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TipSheet: City Council, 3.8.18

Thursday, March 8, 2018 by Elizabeth Pagano

City Council is back for what looks to be a reasonably short meeting again today – fingers crossed! Here are the things we have our eye on. 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.

Item 4: Adopt the Austin Strategic Direction 2023 Plan, which concerns strategic outcomes related to economic opportunity and affordability, mobility, safety, health and environment, culture and lifelong learning, and government that works for all.

Monitor’s Take: In essence, this plan aligns the many city priorities and initiatives into what the backup documents call “a single playbook.” Do you remember our recent report on the city’s new budgeting tack? This is about putting all that philosophy into a general guiding plan (which the city has been operating without since 2000).

Item 10: Approve a resolution relating to the distribution of affordable housing units for low- and moderate-income households.

Monitor’s Take: The aim of this resolution, which is sponsored by Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, is to help those with generational community ties from being pushed out of the city. It’s not yet clear how this can be done under state law, and if this resolution passes, that will be one of the main things to figure out, well before any implementation takes place.

Item 21: NPA-2017-0002.01 – 4 East – District 3 – Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending Ordinance No. 19990513-70 the East Cesar Chavez Neighborhood Plan, an element of the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, to change the land use designation on the future land use map (FLUM) on property locally known as 1600, 1602, 1604, 1606, 1608, 1610 E. 4th (Town Lake Watershed) from Specific Regulating District to Specific Regulating District land use.

Item 22: C14-2017-0105 – 4 East – District 3 – Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by zoning property locally known as 1600, 1602, 1604, 1606, 1608, and 1610 East 4th Street (Lady Bird Lake Watershed). Applicant Request: To rezone from transit oriented development-neighborhood plan (TOD-NP) combining district zoning to transit oriented development-central urban redevelopment- neighborhood plan (TOD-CURE-NP) combining district zoning.

Monitor’s Take: This group of properties is located near the Plaza Saltillo development, and we are expecting a debate that sounds a lot like the one that took place over that project, minus the complications that the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority offered. To be less coy: The developer would like to build taller than the 60 feet currently allowed, and the neighborhood isn’t crazy about that.

Item 25: NPA-2017-0005.04 – 2514 Thrasher Lane – District 3 – Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending Ordinance No. 20010927-05, the Montopolis Neighborhood Plan, an element of the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, to change the land use designation on the future land use map (FLUM) on property locally known as 2514 Thrasher Lane (Carson Creek Watershed) from Commercial to Mixed Use land use.

Item 26: C14-2017-0125 – 2514 Thrasher – District 3 – Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by rezoning property locally known as 2514 Thrasher Lane (West Country Club Creek and Carson Creek Watersheds). Applicant Request: To rezone from general commercial services -conditional overlay- neighborhood plan (CS-CO-NP) combining district zoning to general commercial services – mixed use – neighborhood plan (CS-MU-NP) combining district zoning.

Monitor’s Take: This is the other zoning case that we have our eye on. Staff is not recommending this zoning change, citing the lack of a buffer between this and commercially zoned property. According to the backup, the neighborhood is okay with the change, as long as the property does not have access through Thrasher Lane. We’re expecting a bit of discussion.

Item 35: Conduct a public hearing and consider an ordinance amending the rates charged to Austin Water’s retail customers for water and wastewater services (Exhibit A to Ordinance No. 20170913-002) and amending Austin Water’s 2017-2018 Operating Budget (Ordinance No. 20170913-001) to account for the corresponding reduction in revenue.

Monitor’s Take: Though utility rate changes typically move in one direction, this is a case where Council will actually be voting on reducing water rates, after a review of the rates. The change will ding the water utility about $18.7 million, which is fine for the time being (though the city might eventually need to charge higher rates). Apparently, some of the bigger water customers have questions, so it’s unlikely this will totally pass today, and likely that it will be discussed in more detail.

Item 36: Discuss recommendations for appointment of municipal court judges, including the presiding judge, and take appropriate action; and declaring an emergency.

Monitor’s Take: This, the final item on the agenda, has the potential to be pretty dramatic. Council’s Judicial Committee recently recommended against the appointment of five judges. The recommendations reflect the unanimous opinion of a panel that was put together to evaluate the judges, but it’s the first test of a new system that was created as a result of increased scrutiny of how the Municipal Court is run. The committee seemed resolute in its recommendations, but it will be interesting to see whether lobbying or political fallout in the past two weeks has reached any receptive ears on the dais since then.

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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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