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TipSheet: Austin City Council 1.27 & 1.29

Sunday, January 25, 2015 by Michael Kanin

The brand new 10-1 Austin City Council has its first major agenda to deal with this week. At 52 items, this one doesn’t even register on the immediate past Council’s major agenda radar. Still, concerns from at least one Council office over what might previously have been considered routine purchasing items and, what late Friday was go-forward signal about a hearing for the ever-touchy Garza Ranch zoning case (courtesy of District 8’s Ellen Troxclair), Thursday may not be nearly as svelte as it appears (what with all the recommendations for postponement attached).

As always, the Austin City Council meets in a work session Tuesday and for its regular meeting Thursday. Below is a list of items we’re watching for the upcoming week. In the interest of space, we’ve decided not to post the entire agenda here. The City Clerk’s office hosts a copy at its website, here.

We’ve posted these in chronological order. Where applicable, however, we’ve paired items that appear similar in nature.

21. Approve an ordinance amending City Code Title 2 relating to the functions and duties of the City Auditor and the Ethics Review Commission.

Monitor’s Take: This is the pending rewrite of code stemming from the botched Daniela Ochoa Gonzalez ethics case. This would, effectively, confirm that city’s Ethics Review Commission would have final say over ethics reviews for Council Members, Council staff, the City Manager, City Clerk, a member of one of the city’s advisory boards and commissions, and municipal court clerks and judges while barring the Office of the City Auditor from making so much as a determination in said case. Our latest on this is here.

22. Approve an ordinance creating the Regional Affordability Committee, an intergovernmental entity, and approving the appointment of City representatives to serve as members on the Regional Affordability Committee.

Monitor’s Take: This item would create said body and layout criteria for its membership and its purview. Should it pass, Council members Delia Garza, Ann Kitchen, and Ellen Troxclair would serve as Austin City Council reps. Membership would also include representatives from the AISD Board of Trustees, the Travis County Commissioners Court, the ACC Board of Trustees, the CapMetro Board of Directors, the Central Health Board of Directors, the Del Valle ISD Board of Trustees, and the Williamson County Commissioners Court. The bodies purview, according to the item, would allow it to weigh in on regional bond measures, “eliminating duplication in services between agencies for potential cost savings,” and “develop policy recommendations for all represented governmental entities to improve affordability in Austin and the Central Texas region.” It also calls on Austin City Manager Marc Ott to “provide staff resources for the Committee as necessary.”

23. Approve a resolution directing the City Manager to create a Task Force on Community Engagement and report back to the Council in six months with a review of existing City of Austin community engagement tools, and innovative techniques and technologies used across the country, identifying best practices and recommendations including fiscal implications.

Monitor’s Take: This item would create said task force and layout its membership and purview. As imagined here, the task force would include 13 members of the community–one appointment each from the 10 districts; Mayor Steve Adler would appoint the rest. It would be back with findings in June.

26. Approve a resolution directing the City Manager to establish an administrative process allowing council members to reduce their annual salaries and to reallocate funds to other areas within their office budgets.

Monitor’s Take: This is the item that would allow Council offices to take funds from Council members’ salary budget lines and use those dollars to fund other items. Our latest on this is here.

37. C14-2014-0011A – Garza Ranch – Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending City Code Chapter 25-2 by rezoning property locally known as 3800 Ben Garza Lane (Williamson Creek Watershed-Barton Springs Zone) from community commercial-mixed use-conditional overlay-neighborhood plan (GR-MU-CO-NP) combining district zoning to community commercial-mixed use-conditional overlay-neighborhood plan (GR-MU-CO-NP) combining district zoning, to change a condition of zoning. Staff Recommendation: To grant community commercial-mixed use-conditional overlay-neighborhood plan (GR-MU-CO-NP) combining district zoning, to change a condition of zoning, with conditions. Planning Commission Recommendation: To forward to Council without a recommendation. Owner/Applicant: Rancho Garza, Ltd. (Ron White). Agent: Cunningham-Allen, Inc. (Jana Rice). City Staff: Wendy Rhoades, 512-974-7719.

38. C14-2014-0011B – Garza Ranch – Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending City Code Chapter 25-2 by rezoning property locally known as 3510 and 4003 Ben Garza Lane (Williamson Creek Watershed-Barton Springs Zone) from community commercial-mixed use-conditional overlay-neighborhood plan (GR-MU-CO-NP) combining district zoning to community commercial-mixed use-conditional overlay-neighborhood plan (GR-MU-CO-NP) combining district zoning, to change a condition of zoning. Staff Recommendation: To grant community commercial-mixed use-conditional overlay-neighborhood plan (GR-MU-CO-NP) combining district zoning, to change a condition of zoning, with conditions. Planning Commission Recommendation: To forward to Council without a recommendation. Owner/Applicant: Rancho Garza, Ltd. (Ron White). Agent: Cunningham-Allen, Inc. (Jana Rice). City Staff: Wendy Rhoades, 512-974-7719.

Monitor’s Take: This, of course, is the long-running Garza Tract case. Word going into the meeting on the 29th was that it, along with the rest of Council’s zoning agenda, would be postponed. That changed early Friday when Council Member Ellen Troxclair–whose District 8 is where the project resides–signaled her willingness to bring the issue up for a vote. As such, it represents an early test of how Troxclair and her colleagues will view zoning agendas. To wit: Will movement on said items be left to the discretion of the District rep who happens to represent the area where the project lies? And, if that’s the case, what effect will that have on project development throughout the city?

49. Conduct a public hearing and consider an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 to limit the re-development of existing small (substandard) lots that are developed as a single building site.

Monitor’s Take: Sounds like this, the small lot amnesty item is headed for postponement. Our latest on the concept is here.

50. Conduct a public hearing and consider an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 changing regulations for secondary dwellings.

Monitor’s Take: This is the Accessory Dwelling Unit item. It also appears headed for a postponement. The Planning Commission’s Codes and Ordinances subcommittee was unable to weigh in on the matter this past week. Our coverage is here.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

accessory dwelling units: This term refers to smaller, secondary units built on the property of a primary residence. Also known as ADUs, mother-in-law suites, granny flats, or garden apartments, among other things.

Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2015, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and as of 2015, 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.

Garza Tract: In the 1980s, Eli Garza donated and sold 22 acres of land to TxDot which were then used for MoPac and William Cannon Drive. In 1992, he platted most of the rest of the property, and since then the tract has been in and out of City Council and court over grandfathering issues.

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