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Revised street ordinance could mean creation of new city office

Tuesday, August 12, 2008 by Mark Richardson

An overflow crowd of more than 300 people – most of them running advocates –jammed into Waller Creek Center last night for the Downtown Street Event Closure Task Force meeting. The task force is examining ways to better coordinate activities in the downtown area that often block streets and create traffic problems for merchants, churches and residents.


Chair Paul Carrozza, owner of Run Tex, told the crowd that he saw their mission as one of accommodation, not elimination.


“Our goal here is not to eliminate any races or other events,” he said. “We need to find a solution that strikes a balance between the events and those they affect. We need to work out a way to operate multiple venues in downtown.”


Assistant City Manager Rudy Garza told the Task Force after handing out copies of the two ordinances to be merged that there would be more work down the road.


“We intend for this to be a starting point for you,” he said. “We want to find the best elements of both ordinances and work to find a way to resolve some of the problems.”


What is planned is the creation of a right-of-way management ordinance, which could include the creation of an Office of Special Events to coordinate among Austin Police, Parks and Recreation and other agencies involved in managing events.


Among items discussed were:


  • The definition of a “fee paid” event. That determines whether the event is free, or an entrance fee is charged, and if the city gets a portion of the fee;
  • What restrictions to put on the issuance of an Event Permit;
  • The calculation of the number of signatures required, determining what percentage of affected landowners or merchants must approve a street closure;
  • Whether affected parties should only receive a notice or give explicit permission for road closures; and
  • Whether there should be a separate permit for a sound system at events?


The draft of the ordinance includes a section making the City Manager’s designee responsible for determinations on permitting and public safety. The draft also would extend the time frame for application and notification to 180 days before the event.


Several individuals in the crowd addressed the task force during its citizen’s communications. Most encouraged them to find ways to keep the running events, especially those that benefit charities.


“We need to keep the community involved in the smaller events,” said Charles Collins. “It’s great to have the big events, but the smaller ones are mainly the ones that benefit organizations and they also allow the casual runner to participate.”


Another speaker, Dave Sullivan, chair of the Planning Commission and avid cyclist, put in a bid for the non-participants.


“Sometimes when streets are blocked off, it’s almost impossible for the non-participant to get from one place to another,” he said. “I would ask you to consider posting alternative routes so people don’t have to go a mile out of their way to get a couple of blocks over.”


The task force made no major decisions and took no action at Monday’s meeting.

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