipate a mid-2021 completion date.

ALL INFORMATION ON THIS PAGE WAS UPDATED AS OF AUG. 13. NEWS OR QUESTIONS ABOUT THESE OR OTHER LOCAL TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS? EMAIL US AT NWANEWSCOMMUNITYIMPACT.COM. RM 620 at RM 2222 bypass TxDOT construction crews in August will nish paving the right-turn lane from westbound RM 2222 to McNeil Drive and the right turn lanes on Mc- Neil and River Place Boulevard onto westbound RM 2222. Timeline: fall 2018-late 2021

Work on northbound I-35 from Grand Avenue Parkway to SH 45 N in Round Rock is now underway. The changes will reverse the northbound I-35 entrance and exit ramps at the SH 45 N intersection to alleviate trac congestion, according to an Aug. 4 Texas Department of Transportation news release. The project kicked o Aug. 2. “I-35 at SH 45 North is a key

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NORTHWEST AUSTIN EDITION • AUGUST 2020

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

DEVELOPMENT Developer, city likely togo tocourt over property along Bull Creek

Austin City Council on July 29 voted to begin eminent domain proceedings on a site o Spicewood Springs Road in Northwest Austin for trail connectivity purposes. Developer David Kahn, who owns the land and is proposing a nature lodge on the site, is ghting the proceedings. Disputed land

Spicewood Lodge property

Bull Creek

Trails

BY IAIN OLDMAN

“Since 1971, PARD has acquired numerous tracts along Bull Creek to realize the vision of a connected greenbelt along this environmentally sensitive waterway. The Upper Bull Creek Greenbelt consists of approxi- mately 168 acres of parkland, of which this property will be a part,” according to an email from the department. The property itself neighbors the protected Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, and a portion of Bull Creek runs through Kahn’s land, which sits just south of St. Edward’s Park. As it stands, the property remains undeveloped. Kahn submitted plans in November 2016 for an 11-story bou- tique hotel on the site, though Kahn eventually scaled back those plans. The Spicewood Lodge as it is currently proposed would be a ve-story, 57-room “national parks-style lodge” developed on approximately 5% of the total 11-acre site, according to Kahn. Less than a year after Kahn submit- ted—and then withdrew—the original site proposal, residents of the nearby Yaupon Blus Community Associ- ation launched an online petition asking City Council to preserve the land for park and trail use. As previously reported by Commu- nity Impact Newspaper , the petition was posted after meetings between Kahn and Yaupon Blus surrounding the use and development of the property broke down. Rick Brimer, vice president of the Yaupon Blus Community Asso- ciation, said he and his neighbors continued to express concerns over

1 Upper Bull Creek Greenbelt

2 Potential nature trail

3 Stenis Tract trail

After nearly a handful of years of site plan submissions, citizen petitions and negotiations, the city of Austin is now seeking to acquire a contentious plot of land o Spicewood Springs Road in Northwest Austin. Austin City Council during a special called July 29 meeting voted unan- imously to begin eminent domain proceedings for approximately 11 acres of land at 6315 Spicewood Springs Road, Austin. “This has been going on for a long time. Because of the critical envi- ronmental features on this property, which have impact potential on our water supply, we’ve been unable to nd mechanisms that preserve that water quality,” Austin City Council Member Alison Alter said. Council documents state that acquiring the land will help the city complete trail connectivity from the Upper Bull Creek Greenbelt to Canyon Vista Middle School. But developer David Kahn, who owns the property, is pushing back against those claims. “We oered [the city] a free ease- ment for people to walk on the creek. It would be a 300-foot trail on the whole length. It would achieve every- thing the city wanted. … They really wanted the whole property,” Kahn told Community Impact Newspaper . The Austin Parks and Recreation Department in an email stated it is active in negotiations with property owners to secure land for trail connectivity in the Bull Creek area.

ST. EDWARDS PARK

CANYON VISTA MIDDLE SCHOOL

1

$4.5 million valuation from the city of Austin

SPICEWOOD SPRINGS RD.

11.39 acres Approximately 1,900 linear feet of Bull Creek runs through the site.

SPICEWOOD SPRINGS RD.

2

the environmental impact of Kahn’s proposed nature lodge, even after Kahn scaled down its size. “The more impervious cover you introduce into a watershed … it just increases the amount of runo,” Brimer said. Eminent domain proceedings Following council’s July 29 vote, Kahn told Community Impact News- paper that he intends to le a lawsuit against the ruling in order to stop the eminent domain proceedings. “It is an arbitrary and capricious trampling of my property rights,” Kahn said. According to the Oce of the Attorney General of Texas, the city of Austin must rst make a “bona de oer” to Kahn for his property. If the developer rejects the city’s oer, it may begin condemnation proceedings on the property, during which a special commissioners

3

360

MAP NOT TO SCALE N

SOURCES: AUSTIN PARKS AND RECREATION DEPARTMENT, CITY OF AUSTIN, NATURAL ATLAS COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

court will determine how much the property is worth. Austin City Council documents show that city sta values the property at $4.5 million. Funds to purchase the property from Kahn will likely come from one of two sources, Alter said. The city can elect to use funds from the voter-approved 2018 bond for parks and recreation land acquisition, or the city can leverage developer fees to come up with the eminent domain funds.

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NORTHWEST AUSTIN EDITION • AUGUST 2020

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

CITY& COUNTY

News from Travis & Williamson counties

County holds first-ever jury trial over videoconference

Gatherings ofmore than 10 allowed beginningAug. 13

BY JACK FLAGLER

TRAVIS COUNTY A low-level misdemeanor jury trial that took place Aug. 11 was the rst-ever binding criminal jury trial held via videoconference rather than inside a courtroom, according to Travis County ocials. When potential jurors arrived in Travis County Precinct 5 Justice of the Peace Nicholas Chu’s virtual courtroom in the morning, the judge welcomed them in and sorted them into a Zoom breakout room, where court sta took down information and made sure the potential jurors were familiar with the technology ahead of the selection process, also called voir dire. The trial was conducted via video to ensure the safety of the participants and slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community. According to an order from the Texas Supreme Court, all jury trials are suspended until Sept. 1 in the state, unless those trials meet a specic set of criteria. “This is jury duty, a little bit dierent than what we’re used to,” Chu told the jurors. “All of us know the coronavirus has dealt us serious challenges in terms of how we live our day-to-day lives. One of the things we’ve tried to do as the judiciary is try to keep the community safe to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 but also to safeguard our

BY ALI LINAN

WILLIAMSON COUNTY Beginning Aug. 13, Williamson County will allow gatherings of more than 10 people in outdoor spaces so long as masks are still worn and social distancing measures are in place. County Judge Bill Gravell announced the change through an order during an Aug. 11 Wil- liamson County Commissioners Court meeting. “If a family wants to bury a loved one, they can exceed the number of greater than 10 people if they follow [Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s orders], which means they must wear masks, socially distance and not exceed 50% capacity of that particular property,” Gravell claried. The order only takes eect in the county’s unincorporated areas, and those within a city limit must still abide by the provisions estab- lished by the city ocials, county ocials said. On July 2, Gov. Greg Abbott amended his executive order banning gatherings in excess of 10 people unless the county judge approves. Gravell said all requests for larger gatherings that have been sent to his oce since the order was in place have been denied.

constitutional rights—one of which is trial by jury.” The trial ran a bit behind schedule—which Chu said was expected due to the newness of the technology—but otherwise followed the beats of a low-level criminal trial, with sidebars between the attorneys and the judge that took place in a breakout room instead of Chu’s chambers. The jury delivered a guilty verdict in State of Texas v. Kornblau, a case of a vehicle speeding in a construction zone, around 5:30 p.m. after hearing from the attorneys; the defendant, Callie Kornblau; and Stephen Shockey, the Travis County ocer who pulled Kornblau over. An Aug. 11 trial related to a speeding ticket in Pugerville was the rst-ever binding criminal jury trial to take place via videoconferencing, according to Travis County ocials. (Courtesy Travis County Justices of the Peace)

SIDEWALKS ARE A PUBLIC SPACE. KEEP THEM CLEAR FOR EVERY PACE. Residents are responsible for maintaining their property from their front door to the curb. Trim vegetation to: • 8 feet above sidewalks • 14 feet above streets and alleys Learn more at austintexas.gov/ cleartherow

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NORTHWEST AUSTIN EDITION • AUGUST 2020

EDUCATION

Instructional plans from Austin, Pugerville & Round Rock ISDs

BY IAIN OLDMAN

Local school districts stagger student returns amid pandemic concerns After spring semesters nished with empty

that school districts may oer online-only classes for the rst four weeks of the school year with the option to apply for a waiver to adopt an additional four-week transitional window. According to the state agency, students who lack internet access at home or access to internet-en- abled devices and therefore cannot participate in remote learning will still be entitled to on-campus instruction every day during the transition period. Trustees in AISD, PfISD and RRISD all have voted to grant their respective superintendents the authority to apply for that waiver. When AISD trustees voted Aug. 7 to delay the start of the school year, Director of Elementary Schools Monica Gonzalez said the action will allow Pflugerville ISD The 2020-21 PfISD school year began virtually-only on Aug. 13. Superintendent Douglas Killian said at an Aug. 20 board of trustees meeting that he would submit PfISD’s application for the transitional period waiver to the TEA. If the waiver is approved, PfISD’s in-person start date would be pushed back from Sept. 8 until Sept. 11. According to PfISD’s “Return to Learn” plans, the district’s high school students will receive at least 90 minutes of synchronous instruction per class per week to begin the school year. Synchronous instruction is teaching done live and face-to-face online, according to the Texas Education Agency. The minimum amount of synchronous learning each student receives per week varies by grade level, according to district documents. For example, kindergarten students will get approximately four hours of face-to-face instruction every week, while middle school students will get a minimum of 10 hours of synchronous instruction. PfISD’s website states on-campus learning is available to all students who are unable to utilize remote learning tools. Killian said the waiver authorizes four full weeks of virtual learning from the ocial start of the school year, which would expire Sept. 10.

time for local health conditions to improve. Across the nation, data suggests coronavirus cases in children have sharply increased ahead of the return of the 2020-21 academic school year. States such as Florida and Georgia have already reopened public classrooms to children for in-per- son instruction. From July 9-Aug. 6, 179,990 new COVID-19 cases were reported in children nationwide—an increase of 90% over four weeks—according to a report compiled by The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association. Additional reporting by Taylor Jackson Buchanan and Nicholas Cicale

classrooms and graduation ceremonies were held in car parades, some local school districts returned to

learning in mid-August and began the 2020-21 school year completely virtually.

Pugerville ISD returned to online classes Aug. 13, with neighboring Round Rock ISD following suit a week later. Austin ISD, meanwhile, voted to delay the onset of its school year until early September. Regardless of when school districts ocially begin the academic school year, the Texas Educa- tion Agency has allowed for up to two months of online-only education to begin the year. In a July 17 statement, TEA Commissioner Mike Morath outlined

Austin ISD

After AISD trustees in early August voted to delay the beginning of the school year

Students at RRISD returned to class in a fully virtual environment Aug. 20. Trustees on Aug. 13 approved a plan in which students could return to select campuses as early as Sept. 10.

to Sept. 8, students may not fully return to classrooms until early November. According to the new calendar, the nal day of the school year will be June 3, 2021; the school day would be lengthened by 10-11 minutes; and holidays as outlined in the previous calendar will be unchanged.

A recent survey collected by the district, however, found that most families will elect to continue virtual learning if given the opportunity. As of Aug. 6, the district had received 52,106 responses to its Parent Choice Survey. From this, approximately 69% of students are expected

The school district approved the TEA waiver that allows the district up to eight weeks of virtual- only education. AISD will use the extra weeks to distribute technology to students who have not yet received devices for learning, Gonzalez said Aug. 7. Outgoing AISD Superintendent Paul Cruz said the district intends to use the transition period to slowly readmit students to in-person instruction. Per state law, students without access to technology may request on-campus amenities, Gonzalez said.

to continue to learn from home, and 31% are expected to return to campus in September. RRISD has published materials outlining safety measures for sta and students returning to campus, including mask mandates and visitor restrictions. According to the district’s plans, students will have movement within the buildings restricted “to the maximum extent possible” to prevent the spread of the coronavirus during periods of local high disease activity.

First day of school:

First day of school:

AUG.

Sept. 8

Possible early November return to campus

Tentative return to some on-campus learning begins Sept. 10

Devices distributed:

Requests for devices*:

First day of school:

13

chromebooks

Tentative return to on-campus learning may begin Sept. 11

iPads

Requests for hot spots*:

Technology devices distributed*:

Hot spots distributed:

15,000

10,000

*As of Aug. 12

*As of Aug. 20

For additional information, visit www.roundrockisd.org/ reimaginingeducation .

For additional information, visit www.austinisd.org .

For additional information, visit www.psd.net/fall2020 .

SOURCE: AUSTIN ISDCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

SOURCE: PFLUGERVILLE ISDCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

SOURCE: ROUND ROCK ISDCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

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NORTHWEST AUSTIN EDITION • AUGUST 2020

CONTINUED FROM 1

have the fth highest risk in the nation with regard to a large-scale wildre incident. In the report, Austin was listed as having 53,984 res- idences labeled as high to extreme risk for wildre. Because of these dangers and several other factors, Austin City Council voted April 9 to approve the 2015 International Wild- land Urban Interface Code, or WUIC. According to the city of Austin website, that makes Austin the rst major city in the state to adopt such a code, and implementa- tion is slated to begin Jan. 1.

order in place. She and her family packed as much as they could, trudged through crawling trac out of the area and stayed with friends in South Austin for several days. Unprecedented drought conditions and rapidly drying vegetation created perfect conditions for re to spread. Gov.RickPerrydeclaredthe wildres that spread through Pedernales and Steiner Ranch on Sept. 4 disasters. In the Steiner Ranch area alone, 23 homes were destroyed. Doolittle said thankfully, hers was not one of them. Doolittle became chair of the Steiner Ranch Firewise Committee in 2015 and wrote articles, mostly for the neighborhood newsletter called the Ranch Record , try- ing to engage the community on the importance of re safety. She also performed home ignition zone inspec- tions as much as possible. The No. 1 thing that struck her during her 3 1/2 years as chair of the Firewise Com- mittee, she said, was the challenge of generating enthu- siasm for risk prevention. In 2019, Doolittle met Steiner Ranch resident and retired engineer Bill Hamm, who took over as chair of the committee in January. Hamm and other Steiner Ranch residents are now serving on the Firewise Committee, educating resi- dents and conducting home ignition zone inspections. Nine other Northwest Austin neighborhoods have also been recognized by the national Firewise program: Canyon Mesa, Courtyard, the Estate at the Overlook, Greater Valburn Circle, Jester Estates, Long Canyon, River Place, Meadow Moun- tain and Versante Canyon. During the Firewise inspections at Steiner Ranch, home ignition zone assessment is performed to check a home’s risk to re and includes several steps, according to Firewise USA, an organization designed to help communities reduce re vulnerabilities within their

Once implementation of the code begins, the main focus remains construc- tion of ignition-resistant structures, of which more than 60% are found within 1.5 miles of the Wildland Urban Interface, according to Austin Fire Department Division Chief Tom Vocke. “We have focused on enhanced construction as our primary push in this rst adoption of the new WUI code,” Vocke said in an email, adding there will be no impact for most on the Jan. 1 start date, save for those building or remodeling a

portion of their home’s exte- rior. “[WUI code enforcement for] all aspects will begin Jan. 1 for all new projects moving forward from that date, [and] projects already in progress will not be aected.” In the meantime, com- munities in western Travis County have been ramping up their eorts to reduce risk. “I think what Austin did by approving that WUI, that’s a great start,” said Chris Rea, wildre mitigation specialist for Lake Travis Fire Rescue. Rea said the code is more specic to requirements for residential landscap- ing, such as the distance between trees in yards, for example, but he added it is a step in the right direction. In communities such as Steiner Ranch, Rea con- ducts home assessments, during which he meets with homeowners to give them a checklist of tasks they can complete to harden their homes against wildre. There are thousands of re entry points within a home, such as roof vents and gut- ters, and knowing the risk is key to protection, he said. “Most people, I think when they think of wild- re, they picture what we often see on TV, which is ames just blazing through the forest,” Rea said. “That’s actually not what burns most homes down. Ninety percent of homes burn down from embers that can travel up to a mile.”

From creating what are called shaded fuel breaks in areas of high vegetation such as greenbelts to boost- ing educational outreach, the goal for area reghters and ocials is to ensure the 2011 re never happens again. Assessing wildre risk In 2019, nancial, prop- erty and consumer infor- mation company CoreLogic put out its national Wild- re Risk Report. Among the ndings, the Greater Austin Metropolitan Sta- tistical Area was found to WILDLAND URBAN INTERFACE CODE Austin City Council adopted the 2015 International Wildland Urban Interface code on April 9, and enforcement for residential and commercial properties starts Jan. 1. Some mandates include:

HIGHRISK AREA

The city of Austin and the Austin Fire Department have identied wildre risk areas as part of their adoption of the International Wildland Urban Interface Code in April. In western Travis County, City Council districts 6 and 10 contain many acres at elevated or high risk. *Wildland urban interface , or WUI, is a property within 150 feet of a 40-acre or larger wildland area and/or within 1.5 miles of a 750-acre or larger wildland area.

49% *WUI

39% *WUI

District 6

District 10

District 10

District 6

• Alterations and additions to

RISK LEVEL

existing structures must comply with the code.

Moderate

Elevated

High

• A plan, diagram or other data for

ANDERSON MILL RD.

projects described in this code must be submitted when required by the WUI code.

45 TOLL

NORTHWEST AUSTIN

A needed increase in educational outreach

620

• An application for a building permit must include landscape and vegetation details

Doolittle considers her- self lucky that her home did not burn down in the 2011 Steiner Ranch re. That day in September 2011 just before she noticed the res, she ran errands—to Costco and to pick up Chi- nese food, among others. As she pulled back into Steiner Ranch, she said she surveyed the Hill Country view and could see smoke. Shortly after that, she learned through a neigh- bor there was an evacuation

183

FOUR POINTS

LAKE TRAVIS

NORTH AUSTIN

when the code requires.

2222

360

• A site plan or an application for a building permit

must include the lot lines, other structures, slope, vegetation, fuel breaks, water supply systems and access roads that are located within 300 feet.

WEST LAKE HILLS

35

MOPAC

MAP NOT TO SCALE N

SOURCE: AUSTIN FIRE DEPARTMENT COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

SOURCE: CITY OF AUSTINCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

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