Friday, November 21, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Real estate reform comes from Bull Creek process

City Council members Thursday quietly passed a resolution that instructs Austin City Manager Marc Ott to “forward to Council any written communication received by the City Manager from the State of Texas, or any agency of the State of Texas, regarding offers or options to sell the City real property within two business days of receiving the communication.”

Though not mentioned in the resolution, its sponsor, Council Member Laura Morrison, told the Monitor that the item was specifically related to the potential City of Austin purchase of a prized swath of land along Bull Creek.

“When we had the Bull Creek letter offer from TxDOT come to the city manager, it was dated at the end of July,” Morrison said. “Obviously it’s certified; it takes a while. The bottom line is I didn’t know anything about that until I happened to be chatting with somebody from the Bull Creek coalition a couple of weeks after that, who said, ‘Presumably the city has an offer from TxDOT for first right of refusal.'”

Morrison summed the situation. She noted that she had to “[dig] around to find out about” the Bull Creek offer.

Council members did not end up taking action to purchase the Bull Creek land. At the time of their decision, there was an open question about the instruments that would be available to the city with which Council could close the purchase.

Still, Morrison called for improvements in the process. “If a letter is received, it [should] just get sent to the Council, because they are the ones that have to take action,” she said.

Morrison noted that, once Council members raised the issue with city management, they did not object to what Council Member Bill Spelman — seated next to her on the dais — called “to our making a policy decision.”

Council Member Kathie Tovo was the second sponsor, with Spelman the third.

“I think it’s the first time that we’ve really ever been through this, so live and learn,” Morrison added. “And this will just make it policy that it’s a policy decision.”

City management did not have a comment on the resolution in time for publication.

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