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Council finally OKs adding environmental rules

Tuesday, June 14, 2022 by Jo Clifton

After multiple amendments and a considerable amount of haggling on the dais Thursday night, City Council unanimously approved directing staff to bring back an ordinance to tighten up environmental regulations. Speakers in favor of Council Member Kathie Tovo’s proposal to require that redevelopment projects meet full detention requirements, among other things, outnumbered those opposed. Luke Metzger of Environment Texas told Council that flooding is only going to get worse with climate change, as is the urban heat island effect with more and more concrete. “So, as we densify and we do need to densify because sprawl is perhaps our biggest environmental crisis as we densify, we need to make sure we’re mitigating some of those impacts, and item 61 is a critical measure to help make sure we reduce the impacts of stormwater runoff, help clean up our creeks, help reduce flooding, add more nature to our cities so that we can have both a natural city and healthier water.”

But several Council members expressed concern about the negative impact changes might have on future housing. Mayor Steve Adler and Council members Paige Ellis and Natasha Harper-Madison offered an amendment directing the city manager to look at ways to offset any impact on affordability and capacity of stricter regulations. Council Member Chito Vela offered an amendment telling staff not to disincentivize small-scale, “missing middle” housing projects through restrictions on impervious cover. In the end, Tovo thanked her staff as well as city environmental staff. Despite the emphasis on home construction, Tovo said, the new regulations would make sure the city is on top of industries with potential risks for polluting. She added that when there are levels of E. coli noted in creeks, the environmental staff needs to speed up communication with Austin Water so they can fix their pipes more quickly.

This whisper has been changed since publication to clarify the scope of the new regulations.

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