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Reporter’s Notebook: Of departures (people, codes and forts)

Monday, March 6, 2017 by Austin Monitor

ZAP! Pow! Bang!… People paying attention to the membership of the Zoning and Platting Commission (if you are out there, you are probably reading this) may have noticed change has come/is on the horizon. As we reported, now-former Chair Thomas Weber has left the commission, with former Austin Neighborhoods Council President David King taking over the District 5 seat. As if that weren’t enough change, also-former-chair Gabe Rojas announced his departure at the commission’s most recent meeting, which was his last. His announcement was met with a chorus of shocked responses from some of the people that removed him as chair last spring. “It’s been a pleasure serving all of you. I just want to say, as y’all go on to CodeNEXT, I think the battle arena of density versus anti-density is not a really good conversation for a land development code. It needs to be ‘high-quality built environment versus not’ and what we’ve done over the last 60 years – for millennia we’ve built organically; we’ve built walkably. And the way we (now) build is causing immense obesity rates, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease. This type of development is not where we are going to go in the future, and we shouldn’t for our own sake,” he said, in an outgoing speech.

CodeNEXT will make conditional overlays go away, kind of… During the joint land use commission meeting on Feb. 28, Greg Guernsey with Planning and Zoning and Assistant City Attorney Brent Lloyd briefed the commissioners on the status of conditional overlays under the new CodeNEXT mapping. As a mechanism, they would essentially become obsolete. In his first meeting, ZAP Commissioner David King asked if neighborhoods currently negotiating conditional overlays were wasting their time. “I think it’s going to be a problem for neighborhoods to come to an agreement on things that would normally be in a conditional overlay between now and when the map is adopted,” he said. Lloyd explained that although conditional overlays would go away, certain protections granted by existing overlays could be carried over. “But it’s not going to be as simple as one sentence that says ‘all conditional overlays approved before x date are still valid.’” The next joint meeting of the land use commissions will take place March 21.

Plaza Saltillo loses its tenant… Most discussions of Plaza Saltillo are premised on the fact that it’s an empty tract of land right next to downtown. Of course, the truth is that for nearly a decade, it has found remarkable popularity as the site of the Fader Fort, one of the larger pop-up venues associated with South by Southwest. Billboard.com has reported that the Fort this year will move to a much smaller space at 1209 E. Sixth St. (kinda near Violet Crown Social Club, for those who order their urban geography based on bars). Billboard quotes Jon Cohen, founder of the magazine from which the fort derives its name, as explaining the relocation thusly: “We have a great history in Austin, and unfortunately as the success of the Fort (has grown), so has the success of Austin from a market standpoint, and now (the previous location is) being developed into a mixed-use space.” Of course, construction on the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Plaza Saltillo redevelopment was only just recently cleared by City Council, and Endeavor Real Estate Group, the firm tapped to build the massive project, is still finalizing its blueprints. A spokesperson for Capital Metro told the Austin Monitor that the agency had no hand in forcing Fader Fort to find new digs.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook has been complied from the notes of Caleb Pritchard, Elizabeth Pagano and Joseph Caterine.

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