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TipSheet: City Council, 2.2.17

Thursday, February 2, 2017 by Elizabeth Pagano

City Council will hold its regular meeting again today, and though we really don’t want to jinx anything, it looks like it might be a relatively short meeting. Below is a list of items we’re watching. In the interest of space, we’ve decided not to post the entire agenda. The Office of the City Clerk posts a copy on its website, here.

4. Approve an ordinance amending City Code Chapters 2-3 and 2-7 relating to the duties and functions of the City Auditor and the Ethics Review Commission, the code of ethics, and financial disclosure; and creating an offense.

Monitor’s take: During Tuesday’s work session, a weird discussion indicated that Council may not quite be ready to pass this ordinance. Specifically, Council Member Alison Alter questioned a few things — including whether city auditors could completely be prohibited from participating in politics, not just city politics. (Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo and City Attorney Anne Morgan pointed out that this could — obviously! — raise questions about free speech.) The discussion gave Council Member Ora Houston and Mayor Steve Adler pause, and it might be postponed a week for more “digestion,” given the fact that there’s no urgency behind making the changes.

40. Approve a resolution initiating an amendment to the City’s Energy Code to require that new residential and commercial buildings are constructed to be solar-ready.

Monitor’s take: Though the mayor was careful to stress that this resolution would only initiate a new solar-ready building standard in the city, there has been some behind-the-scenes drama over the new requirement that could spill into Council chambers today. We’re betting on this as the “why did that take up so much time?” item of the day.

41. Approve a resolution relating to plan review, inspections, and enforcement of the City’s Energy Code.

Monitor’s take: According to this resolution, inspectors are currently responsible for 20-30 inspections per day (!), which is not giving them enough time to properly evaluate whether buildings are compliant with the energy code. This resolution asks staff to figure out how many people the city should hire in order to give each inspector a more reasonable workload.

42. Approve a resolution initiating amendments to the Land Development Code (Title 25) relating to requirements for expedited permitting of development projects.

Monitor’s take: The bulk of the expedited permitting program has already been approved, and now we are into its implementation. It should all be fairly smooth from here on out; though the idea that this amendment would bypass the Planning Commission raised a few eyebrows at the work session, Council Member Greg Casar assured everyone that it was not an issue that concerned the commission and that the amendment, in fact, could easily be located somewhere else in the code.

43. Approve a resolution directing the City Manager to begin testing and implementation for expansion of library services to selected locations to provide for General Citizen Communication via videoconferencing, to be in conformance with City Code, Section 2-5-28; and to develop a methodology to analyze such expansion of services and to identify gaps in access to videoconferencing; and to plan for expanded services and make related reports.

Monitor’s take: We acknowledge this as part of the legacy of former Council Member Don Zimmerman, who launched the citizens communication video conference with a pilot program in District 6.

45. Approve a resolution related to Austin Resource Recovery’s curbside textile collection contract.

Monitor’s take: Whew boy. This seemingly benign item has kind of blown up. Basically, local charities that rely on donations are up in arms about this collection service, and Council is rethinking the contract. Jo Clifton wrote about it today, if you want the full story. This item is set for a 2:00 p.m. time certain, which means it will not be discussed prior to that time.

46. Approve a resolution relating to implementing the Parkland Events Taskforce Report.

Monitor’s take: It’s possible that the recommendation that events be shuffled east could draw some heat, but it’s unclear whether this item will attract a lot of attention at Council. However, here is an excellent summation of the report that we ran in December, for the curious. This would allow staff to move forward with the administrative bits of the report right away.

56. C14-2016-0023.SH – Elysium Park – District 7 – Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by rezoning property locally known as 3300 Oak Creek Drive (Walnut Creek Watershed) from industrial park-conditional overlay (IP-CO) combining district zoning and rural residence (RR) district zoning to multifamily residence-moderate-high density-conditional overlay (MF-4-CO) combining district zoning. Staff Recommendation: To grant multifamily residence-moderate-high density-conditional overlay (MF-4-CO) combining district zoning.

Monitor’s take: This is probably the only guaranteed fight aside from that clothing-recycling thing. In short, neighbors aren’t crazy about the prospect of a 90-unit building and have a valid petition against the rezoning, which means that it will take nine votes from Council in order to rezone the property. (The Zoning and Platting Commission endorsed it unanimously, with conditions.)

57. C814-2014-0120 – Austin Oaks PUD – District 10 – Conduct a public hearing and approve 2nd and 3rd readings of an ordinance amending Title 25 by rezoning property locally known as 3409, 3420, 3429, 3445, 3520, 3636, 3701, 3721, 3724, and 3737 Executive Center Drive and 7601, 7718 and 7719 Wood Hollow Drive (Shoal Creek Watershed) from community commercial (GR) district zoning, neighborhood commercial (LR) district zoning, limited office (LO) district zoning and family residence (SF-3) district zoning to planned unit development (PUD) district zoning.

Monitor’s take: As revealed at Tuesday’s work session, the Austin Oaks PUD now has a petition against it, with about 40 percent of nearby neighbors in opposition. If valid, that means it will take nine (not six) votes to rezone this land. However, that is a question that won’t be answered today, for Council Member Alison Alter has said that she will be asking for a two-week postponement on the case. And with the developer and neighborhood amenable to the request, that’s more than likely what will happen.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

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 2012, 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 now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.

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