About the Author
Mike Kanin is the Publisher of the Austin Monitor. As such, he doesn't report on much--aside from the workings of the Monitor--any more. In his previous life as a freelance journalist, Kanin has written for the Washington City Paper, the Washington Post's Express, the Boston Herald, Boston's Weekly Dig, the Austin Chronicle, and the Texas Observer.
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Watson files bill on development rules for local state-owned land
Thursday, February 14, 2013 by Michael Kanin
Two actions at the Texas State Senate within the past week could have direct impact on the development of state owned land in and around the City of
A bill filed Tuesday by Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin) and Senator Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler) would compel developers of public-private partnerships constructed on state-owned land to follow local zoning rules and regulations. If approved, the bill – SB 507 – could assuage local concerns over the idea that state agencies might not follow municipal development standards.
Meanwhile, news came Friday that Watson will serve on a special subcommittee chaired by Eltife. That body will examine the implementation of 2011’s SB1048, the document that – as of September 2011 – allowed for state public-private partnerships.
Questions over what the state will do with many hundreds of acres of land in and around the City of
Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole brought forward an item designed to get city officials “a seat at the table” as the Facilities Commission worked on its plans. However, the Commission itself remains embroiled in state level politics, where Senators Dan Patrick (R-Houston) and John Whitmire (D-Houston) have aired concerns about the extended reach of the organization in to the world of public-private partnerships.
Opposition from the offices of Council Members Mike Martinez, Laura Morrison, and Kathie Tovo surfaced and centered on the idea that the city should wait to do anything until the legislature took action with regard to the Commission and its purview. That may not come until September.
Proponents of the deal and the possible $400,000 price tag that goes with it argue that
“The Facilities Commission and the City of
There were also concerns about whether the Facilities Commission, if allowed to proceed with any development projects, would adhere to the City of
At the December Council discussion of the pending interlocal between the city and the Commission, Bull Creek Road Coalition President John Eastman noted a call for the state to cooperate with the Imagine Austin plan. “That sounds good,” Eastman said. “Unfortunately, despite the efforts of your staff, the (interlocal agreement with the state) does not deliver on that goal. The (facilities commission) has no obligation to consider, take in to account or even acknowledge … communication (from the city).” (See In Fact Daily, Dec. 11, 2012.)
If Watson’s bill – co-authored by Eltife – passes, that could change. It contains language that orders “qualifying project(s)” to comply with the zoning and land use regulations of whatever municipality they are hosted by. Some projects could be exempted under this rule if they use the building or land for the same purpose that it was used by the state.
Tovo told In Fact Daily that the bill “is very promising.” “I think it’s a great step,” she added.
In addition to that provision, Watson and Eltife’s bill places strict conflict of interest rules on government employees or their relatives who might financially gain from public-private development.
Economic Development Committee vice chair, Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-Fort Worth) will join Watson and Eltife on the public-private partnership subcommittee. Together, they will examine the implementation of the empowering bill. That action was initially an interim charge for the EDC.
State Senator Robert Deuell (R-Greenville) told LT. Gov. David Dewhurst in a Friday letter that the trio would now take that job. Deuell noted – by way of explaining that his recent interim report on the matter did not make any recommendations with regard to the topic — that he “felt additional information and study” about the bill “was needed.”
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