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Reporter’s Notebook: Easy as L, D, C

Monday, November 18, 2019 by Austin Monitor

Diversify the LDC… At Saturday’s joint meeting of the arts and music commissions, the two groups each approved a request that the Planning Commission adjust the language in a recent addition to the draft Land Development Code that is being amended ahead of possible action by City Council. Earlier this month the Planning Commission unanimously approved a provision under the code’s general planning requirements specifying that a goal of the code should be to “sustain the city’s cultural, music and arts communities and industries.” Members from the two commissions voted to request that the words “diversify and cultivate” be added to the provision, to make it clear the code should facilitate the opening of new spaces in addition to preserving existing facilities for artists and musicians. The provision will serve as a placeholder in the code, which is expected to be voted on by City Council in the coming months, with the Planning Commission having the ability to seek input from the music and arts commissions on the exact language at a later date.

ZAP commissioner wants LDC to keep flooding in mind… The Zoning and Platting Commission has been discussing the new Land Development Code rewrite at a high level, but certain issues included in the code that are near and dear to commissioners’ hearts do occasionally come up for in-depth discussion. At the Nov. 5 meeting, Commissioner Ana Aguirre presented her concerns that the code rewrite team is not sufficiently taking Austin’s ongoing flooding issues into consideration. “As long as we continue to ignore drainage and increase the impervious cover, that’s worrisome for us,” she said. Already, she noted, the city has been ignoring the growing issue and pushing it further and further underground. Although residents approved $184 million for flood mitigation, open space and water quality protection in 2019, Aguirre pointed out that 30 percent of the city’s storm pipe inventory is considered “old” as it was built before 1977. Adding increased density and impervious cover to this situation is “basically trying to pour a pot of coffee into a straw,” she said. In her presentation, she displayed videos of residents working through the night to remove debris from detention ponds because city staffers would not work after dark and neighbors were fearful of their homes flooding during the night. “Yes, we are growing. I know we are asking for more density, but in doing that you could possibly be killing more people,” Aguirre said. Commissioner Ann Denkler expressed her support to increase focus on drainage in the Land Development Code rewrite. She said she read Commissioner Bruce Evans’ drainage analysis and that there is a $2 billion need for drainage infrastructure in the city. “It’s just as bad if not worse than transportation,” she said. The commission will bring the subject back for further discussion at an upcoming meeting.

Ethics case against Development Officer Brent Lloyd moves to investigatory hearing… After three then-members of the Board of Adjustment filed a complaint with the State Bar of Texas against former Assistant City Attorney Brent Lloyd, the case disappeared into the churn of bureaucracy to await a decision on the next step. On Oct. 24, former Board of Adjustment Chair William Burkhardt and former Board Member Bryan King, with the support of Board Member Don Leighton-Burwell, received notice from the State Bar that an investigatory hearing is scheduled for Jan. 23. According to the notification, the hearing will be a “non-adversarial” proceeding with the aim of achieving a resolution between the two parties.

The original complaint alleges that Lloyd was in violation of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct due to simultaneously representing the city of Austin and the Board of Adjustment on land use decisions and misrepresenting the interests of the board to third parties. Evidence in the complaint shows a transcribed audio recording of a meeting between Lloyd and Greta Goldsby, an attorney for the Drenner Group. Lloyd is quoted as advising Goldsby to write to City Council and oppose proposed rule changes at the board. In a response letter to the complainants, Charles Herring, Lloyd’s attorney, wrote that he had not shared a confidential Board of Adjustment memo with the Drenner Group, “given the uncontradicted statement from Greta Goldsby (of the Drenner Group) that Mr. Lloyd did not share that information with the Drenner Group.” Lloyd told the Austin Monitor in an email that he maintains “the record shows that I actively sought to elevate (the Board of Adjustment’s) role in the local zoning process and to ensure that Austin residents had a forum for challenging a wide variety of city decisions .… We believe the legal arguments at issue, which were drafted by local attorney Fred Lewis, are unfounded and that I fully satisfied my duties to the Board of Adjustment.”

Representing Lloyd in the case is attorney Charles Herring. City records show that the city of Austin had authorized funds in July to pay Herring $300 per hour, up to $25,000, to represent Lloyd. According to Lloyd, Herring will continue to be his legal counsel at the hearing in January.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the notebooks of Jessi Devenyns and Chad Swiatecki.

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