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Downtown commissioners hear about live music reforms

Monday, January 23, 2017 by Caleb Pritchard

A proposed reform that would set new parameters for live music venues and their neighbors is still on pace for a City Council vote this March following scrutiny by the Downtown Commission last week.

Alex Lopez, deputy director of Austin’s Economic Development Department, trotted out the so-called “agent of change” proposal before the body on Thursday.

“It’s really about compatibility,” Lopez said. “At its principal, what it says is whoever is coming and creating the change should be the one responsible for mitigating and building to the standards of the environment they’re moving into.”

The proposal would require property owners to formally acknowledge that their development is proximate to venues before beginning any construction. They would also have to disclose that information to any potential tenants.

Furthermore, Lopez explained that another proposed change to the city code would provide venues protection by affirming that, if they follow all necessary steps under sound impact plans, they cannot legally be considered a nuisance.

“(Their neighbors) can’t use our code as a way to litigate or try to go after that venue, basically,” said Lopez.

The reforms are aimed at preserving the city’s live music culture in a quickly evolving downtown landscape, which has brought conflicts between clubs and new residential and hotel buildings. That drama recently manifested in the form of a $1 million lawsuit lobbed by the Westin Austin Downtown hotel against the Nook Amphitheater on East Sixth Street.

In addition to discussing the “agent of change” principle, Lopez also briefed the commission on a proposed entertainment license that would have to be secured by both indoor and outdoor venues featuring live music. The license would replace outdoor music permits and would cost compliant owners $1,000 every three years, as opposed to the permit’s one-year price tag of $1,041.

Lopez told the commission that her team still plans to put the complete proposal to Council in March.

Photo by Michael made available through a Creative Commons license.

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