City of Austin considers structural changes to Barton Springs

Hannah Jane DeCiutiis

As Austin City Council prepares to make decisions regarding structural changes to Barton Springs, it has a pool of conflicting voices concerned about the proposed changes.

The Barton Springs Pool Master Plan, adopted by the council in 2009, lists various improvements as a way to “return the site to its former glory,” according to the City of Austin. These improvements include working on the infrastructure of the pool, planting and replacing trees in the area, replacing the fence and improving the water quality.

Lewis Leff, chief of staff for Council Member Chris Riley, said several of the changes would require bypassing certain city ordinances to make structural changes. Several of these structural changes, including increasing parking and handicap accessibility, would require using more impervious surfaces. These are impenetrable surfaces including concrete and asphalt that can have negative environmental effects on a natural area.

“Some of the ideas being recommended by staff would require some variances to some ordinances that are in place,” Leff said. “The issues that are coming up are based on some of the suggestions to do an [Americans with Disabilities Act] pass and suggestions to reach the parking, so you’re talking about pervious versus impervious coverings which is always a big deal.”

Leff said the council item, which passed unanimously at the March 7 meeting, originally called for a public hearing to be held March 28. The item was amended to postpone the hearing until April 11 and instead hold a staff briefing on March 28 to allow city staff to outline possible variances and options for the council.

“[The hearing was held] so that folks would come talk about those improvements and if they agree we should be doing variances on certain city codes to let the improvements be made,” Leff said. “The briefing will be useful to help council better understand the issues involved and to make a better decision about what to do.”

Robin Cravey, former president of the Friends of Barton Springs Pool, said there has been too much caution around going forward with the plan.

“I’m baffled by the idea that some people who have cried out over and over for public process now don’t want to go forward with public process,” Cravey said at the meeting. “This project is the culmination of three or four years of public process, and we went through a year of planned process in 2010. This was subsequent to 2007 when the council allotted funding for this project as a short-term project.”

Published on March 25, 2013 as "Barton pool renovations delayed again".