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TipSheet: City Council, 8.22.19

Thursday, August 22, 2019 by Elizabeth Pagano

Today’s City Council meeting merits a special programming note. Though it is a regular meeting, Council will hear public testimony on the city budget starting at 1 p.m. and will complete that before returning to the rest of the agenda. We’ll be keeping our eye on that, of course, as well as a few more things. As always, the entire agenda can be found at the Office of the City Clerk’s website, here.

Item 15: Approve a resolution finding the use of the Construction Manager-At-Risk method of contracting, as authorized by Subchapter F, Chapter 2269 of the Texas Government Code, is the project delivery method that provides the best value to the City for the AHC-JHF History Center – Archival Repository to repurpose the existing Faulk Library into a new history center and archival repository.

Monitor’s Take: Somewhat surprisingly, this item provoked quite a bit of conversation at Tuesday’s work session. Council Member Jimmy Flannigan seemed alone in his desire to see the city’s old downtown library, Faulk, used for something other than a history center and archive repository. According to a post on the City Council Message Board, he’s switched gears to lobby for a toned-down version of that idea, which would allow the space to have other city services co-located at the site. Looking forward to seeing how that goes.

Item 20: Approve a resolution creating the Creative Space Assistance Program and approve the program as a Chapter 380 economic development program, not to exceed a total of $755,000.

Monitor’s Take: With this, the much-discussed Creative Space Assistance Program is launched under the new model of economic development incentives. The program is intended to help venues and art organizations that are struggling in the new, more expensive Austin of today. The guidelines for those hoping for help are laid out pretty clearly here.

Item 24: Discuss and potentially take action regarding an ordinance creating the Rainey Street District Special Revenue Fund funded with right-of-way fees, alley vacation sales payments, and license agreement fees for developments within the Rainey Street Historic District and Subdistrict for Improvements within the Rainey Street Historic District and Subdistrict.

Monitor’s Take: It is a truth universally acknowledged that the current incarnation of Rainey Street is deeply dystopian. No single resolution could fix that, but here is an idea that could maybe make it a little better, at least? Basically, the plan would take money from city fees and such within the district and apply them to planned improvements that are also within the district. According to a very informative memo, from 2013 to 2019 this change would have added $1,779,255 to the Rainey Street Fund. Over that same time period, $4,639,900 was invested in Rainey Street improvements, with more planned.

Item 29: Authorize negotiation and execution of an agreement with the Urban Renewal Agency relating to the roles, responsibilities and processes for the redevelopment of East 11th and 12th Streets for an initial term of 12 months with five 12-month optional extensions.

Monitor’s Take: At the work session, this item seemed to pique the interest of Council members who sought clarity on what, exactly, the Urban Renewal Board is. (Answer: A group charged with recommending what to do with city properties of which they are stewards on East 11th and 12th streets.) Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, in particular, seemed interested in exploring the idea of getting rid of the agency, and while no decision will be made on that today, she did ask for a more concrete idea of the time and resources the city now dedicates to the board in preparation for a future discussion.

Item 30: Approve a resolution authorizing the negotiation and execution of all documents and instruments necessary or desirable to purchase in fee simple a tract of land totaling approximately 400.44 acres of land in Hays County, located along Bliss Spillar Road off of Dove Drive from River Wild, L.P., a Texas limited partnership, through an assignment of an option for the purchase of real estate assigned by The Nature Conservancy of Texas, Inc. for a total amount not to exceed $9,670,990, including standard and customary closing costs.

Monitor’s Take: Just a note about this move. The city is purchasing this land to preserve and add to the Barton Springs Recharge Zone for the City of Austin Water Quality Protection Lands Program.

Item 67: Approve a resolution directing the City Manager to determine whether custodial, security, call center, landscaping, and other services should be contracted or provided by City employees and directing associated contract and hiring practice changes.

Monitor’s Take: Those curious about this item will find a bounty of information in the 12-page resolution itself. Basically, it revisits the relative cost of hiring contract workers versus city employees for a number of roles. The resolution makes it clear that people who work security at the ARCH downtown should be city employees. For the others, the city manager is asked to reexamine existing policies and practices for contract workers, and research whether those positions could become employee positions (which have better pay and much better benefits) or whether the city could reshape contracts in order to provide more for contractors.

Item 83: Conduct a public hearing and consider an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 (Land Development Code, Chapter 25-10 (Sign Regulations) to provide limited allowances for off-premise signs at Public Primary and Secondary Educational Facilities, and Transit facilities.

Monitor’s Take: When this change was last taken up, it didn’t get a lot of attention (though we, of course, covered it). We hear that the plan to allow signage at schools and bus stops has now gotten the attention of digital billboard supporters and detractors so there might be a rehash of that tired and true fight.

Item 86: Conduct a public hearing to receive public comment on the City of Austin Fiscal Year 2019-2020 Proposed Budget.

Monitor’s Take: As noted in the intro to this TipSheet, this meeting has a budget hearing smack in the middle of it. Here’s an explanation from the mayor. Basically, we expect that the afternoon (between lunch and proclamations) will be taken up with people talking about the budget. Council members will probably get into the weeds after taking the public testimony during their other budget hearings next week. They are scheduled to adopt the budget on Sept. 10 this year.

Item 87: Conduct a public hearing and consider a resolution to adopt the Land Use Assumptions and Roadway Capacity Plan for a Street Impact Fee program.

Monitor’s Take: Street impact fees! If you are one of the few who are passionate about this topic, you are probably up to date on what’s going on. But for the vast majority of humanity, here’s a recap.

Item 94: C14-2018-0026 – E. Riverside Dr. and S. Pleasant Valley Rd. Tract 4 – Approve second and third readings of an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by rezoning property locally known as 1600 Wickersham Lane (Country Club West Watershed). Applicant Request: To rezone from East Riverside Corridor (ERC) district zoning to East Riverside Corridor (ERC) district zoning, to change the subdistrict from neighborhood mixed use (NMU) to corridor mixed use (CMU), with conditions.

Item 95: C14-2018-0027 – E. Riverside Dr. and S. Pleasant Valley Rd. Tracts 3 & 5 – Approve second and third readings of an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by rezoning property locally known as 4700 East Riverside Drive and 1515 Wickersham Lane (Country Club West Watershed). Applicant Request: To rezone from East Riverside Corridor (ERC) district zoning to East Riverside Corridor (ERC) district zoning, to change the subdistrict from neighborhood mixed use (NMU) and urban residential (UR) to corridor mixed use (CMU), with conditions.

Item 96: C14-2018-0028 – E. Riverside Dr. and S. Pleasant Valley Rd. Tracts 1 & 2 – Approve second and third readings of an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by rezoning property locally known as 1109 and 1225 South Pleasant Valley Road (Country Club West Watershed). Applicant Request: To rezone from East Riverside Corridor (ERC) district zoning to East Riverside Corridor (ERC) district zoning, to change the subdistrict from urban residential (UR) to corridor mixed use (CMU), with conditions.

Item 100: C14-97-0010 (RCT) E. Riverside Dr. and S. Pleasant Valley Rd. Tract 4-Conduct a public hearing and approve a restrictive covenant termination on a property locally known as 1600 Wickersham Lane (Country Club West Watershed). Applicant request: To terminate the public restrictive covenant associated with zoning case C14-2018-0026.

Item 101: C14-72-204(RCA5) E. Riverside Dr. and S. Pleasant Valley Rd. Tracts 1-5- Conduct a public hearing and approve a restrictive covenant amendment on a property locally known as 1109 and 1225 South Pleasant Valley Road, 4700 East Riverside Drive, 1515 and 1600 Wickersham Lane (Country Club West Watershed). Applicant request: To amend the public restrictive covenant associated with zoning cases C14-2018-0026, C14-2018-0027, and C14-2018-0028.

Monitor’s Take: Though there were disruptions, arrests (21 protesters have been arrested so far) and lots and lots of cops the last time this case came up, there wasn’t a lot of opposition within the bounds of Robert’s Rules of Order. It’s reasonable to expect more of the same this time around. As for the case itself, Council seemed poised to pass it on all three readings last meeting, and refrained from doing so after a chiding from Council Member Greg Casar, who compared the swift endorsement to the endless hearings surrounding the Grove PUD.

Item 105: C14-2019-0075 – Cannonleague Residences – Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by rezoning property locally known as 6501 and 6503 Cannonleague Drive (Williamson Creek Watershed). Applicant’s Request: To rezone from family residence-neighborhood plan (SF-3-NP) combining district zoning to urban family residence-neighborhood plan (SF-5-NP) combining district zoning.

Monitor’s Take: This case passed with flying colors at the Planning Commission. Commissioners rejected a proposed cap on units in favor of the possibility of more housing. We’ll see how it does at Council, but expect a little more pushback at this venue, and a little more siding with staff.

Item 117: Conduct a public hearing and consider an ordinance amending Title 25 and Title 30 of the Land Development Code relating to approval deadlines and the administration of land development applications as necessary to comply with House Bill 3167 passed in the 86th Texas legislative session, waiving code provisions related to processing land development code amendments; and declaring and emergency.

Monitor’s Take: And finally, Council will address what has been nicknamed the “shot clock bill.” This bill, essentially, asks the city’s planning review staff to speed things up, requiring cities and counties to act within 30 calendar days on subdivision development applications and 15 days on updates to applications, putting the city in a bit of a bind. Read Jo Clifton’s coverage on how the city is hoping to address this challenge.

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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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