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Council approves amendments to Street Closure Ordinance

Friday, May 1, 2009 by Austin Monitor

After nearly a year of meetings between city staff, a Street Closure Task Force, and concerned parties, City Council approved an ordinance that attempts to solve problems associated with closing off downtown streets for events like marathons, art shows and parades.


The ordinance would create a “supervote” that would allow neighborhood associations or 20 percent of the residents living on blocks along the closed off street a way to stop an event from happening. If the residents or the association lodges a complaint against the event, it would have to be adjudicated in front of the Urban Transportation Commission. Due to the current economic climate, the city declined to create a separate board for Special Events just yet. If the UTC cannot resolve the differences between the even organizers and the neighborhood, it would go before city council.


The final version of the Street Closure Ordinance would allow “stationary events,” such as the First Night, to be held along Cesar Chavez so long as designated East-West arterials 5th, 6th and 11th Street were left open.


Council Member Lee Leffingwell, who worked closely with the task force, did have some last minute tweaks. He made a motion that would allow neighbors (if they meet the 20 percent threshold) to challenge fee-paid events. Another motion makes sure that the city provides event applicants with an estimate for the cost of police security at least 15 days prior to the event. Finally, he added a clause that would have the ordinance reviewed again in one year.


Council Member Laura Morrison also offered up a friendly amendment to the ordinance, effectively placing some of it on hold until Council could better decide how to incorporate certain provisions into city code. Morrison explained her amendment to In Fact Daily, “the proposal from staff said let’s remove several sections from the code … and instead of having it in the ordinance, let’s have staff work it out in the rules. My concern was, ‘I’m not sure we really want to… give up City Council oversight of those issues and transfer that authority over to the staff.” Essentially she requested a “pause” on four categories relating to emergency service approvals, as well as general and safety restrictions and requirements. She said she was concerned that such sections may require race promoters to shoulder additional expense.


Council voted 6-0 in favor with Council Member Brewster McCracken off the dais.

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