News Briefs 

Grandfathering vote slated for February 16

City Council last week postponed a public hearing and vote on the City’s grandfathering ordinance until Thursday, February 16. The public hearing begins at 5:30 p.m.; the vote will follow.

At issue is the amount of time undeveloped land can qualify for grandfathering, also known as vested rights. When land is grandfathered, the development must adhere to the ordinances and laws in effect at the time the developer files paperwork — which can be as little as a City Public Service contract or as detailed as a full application. If the land is developed, for example, 10 years later, the development is grandfathered, and unaffected by new ordinances that have been passed.

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The current ordinance allows developers to have vested rights on developments with mere CPS contracts and San Antonio Water System “category letters,” neither of which qualifies as grandfathering documents under state law.

Instead, environmental groups want Council to implement Senate Bill 848, which outlines regulations for developers. It requires the project to be defined at the time a complete application is filed for project permits if vesting is desired,” according to Council’s agenda. Single-phase developments require more detail than multi-phase developments, according to Francine O’Mara, member of the Planning Committee, who explained the committee’s recommendations to Council.

One concerned citizen asked Council to “be the equalizer in this project,” because this vote is “one of the most significant in 30 years.”

The amendments do not prohibit a developer from requesting a Vested Rights determination for a project; only that they provide fair notice and define the project at the time the application is submitted.

District 8 Councilman Art Hall suggested the executive summary of the issue be posted on the city’s homepage by noon Wednesday, February 15. This allows citizens only one day to understand the logistics of urban development. District 5 Councilwoman Patti Radle asked Hall to consider giving the community and Councilmembers one week to review the material, and hold the public hearing on February 23. Hall declined.

Francesca Camillo


Co-housing: dream or reality?

“Why does everyone have their own washer and dryer? You only use it once a week,” asked Peter Van Dusen as he introduced the shared-space mantra of the San Antonio cohousing group. Spawned in an on-line discussion forum, the group brainstormed at its first meeting to create a vision of an intentional community.

The members’ focus is to “revive the idea of neighborhoods, bring back safe spaces and to create economies of scale,” explained Van Dusen, a founding member. “Productive reuse” and “shared physical space” are themes throughout their plans.

In addition, a cohousing community would be “affordable, green — meaning energy-efficient and cost effective — diverse, intergenerational, and made up of couples, singles, and families,” said member Martha Henry. It would preferably be located downtown and would have common spaces, including a shared kitchen, office, laundry and workshop to preserve open space. Residents share the costs of maintenance.

Cohousing is one option for people who can’t afford or don’t want a home. Inspired by books such as The Cohousing Handbook: Building a Place for Community and Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves, cohousing groups are sprouting up throughout the U.S.

For more information, contact Martha Henry at Martha@intx.net, or visit www.cohousing.org for more info on shared living. If you have property suggestions, call Steven Avery at 698-8900. Meetings are the first and third Wednesdays, 6:30 p.m. at the Community Unitarian Universalist Church 4818 Beverly Mae.

Francesca Camillo


Animal shelter still problematic

Animal activists are upset. A year ago, Sam Sanchez was hired to improve the City’s beleaguered Animal Shelter — which had the highest euthanasia rate among U.S. major cities, and used gas, not lethal injection — but critics say he has fallen short of expectations.

On February 8, angry activists met with Sanchez, City Council members Kevin Wolff and Elena Guajardo, and the Animal Care Advisory Board, a committee formed to create a plan for the shelter.

Activists charged that shelter workers improperly use catchpoles — a long pole with a noose at the end — on animals.

“I want to hear that the abuse will stop today. State laws are being violated. If these people don’t care, they should be fired,” said John Bachman of Voice for Animals.

Activists alleged major health issues persist at the shelter due to overcrowding. Adult male cats are reportedly in cages with kittens, sick cats are confined with healthy ones, and a large number of dogs have died from distemper.

Animals cannot be adopted if they are sick or if the public is not assured that they are getting healthy animals. “Many people have been lining up to buy dogs and had to be turned away,” said shelter volunteer Annette Keller.

Sanchez countered that the shelter has progressed and assured the public that he would implement changes and improve the treatment of animals, specifically restricting the use of catchpoles.

Wolff said the shelter needs to work on its short-term issues, such as treating animals, while creating a five-year plan. The Animal Care Advisory Board has written the first draft of the plan, but it still needs refined.

“I’ve been waiting for this board to give me something with teeth. We want to give the mayor a working, credible plan,” said Guajardo.

The plan must be completed by July 1, when the City begins working on the 2006-07 fiscal year budget.

The Advisory Board has decided to hire outside consultants. Volunteers from across the country have offered to come and help. Mike Arms, the president and executive director of the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Santa Fe, has offered to critique the facility for free.

– Corinne Welder


Crying wolf?

Timing is everything. After the Current published the February 8 story, Troubled company, about Ken Wolf, who resigned from a Zachry subsidiary last year only to be rehired as a consultant for the company, on-line news outlet The San Antonio Lightning reported that Wolfs contract with Metropolitan Resources expired Wednesday, February 15.

Zachry Public Affairs Director Vicky Waddy did not return a phone call or an e-mail from the Current asking her to comment on the length or terms of Wolfs contract.

Wolf resigned last June from Metropolitan Resources after violating Zachrys e-mail policy by sending a missive from the Zachry server to his friends calling the East Side a ghetto. Zachry and Wolf publicly apologized, but questions arose about their self-flagellation after the Current learned Wolf still worked indirectly for the company.

Earlier this month, 27-year Zachry employee George Dickerson also violated the corporate e-mail policy by sending a letter with racial and classist undertones from the company server to District 7 Councilwoman Elena Guajardo. Dickerson was fired and committed suicide two days later.

By Lisa Sorg


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