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Reporter’s Notebook: More like Fist City

Monday, October 2, 2017 by Austin Monitor

And the most music-friendly city in Texas is?… Not Austin. At least not according to the Texas Music Office and its new Music Friendly Communities program, which last week recognized Fort Worth as its first member. The program is part of the state’s effort to get cities around the state thinking and acting with musicians and creatives in mind, and has a number of requirements that applicant cities must meet. Among them: attend a music office workshop on the program, designate a liaison within city government or affiliated body who is responsible for constituent questions, register with the music office’s industry directory, develop partnerships with its community’s music-related nonprofits and foster collaboration on music education programs. Music Office management said Austin is in the pipeline for recognition soon, and Erica Shamaly, director of Austin’s Music and Entertainment Division, told the Austin Monitor the city’s paperwork is “in process” and that, “Austin is promoted as the best practice model to other Texas cities considering our dynamic live scene, promoters, ATX Music Office, HAAM, SIMS, AMF, etc.”

 

Site plan exemptions aren’t changing … are they?… The Planning Commission devoted the majority of its meeting to CodeNEXT discussion last Tuesday night, and site plan exemptions were the main subject of debate. To develop anything in Austin, property owners have to apply for a site plan in order to get a building permit. There are exceptions for smaller projects, and developers can get a site plan exemption if an addition to a structure is less than 1,000 square feet and meets other requirements. Chair Stephen Oliver started the conversation by pointing to the problem of developers repeatedly applying for these exemptions as a loophole around formal site plans, revisions or corrections. In response, Christine Barton-Holmes with the Development Services Department said that, according to her reading of the second draft of CodeNEXT, the limit would now be 3,000 square feet for exemptions, but that they would be one-time only. This discovery prompted speculation from commissioners as to what would be the implications of this change. However, Chris Johnson with Development Services told the Monitor that the 3,000-square-foot limit was the limits of construction (for staging area, materials, etc.), not the size of the addition, and that limitation is already in the current Land Development Code. Furthermore, he said that there is also already a one-time limit on site plan exemptions. It does appear that the limits for construction are the same, but, contrary to what Johnson said, the section on Site Plan Exemptions in the current code, 25-5-2, does not include the phrase used in the respective section of CodeNEXT 2.0: “if no previous exemption has been granted.”

Speaking of CodeNEXT… In case you missed the press conference held Thursday, or the general tenor of all of its communications thus far, Community Not Commodity is not happy with CodeNEXT. Specifically, the group is unhappy with the second draft of the rewrite, saying “city staff is going backwards.” A list of grievances, including the claim that the zoning map “violates the City’s comprehensive plan and has been unlawfully prepared,” is available online.

Speaking of speaking… Last week, City Council decided to do away with Austin’s juvenile curfew. Can someone tell the Austin Independent School District? Council members Alison Alter and Ora Houston hope so. On Thursday, just prior to the vote, both Council members noted that AISD seemed to be left out of the loop when Council voted over the summer to do away with the daytime curfew. “I have a child in AISD, and we got a form that said that the curfew was in effect and you couldn’t go out to lunch because the curfew was in effect rather than it being a school rule that you couldn’t leave the property. So I just want to encourage you to make sure that we have clear communication with the affected school districts,” said Alter. Houston backed up these claims, noting, “(Some of) the AISD trustees did not know that we had voted. … We got emails that said they were not aware that we were taking that action, so I think it’s imperative that we let them know that the nighttime curfew is also going away.”

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook items come from Chad Swiatecki, Joe Caterine and Elizabeth Pagano.

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