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TipSheet: Austin City Council, 4.7.22

Thursday, April 7, 2022 by Elizabeth Pagano

It’s Thursday and another City Council meeting is upon us. Mayor Steve Adler, who has tested positive for Covid-19, is expected to join the meeting virtually. In a contrasting move back to “normal,” today marks the return of live music to City Hall, with an in-chambers performance by Nané at 5:30 p.m. Other than that, it should be your typical Council meeting. For those who doubt our ability to prognosticate, the entire agenda is posted online. For the rest, read on for guesses on what might be worth diving into in the days to come. 

In short, Tuesday’s work session may have given us an accurate picture of what will take up most of the meeting today. First up are a couple of items on the proposed airport expansion. Item 8 would authorize the issuance and sale of bonds to help finance said expansion, to the tune of $470 million. With the airport’s steady climb in ridership, flights and population, no one is really disputing the fact that AUS should expand. However, there is some debate about how that expansion should take place. That brings us to Item 43, sponsored by Council Member Vanessa Fuentes, which asks for further study of a proposed jet fuel storage facility before moving forward. As we reported Wednesday, that study could cause complications, but ignoring an outcry from neighbors could cause political complications, so there is definitely discussion to be had about how to proceed. 

We’re also bracing for an extended conversation on the Statesman PUD today. Work session showed that Council has a lot of ideas about the development. Despite some opposition, Council Member Chito Vela does not seem to be backing away from his idea to use money from the development to shelter people experiencing homelessness. He posted a list of questions to the City Council Message Board that we expect will be featured in today’s discussion. In addition, as we reported today, Council Member Kathie Tovo has her own ideas about increasing affordable housing on-site, which could be a lengthy topic in its own right.

On this week’s agenda, Alison Alter has a resolution that would require parkland dedication for office, industrial and commercial developments. While this might sound benign to the average citizen, parkland dedication is low-key a historically contentious topic, so we are definitely watching this one. 

In other news, Texas Gas Service is proposing to increase rates by $1.99 a month for residential customers in order to recoup losses. Council can suspend the increase for 45 days to make sure it’s legit, and will probably do that today. 

Council will (most likely) also approve using $80,000 in American Rescue Plan Act money to provide people with laptops to borrow and use in places other than the library. In other community news, there’s about $29 million in social service contracts for youth set to be approved (you can find the amounts and organizations here). 

In non-Statesman zoning news, there a few familiar cases on the agenda for Monitor readers. Council may take up a plan to build more than 200 affordable homes on city land at 900 Gardner Road, in East Austin. Also in East Austin, a bid to transform a nursery into housing may get its shot at Council. And a proposal to build an 85-foot office building near the Scoot Inn could get another turn before Council after an initial approval.

And while we would definitely have added the proposed VMU2 item to our list of things to watch earlier this week, Council Member Ann Kitchen has made it clear that she intends to postpone discussion until April 21. 

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