Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Friday, December 24, 2010
Back when I was a boy growing up in El Paso, KTSM produced a show that I believe was called "Look to the Mountain". El Paso icon, Conrey Bryson, hosted the Christmas Star program each year when the star on the mountain was lit for Christmastide. That was when the star meant something besides an energy burning fetish and the sacred cow of El Paso politicians. Famed American artist/author and El Paso resident, Tom Lea, read from his essay, "Old Mount Franklin". Lea wrote this inscription to Bryson when the essay was published in 1968: "There is a deep happiness in sharing this old town and this old mountain with friends like you." All of us who have or who now treasure the mountain and enjoy its trails, ridge and arroyos, know that deep happiness.
"Above the Rio Grande's ribbon of green, forming one side of the portal of the Pass of the North, Mount Franklin is a presence and a personality. Standing above us, above the build of our town, Mount Franklin is the landmark and the trademark of where we live."
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Mr. Tolbert, I want to thank you for your call this morning to ask about the comment period for the environmental assessment for the Loop 375 Transmountain project. As I explained, the document has not been released by the Federal Highway Administration for further processing. In fact, we are still addressing comments and the document that you have was for coordination among state agencies and the Federal Highway Administration. Until FHWA releases the document, it is considered to be a confidential work product.
I don't want to put you on the spot and ask outright who has copies, but obviously, it is important to us that the public understand that the copy that was put into circulation by some unknown person/agency is not an official copy and is still being revised. If you could let the people you are aware of know that a revised copy will circulate later, when it is officially released for further processing, I would really appreciate it. The process I explained in an earlier email will still be followed, once we are authorized to release the environmental assessment. A legal notice will be published twice, 30 days and 10 days before the hearing, to notify the public that the document is available for review and purchase at the district office. The hearing would be held, with an opportunity for public comment at the hearing after the formal presentation of the information on the project. A ten day comment period would follow the hearing. Letters are mailed out to the elected officials, property owners and interested public letting them know the same information that appears in the legal notice for the hearing.
Thank you and you know how to reach me if you have any questions. I appreciate your help!
Advance Transportation Planning
TxDOT - El Paso District
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
"The engineering, social, economic, and environmental investigations conducted thus far on the proposed project indicate that it will result in no significant impacts on the quality of the human environment and that a FONSI (Finding of No Significant Impact) is anticipated."
Much more later.
Below is an informative piece which is currently posted on ILoveParks.com, a site developed by Rick LoBello the author of the article. It was also posted at the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition site which set off alarm bells at EPWU/PSB, an organization represented in the membership of this independent non-profit organization. Mr. LoBello's essay shows why protecting the Transmountain corridor is not just a matter of scenery:
Largest urban park in the US threatened by urban sprawl
by Rick LoBello
El Paso, Texas. December 5, 2010. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department protects the heart of the Franklin Mountains range as part of the country’s largest urban park, Franklin Mountains State Park. One of the greatest challenges in protecting the park and its biodiversity is the ongoing destruction of the desert by urban sprawl developments in the surrounding lowland desert habitat. Over the past 100 years nearly the entire foothills natural landscape has been destroyed by developments from the historic Rio Grande and the downtown area for nearly 10 miles north towards New Mexico on both the east and west sides of the range.
The Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition has a grassroots effort underway to protect Public Service Board administered public lands as natural open space along the west side of the range along Trans Mountain Road and the Fort Bliss Castner Range in northeast El Paso. On October 6, 2010 the El Paso City Council voted to direct city staff to rezone 900 acres included in the Northwest Master Plan near the boundary of Franklin Mountains State Park so that they cannot be developed.
The El Paso Water Utilities Public Service Board, of which the Mayor of El Paso is a member, passed a resolution stating they would pursue all available remedies of law in response to the City Councils action because of their concern that rezoning the land could kill a $80 million highway project in the same area which along with housing developments will end up destroying the last remaining wild and scenic corridor in this part of the Franklin Mountains. The PSB believes that there is no cause for concern highlighting how they have been proactive in protecting the mountains including the transfer of “nearly 8,000 acres to expand the Franklin Mountains State Park.” They also state that there is no mountainside development in the Northwest Master Plan; it’s all on the hillside lower elevation areas and that they are” leaving open space as a buffer between development and the state park.”
The issue was addressed again by City Planning Commission on November 18 when they voted unanimously not to recommend rezoning the Scenic Transmountain Corridor as Natural Open Space.
Many people in El Paso believe that if current efforts to protect the lower elevations of the Franklin Mountains fail the City of El Paso will be hard pressed to live up to an important goal in its Sustainability Plan adopted on September 15, 2009 to “achieve international recognition for successful preservation of our Chihuahuan desert heritage for all time” and many species that depend on these lowland areas will be displaced or die when their habitat is destroyed.
Most biologists familiar with the Chihuahuan Desert understand the importance of protecting all elevations of the eco-region, not just the rugged mountain slopes and peaks. In El Paso many believe that as long as you protect the mountain vistas and have a park like Franklin Mountains State Park protecting 37 square miles of the higher elevations, protection of lower elevations is not a concern. This misconception if far from the truth since many desert species of animals and plants survive only in lower elevations while others with large home ranges need habitat at more than one elevation. For example, in the City of El Paso burrowing owls appear to be declining in numbers because of all the new housing developments being constructed across the city. These owls require low elevation areas where they can nest underground in abandoned burrows dug by mammals or if soil conditions allow in burrows they dig themselves.
In northeast El Paso the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition is partnering with the Frontera Land Alliance to protect the Castner Range at Fort Bliss. To help call attention to the importance of protecting this area from proposed developments the Coalition since 2007 has been sponsoring an annual Poppies Celebration in March on the grounds of the El Paso Museum of Archaeology in the heart of the Castner Range. The area is well known as one of the best spots to enjoy the Mexican poppies that bloom in this area.
Last year Congressman Silvestre Reyes secured funding from the Appropriations Bills in the amount of $300,000 to fund a Castner Range Conservation Conveyance Study aimed at preserving Castner Range for conservation purposes. This study will facilitate a conservation conveyance which is a first step for transferring responsibility of 11 square mile Castner Range to the State of Texas. This project will help preserve open space in the El Paso area and supports efforts to expand the Franklin Mountains State Park.
Achieving successful preservation of the Chihuahuan Desert within city limits and the surrounding region with the help of researchers and conservation educators will require the commitment of a wide range of stakeholders including City and County land management authorities, Texas and New Mexico state governments, private landowners and the surrounding community.
There are many reasons why protecting El Paso's Trans Mountain Scenic Corridor is so important to protecting Franklin Mountains State Park. Here are ten of them.1. The lowland desert areas surrounding Franklin Mountains State Park provide habitat for many species of animals and plants. To survive in this part of the Chihuahuan Desert ecoregion many species require these lower elevations for food and protection. Other species require habitat at both low and high elevations.
2. As urban sprawl creeps closer to the boundaries of the park the area's nesting birds will be threatened by domestic cats that many people in El Paso allow to roam freely in their neighborhoods.
3. The new TX-Dot road project and related developments along the three mile corridor on the west side of Trans Mountain Road will destroy the last wild scenic view in this part of the city important to the quality of life for thousands of El Pasoans currently enjoying the area.
4. The loss of the last wild scenic view in West El Paso will hurt the city's ability to expand ecotourism important to the entire region.
5. Campers visiting the Tom Mays section of Franklin Mountains State Park plus those who will someday be able to camp out on backcountry trails will be affected by both light and noise pollution associated with developments included in the Northwest Master Plan.
6. Threatened Texas horned lizards living in the lowland areas of the Franklin Mountains will lose critical habitat which could eventually lead to extinction of the species in this part of Texas.
7. Golden eagles and other raptors in the Franklin Mountains will lose important lowland hunting and nesting areas.
8. Mule deer will not have as many lowland areas to use as part of their overall range important to seasonal food production and protection from extreme temperatures during winter snow storms.
9. Javelina or collared peccaries appear to be expanding their range in this area and developments associated with the Northwest Master Plan will hurt their chances of finding the habitat they need to successfully establish themselves in this part of El Paso.
10. The potential for any future efforts to restore extirpated species like desert bighorn and Mexican wolves to this part of the Franklin Mountains will be impaired by urban sprawl developments.
Toursof the of Archaeology El Paso Museum
for Families with Elementary-School-Age Children Tours
At 1:00 pm on Sundays, January 9, 23 and 30, 2011
At 1:00 pm on Wednesdays: January 12 and 19, 2011
These free one-hour, docent-led tours of the El Paso Museum of Archaeology will introduce participants to the people of El Paso’s ancient past from the Paleoindians who lived here 14,000 years ago to the Mescalero Apache people of today. Visitors will also see prehistoric artifacts from several regions of México. Reservations are not necessary but contact the museum if you plan to attend, 915-755-4332; firstname.lastname@example.org. To enjoy the gardens, wear suitable clothing, shoes, and sun protection.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010
The first image above is the Scenic Transmountain Corridor as seen from Gas Line Road. The view at the bottom is that same corridor showing development per the PSB's Northwest Master Plan. It was created using Google Earth and then superimposing development based on the Master Plan on top of the Google Earth image.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Initiative Petition Form
Initiative Petition Form2
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Now develop and add traffic and here's your new view of the "scenic" corridor:
Now, here is the Scenic Corridor and the un-Scenic Corridor side by side:
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Dear Friends of Archaeology,
This week at the El Paso Museum of Archaeology we have a Zip Tour of the Traditions and Symbols exhibit at 2 pm on Sun. Nov. 28 (tomorrow), an Adult Tour of the museum on Wed. Dec. 1 at 10 am, and a Family Workshop on Sat. Dec. 4 from 1:30 to 3:30 pm. Please see details below and share this message with your friends and family.
Zip Tour, Sunday, November 28, 2010, 2:00 pm, Free Admission
Curator of Education Marilyn Guida presents this brief tour of the Traditions and Symbols exhibit in which ten members of the Juntos Art Association of El Paso explore contemporary, historic, and prehistoric Mexican, Mexican-American, and indigenous Native American cultural traditions and symbols.
Adult Tour, Wednesday, December 1, 2010, 10:00 am, Free Admission
Docent Mike Iglar presents this free one-hour tour of the El Paso Museum of Archaeology and surrounding Chihuahuan Desert Gardens which will introduce adults to the people of El Paso’s ancient past from the Paleoindians who lived here 14,000 years ago to the Mescalero Apache people of today. Visitors will also see prehistoric artifacts from several regions of México. To enjoy the gardens, wear suitable clothing, shoes, and sun protection. Reservations are not necessary but contact the museum if you plan to attend, 915-755-4332; email@example.com.
Family Workshop: Holiday Designs in Metal Embossing/Repujado with Maria Almeida Natividad
For Adults and Children Ages 6 and Up
Seating for Maximum of 30 Participants
Saturday, December 4, 2010, 1:30 – 3:30 pm
Admission: $2.00 for museum members; $5.00 for non- members
ADVANCE PAID REGISTRATION REQUIRED
Information and registration: 915-755-4332 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
El Paso artist Maria Almeida Natividad leads adults and children in creating holiday-themed art using the ancient art of embossing or pressing shapes into metal to create a design in this workshop. Aluminum foil metal and other materials will be supplied. Traditional holiday designs such as Christmas trees, candy canes, stars, and ojos de Dios/eyes of God will be provided. Adults and children may select a design or create their own, then add an antique look with paints and/or markers. The metal embossing technique, called repujado in Spanish, arrived in Mexico during Spanish colonization.
Museum Location: 4301 Transmountain Road, El Paso 79924
The Sunrise Group of the Elpasonaturally Hikers are planning a hike to see the site of the November 9th single engine plane crash. Miraculously all 3 game wardens escaped critical injury including one female who was trapped in the plane for 2 hours. All 3 are reportedly well now.
Friday, November 19, 2010
"When I climb the mountains I feel renewed. I look at the development on our mountain and feel a sense of loss as an animal having to find a new home, a sense of displacement overwhelms me. Understanding the same feelings of loving the mountain and wanting to live in a natural environment, construction and land development continues in this space. A sense of oneness with the land penetrates my body and I feel I am home."
Our Place In Nature- Chapter One
Many years ago, when I was only about fourteen years old, I first saw landscape paintings from the Far East. It was as a result of looking at these painting that I first became interested in Eastern philosophy. What grasped me and excited me about the Asian vision of the world was their astonishing sympathy and feeling for the world of nature.
One painting in particular that I remember was called Mountain after Rain. It showed the mist and clouds drifting away after a night of pouring rain, and it somehow pulled me into it and made me feel part of that mountain scene. It is fascinating for us to consider that pictures of this kind are not just what we would describe as landscape paintings, because they are also icons, a kind of religious or philosophical painting.
In the West, when we think of iconographic or religious paintings, we are accustomed to pictures of divine human figures and of angels and saints. When the mind of the Far East expresses its religious feeling, however, it finds appropriate imagery in the objects of nature, an in it's very important respect their feeling for nature is different from ours. The contrast in these two forms of expression arises as a result of the sensation that the human being is not someone who stands apart from nature and looks at it from the outside, but instead is an integral part of it. Instead of dominating nature, human beings fit right into it and feel perfectly at home.
In the West our attitude is strangely different, and we constantly use a phrase that sounds peculiar indeed in the ears of a Chinese person: We speak of "the conquest of nature" or "the conquest of space," and the "conquest" of great mountains like Everest. And one might very well ask us, "What on Earth is the matter with you? Why must you feel as if you are in a fight with your environment all the time? Aren't you grateful to the mountain that it lifted you up as you climbed to the top of it? Aren't you grateful to space that it opens itself up for you so you can travel right through It?"
Indeed, it is this domineering feeling that underlies the way we use technology. We use the powers of electricity and the strength of steel to carry on a battle with our external world, and instead of trying to live with the curvature of the land we flatten it with bulldozers, and constantly try to beat our surroundings into submission.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Coalition of Neighborhood Associations Overwhelmingly Passes Resolution Supporting Natural Open Space
Resolution Supporting Re-Zoning Land in the Transmountain Scenic Corridor as Natural Open Space
WHEREAS: the Transmountain Scenic Corridor in northwest El Paso is the only scenic corridor and can be preserved by rezoning it as Natural Open Space and by creating a conservation easement which will keep the land as Natural Open Space in perpetuity;
WHEREAS: the City Council of El Paso, Texas directed City staff to initiate the process for rezoning at its regular meeting on October 12, 2010;
WHEREAS: amenities such as open space, parks, additional outdoor recreational opportunities and scenic beauty will attract quality businesses and industries to re-locate to El Paso and offer higher-paying, quality jobs;
WHEREAS: the PSB’s selling land for the Westside Master Plan will not significantly affect or reduce our water rates and, in fact, additional infrastructure costs associated with land sales, result in a net loss to rate payers;
WHEREAS: more development especially on the mountain side requires more additional City services in the way of fire, police, schools, roads and more and those services become a heavier burden on us as tax payers;
WHEREAS: all of our neighborhoods and all of us benefit from natural open space and scenic beauty;
WHEREAS: preserving the Transmountain scenic corridor by rezoning approximately 800 acres as Natural Open Space will not hold up the TxDOT proposal for improvements to Transmountain from I-10 to the entrance to the Tom Mays Unit of the Franklin Mountains State Park nor jeopardize the $80 million for the project as some have misrepresented;
WHEREAS: the Open Space Advisory Board of the City of El Paso has recommended moving the proposed Paseo del Norte interchange west toward Gas Line Road and expanding the current two lanes to four at grade only from Gas Line to the State Park entrance as a further means of preserving the scenic corridor;
WHEREAS: that expansion can be done because of right of ways given to TxDOT by the Public Service Board in exchange for conduits under Transmountain;
WHEREAS: necessary major and minor water utility infrastructures can be built on land zoned as Natural Open Space so that our fellow El Pasoans in adjacent areas can be provided with water and sewer services;
WHEREAS: the Westside Master Plan was created one year before the 2006 floods and needs major revision;
WHEREAS: the City, since 2006, has adopted Smart Growth policies and made other major changes to land planning that were not available when the Westside Master Plan was created and which are beneficial to all El Pasoans;
WHEREAS: Transmountain Road and the Westside Master Plan will impact our family’s and neighborhood’s quality of life for decades to come and those plans should be modified to protect the scenic corridor of Transmountain Road and reflect principles of Smart Growth, Green Infrastructure and Low Impact Development which are better for the environment and for protecting the cherished beauty of our mountains;
THEREFORE, BE IT HEREBY:
RESOLVED: The Neighborhood Coalition of El Paso strongly supports the City Council’s direction to staff on October 12, 2010 to rezone land in the Transmountain Scenic Corridor as Natural Open Space and to seek a conservation easement which will keep the land as Natural Open Space in perpetuity;
RESOLVED: The Neighborhood Coalition of El Paso supports moving the Paseo del Norte interchange to a location closer to
Gas Line Roadand expanding lanes east of Gas Line Roadat grade only.
RESOLVED: The Neighborhood Coalition of El Paso asks City Council to direct City staff and the PSB to modify the Westside Master Plan in light of newer ways to protect natural open space while maximizing the use of developable land;
RESOLVED: The Neighborhood Coalition of El Paso requests that TxDOT modify their plans for improvements along Transmountain from I-10 to the entrance to Tom Mays Park to comply with the conditions of this resolution and do so immediately so that money for the project will not be lost.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Charlie Wakeem has been one of the principal leaders of the natural open space conservation movement in El Paso. Beginning with his efforts to preserve Resler Canyon, Mr. Wakeem has influenced the master plans for open space and stormwater. He has been an architect on the re-write of several ordinances and codes. Charlie Wakeem is now the Chairman of the Open Space Advisory Board for the City of El Paso.
The op-ed piece below also appeared in yesterday's El Paso Times:
You’ve recently read about the proposed upgrades to Transmountain Road on the west side of the Franklins, including the rezoning—to Natural Open Space—of 800 acres of Westside Master Plan land. I’d like to dispel some myths about that.
One of the myths is that the Open Space Advisory Board wants to sabotage the $80 million expansion of Loop 375 (Transmountain) from I-10 to the Tom Mays entrance of the Franklin Mountains State Park. We’ve also been accused of squelching any development of public land in Northwest El Paso, thereby undermining the Westside Master Plan. Other misinformation: the Public Service Board owns that land; taxpayers will suffer if the land is not sold to developers; the present Westside Master Plan is too good to be changed.
Texas Department of Transportation has used the proverbial carrot stick to persuade us that, as submitted, its Transmountain expansion is necessary. The carrot is the $80 million to widen/upgrade the 3.3 miles from I-10 to the Tom Mays entrance. Are parts of the carrot too rotten to eat? OSAB thinks so.
One important fact: the Transmountain Road Scenic Corridor is the ONLY scenic corridor in the City of El Paso. The Scenic Corridor begins at the Gas Line Road about half way east of I-10. [See slides below.] West of Gas Line is private property and flatter land good for development. OSAB has no objection to the freeway-style construction with overpasses and frontage roads there. The gas company wisely placed its pipeline just below the scenic foothills. That’s where the hillsides, deep arroyos and canyons begin, and that’s where the PSB’s Westside Master Plan is located.
OSAB also has no objection to widening Transmountain from two lanes to four at grade level from Gas Line to Tom Mays, where the present road widens to four lanes and crosses the mountains toward Highway 54.
So that the City can remove (from I-10 to Gas Line) the Mountain Development restrictions along Transmountain that the developers want removed, OSAB made five recommendations to City Council (now undergoing the rezoning review process): (1) Expand the landscape buffer by 10’ on either side of the roadway in the privately-owned section between I-10 and Gas Line. City Planning recommended this for public safety purposes. Research showed that a minimum 20’ buffer between the hike/bike path and roadway was necessary. (2) Don’t remove the Mountain Development restrictions east of Gas Line. (3) Construct an exit ramp north from Gas Line and parallel to Transmountain into Tom Mays for a safe entrance. (4) The fourth and most important recommendation is: delete the Paseo del Norte overpass half way between Gas Line and the Park. (5) The fifth is to rezone, to Natural Open Space, about 800 acres. Many of these 800 acres are currently zoned Residential with plans for Commercial. The final recommendation is that the City negotiate a conservation easement with a land trust to perpetually preserve the 800 acres.
Will El Paso Water Utility ratepayers pay much more in water bills if the PSB land is not sold for development? No. EPWU claims it would sell the land for $20 million. El Paso currently has 177,000 ratepayers. The very most the ratepayer would save is a once-only $112, and that’s being generous.
The land within the Westside Master Plan is City land, thus public land. It does not belong to the PSB, which owns no land anywhere. The PSB only MANAGES land. We citizens of El Paso own this public land. Only City Council, representing us, can choose to preserve OUR land and OUR Scenic Corridor, or else sell it off for development.
Trans Mountain Distances
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Dr. Rick Bonart is the lone voice of reason on the Public Service Board. He takes his fiduciary responsibility seriously. Yet, his insistence on reviewing contracts and seeing other documents has been thwarted by EPWU's top brass - most especially Ed Archuleta. It seems enough for the other board members to hear what Archuleta believes and then bob their heads and go along. In this manner, they conduct no real oversight over the business of the El Paso Water Utilities.
I’ll say it again; I’m old but I’m not “old school”. Unfortunately the Westside Master Plan is both. I oppose the current version of the Westside Master Plan because it’s out dated. The Plan is not Smart Growth. The storm water system was designed before the floods of 2006 and for safety must be redesigned. Economic projections were calculated during the housing bubble, which has burst. We don’t need to scrap the whole thing, but we do need to renovate.
I’m the Citizen Advocate on the PSB. I take my position very seriously. I do the research and make decisions based on the facts. I’m uniquely qualified to comment having participated in the first PSB master planning process and the proposed expansion of Transmountain Road beginning in 2002.
Over the years the PSB has done an excellent job of water management. Conservation programs have reduced consumption to 1968 levels. The Hueco Bolson is actually refilling. Our rates are comparable to other southwestern cities. However as land managers, the PSB hasn’t done so well. We’ve developed two master plans, neither has sold. The Northeast Master Plan is currently being revised to Smart Growth, and so should the Westside Master Plan.
Contrary to popular belief, the PSB does not own land. However, there are some very good reasons for the PSB to manage land, such as protecting the water supply and preventing leapfrog development.
Any responsible discussion about preserving open space in the Westside Master Plan must consider the financial consequences. Land sales do not significantly affect El Paso water rates. The yearly gross income for the PSB/EPWU is about 175 million. Land sales accounted for only 0.2% of revenues. Prior to May 2010 and before impact fees, infrastructure costs associated with land sales, probably resulted in a net loss to rate payers.
While private developers expect to realize profits on retail sales. The PSB is a wholesaler, who unlike private developers remains fiscally responsible for maintaining infrastructure in perpetuity. Development simply doesn’t pay for itself, and that’s one reason your taxes continue to increase even as our city grows.
The proposed 80 million dollar expansion of Transmountain Road, which passes through the Westside Master Plan, has focused the spotlight on these issues. Zoning changes in the Westside Master Plan will not affect the Transmountain Road project. The PSB has already provided TxDOT with all necessary rights of way and even voted to increase that amount to match additional private developers’ contributions.
The real danger to these projects is poor planning by TxDOT. They have failed to produce the required environmental studies. The proposed Plexxar overpass is our “bridge to nowhere” and possibly illegal. The entrance to Tom Mays needs to be reconsidered.
I’m not some tree hugger against all development. I want higher paying jobs to come to El Paso. However, to compete successfully with other cities and attract those types of employers, we need to offer amenities including more open space, parks, additional outdoor recreational opportunities, and scenic beauty. Quality jobs increase the bottom line much more than land sales.
As your advocate on the Board, here’s what I think we need to do. Don’t be confused by the rhetoric or bullied by scare tactics. Contact your city representative and support Council’s effort to save more Open Space and update the Westside Master Plan. Participate in the upcoming public comment period for the Transmountain expansion. Petition TxDOT, ask them to modify their project into the best possible design. Transmountain Road and the Westside Master Plan will impact your family’s quality of life for decades to come. We deserve better.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
A chagrined Ed Archuleta confessed to the Stormwater Advisory Committee this past Wednesday that he had neglected to purchase some necessary land for the stormwater infrastructure at the Palisades. It seems that the PSB/EPWU needs a bit more land for access to the stormwater project. Some recall that Nanette Smejkal, Director of the Parks and Recreation Department, had questioned whether the extra land shouldn't be purchased when the Committee first looked at the plan to buy the Palisades. Ed A. had pooh-poohed her suggestion. It would seem that our brilliant land sales czar who has sold land over the past 10 years for the astonishing average amount of $9003/acre, has a bit of a problem when it comes to purchasing land. Give us your expertise on the Northwest Master Plan again, Ed.
Friday, November 12, 2010
Again, here are the basic points by a mere handful of El Pasoans who oppose rezoning land in the Transmountain corridor as Natural Open Space. This handful includes an out-of-control Ed Archuleta and his tight aristocracy at the EPWU who have launched with your money a public relations campaign against the City Council direction to staff to rezone the scenic Transmountain corridor as NOS. He is joined by John Cook and bobbing heads on the Public Service Board.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
In case you have not gotten the news, the rezoning issue will not go before the CPC tomorrow. It has been moved to its Thursday, November 18th, meeting rather than the November 4th meeting. The CPC meets in the Council chambers of City Hall at 1:30 p.m. Please send your comments now to Maria Acosta -AcostaMD@elpasotexas.gov and let the CPC know that you support preserving land in the NW Master Plan as Natural Open Space. If you can, please plan to go to the meeting on the 18th. It is important that we have as many people as possible attend this meeting.
Just so you know – Council voted on October 6, 2010 to direct staff to rezone land along Trans Mountain as Natural Open Space (NOS). The City Council Plan has undergone staff review and next goes to the CPC on November 18th for its recommendation. It then goes back to Council for a final decision. The date it will be included on Council agenda has not yet been set as far as I know. On October 6th, 5 representatives voted for it: Lilly, Byrd, Holguin, Ortega and O’Rourke. 2 voted “no”: Emma Acosta and Carl Robinson. Rachel Quintana was absent. The Mayor has said he will veto the Council Plan to rezone although he may be operating under some mistaken notions. 6 votes are needed to make it veto-proof or override a veto.
In his reply to emails, the Mayor has said some things that are mistaken:
First, he has said that there can be no construction in the Natural Open Space zoning. He contends that Trans Mountain can’t be widened under that zoning – so the TxDOT project will be killed. The fact is this: The PSB already transferred right-of-way for the highway to TxDOT in exchange for conduit under the road in 4 locations. So widening the road to 4 lanes is perfectly okay. We prefer at grade. The Open Space Advisory Board recommends that Paseo del Norte be re-directed to Plexxar near Gas Line Road and a road from there be built to the State Park entrance. This will make accessing the park much safer.
In a form response, he wrote:
Actually, we are dealing with two issues. The first involves pending residential and commercial development between I-10 and the State Park. Developers already own the land and under Texas law have the right to develop it. We are working with them to assure that any development protects the scenic corridor into the Franklins. We have negotiated successfully to limit the height of signs and to receive many acres of land for hike and bike trails and other amenities.
Yes, private land can be developed in accordance with zoning requirements and building codes. However, he insinuates that all of the land from I-10 to the State Park is private and so we can’t do anything. The fact is that only a portion of the land from I-10 to roughly the Gas Line Road is privately owned. From the Gas Line Road to the State Park the land is owned by the City of El Paso and managed by the PSB. It’s our land, folks, and we sure can rezone it as NOS. Go here for maps showing distances between private and public lands along Trans Mountain from Interstate 10 to the Franklin Mountains State Park.
John Cook goes on to say:
“The second issue is a highway project that will widen transmountain[sic] road to four lanes and provide limited access from the adjoining properties. It is important to note that property owners currently have the right to access transmountain[sic]. Could you imagine dozens of private driveways feeding into the highway and what that would do to safety? The current plan would limit their rights and build overpasses.”
Actually the Mayor’s sentence, “We have negotiated successfully to limit the height of signs and to receive many acres of land for hike and bike trails and other amenities”, belongs with his second issue. Lifting MDA requirements (e.g., signage) along the privately owned portion of Trans Mountain is a carrot stick (not yet agreed to) so that developers will give up right-of-way to TxDOT so that there won’t be “dozens of private driveways feeding into the highway”. What this really means is that developers and not the City (or NOS advocates) seem to be holding up the project because they want some concessions from the City!
His reference to “hike and bike” trails is the proposal to continue the pattern of the Pat O’Rourke Trail along Resler parallel to the frontage roads in the TxDOT proposal from I-10 to Plexxar. It has nothing to do with the City Council’s plan to rezone land nearer to the State Park as NOS. By the way, the Open Space Advisory Board agrees with the hike and bike trails and has advised that there be extra space in the buffer zone between bikers and pedestrians and the roadway.
Along with his message, some of you have received a copy of the PSB “Fact” Sheet. Here is a copy of the text on the sheet along with rebuttals.
Finally, there is still time to sign the petition and gather more signatures. Go to www.franklinmountains.org to download the hard copy of the petition or ask others to sign online at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/save-el-pasos-franklin-mountains/. There are now 1,050 responses online and over 1400 signed petitions. The Montoya Gardens Neighborhood Association turned in over 120 petitions just today!
Friday, October 29, 2010
We have learned that Mayor John Cook has told the El Paso Times that he will veto any attempt to preserve the Trans Mountain scenic corridor as Natural Open Space. As a member of the Public Service Board, he voted with the strongly worded PSB resolution that opposes rezoning land in the Northwest Master Plan to NOS – a resolution which also urges him to veto any attempt at rezoning by Council. The resolution was adopted at last Friday’s PSB strategic planning meeting. The vote for the resolution opposing re-zoning was 6-1. Only Dr. Richard Bonart opposed it.
I suggest that all of you email John Cook and let him know how you feel.
Email him at email@example.com and tell him you support saving the beautiful natural corridor.
We have also learned that the City Plan Commission has moved its consideration of rezoning to its Thursday, November 18th, meeting rather than the November 4th meeting. The CPC meets in the Council chambers of City Hall at 1:30 p.m. Please send your comments now to Maria Acosta -AcostaMD@elpasotexas.gov and let the CPC know that you support preserving land in the NW Master Plan as Natural Open Space. If you can, please plan to go to the meeting on the 18th. We will continue to update you.
If you haven’t, please also sign the petition and gather more signatures. Go to www.franklinmountains.org to download the hard copy of the petition or ask others to sign online at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/save-el-pasos-franklin-mountains/. There are now 1,028 online responses – and many more hard copy signatures!