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Page 165
A History of Austin's Newest General Aviation Airport
W. H
Chapter 9
It turned out that matching wetland area
for wetland area and planting the appropriate
grasses wasn't good enough for the City. Af-
ter we bumped heads with the folks down at
the planning department one too many times,
I hired an environmental consultant with a
cheery disposition, Shannon Dorsey with Ho-
rizon Environmental Services, to help us fi-
nalize the wetland mitigation plan and guide
us through the approval process. Even with
Shannon's help, the permitting procedure
was burdensome and time consuming.
Austin Executive Airport fell within the
City's exterritorial jurisdiction, an area ex-
tending five miles outside the City corpo-
rate limits. All developments within the ETJ
required a rash of permits--site plan per-
mits, plumbing and electrical permits, Travis
County Fire Marshal permit, County Health
Department permits (if the project needed a
septic system, which we found out later ours
did), and storm water drainage permits.
To get the final okay, we had to appease
several permit reviewers, including the City's
Planning and Environmental Board and the
Conservation Services Department, and ev-
eryone, it seemed, had a different take on
what they would and wouldn't approve.
To get the new wetlands in shape, we had
to move a lot of dirt. And when the City took
a look at where all that dirt was coming from,
some humorless reviewer realized we had a
14-foot hill on the site that we planned to level
out before using the unwanted earth, in part,
to form slopes and berms surrounding the
new wetlands. According to the City, there
were limits to the size of hill you could flatten
without yet another permit, and 14 feet was
well beyond the limit.
No way around it, the cut and fill require-
ments applied to Austin Executive Airport, and
as much as we wanted, we couldn't manage
to separate the two permits--one for wetland
mitigation and one for razing our 14-foot hill.
Rather than meet the City's puzzling and
impractical specifications (which were so ar-
duous and convoluted that I still don't fully
understand how we could have complied,
much less why the whimsical specs read as
they did) we opted to apply for a wetland miti-
gation variance and a cut and fill variance.
KSA Engineers
Join the Team
About this time I hired a local engineer-
ing firm, KSA Engineers, to help design the
airport ramp, oversee hangar construction,
finalize any drainage issues, coordinate with
the architect and contractor to build the ter-
minal building, and draft a workable wetlands
mitigation plan. (Privately, I hoped my new
local engineering firm had professional con-
nections with the City that might expedite the
permitting process.) KSA assigned engineer,
Bob Nelesen, as our primary contact. Bob
had years of local hands-on experience and
turned out to be a huge help on the project.
After several frustrating meetings with
City planning staff, in which Bob Nelesen and
Shannon Dorsey finally convinced them that
a wetland design that attracted birds (who are
a hazard to flight) was a bad idea, we aban-
doned our initial wetland plan that included