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Whispers

Thursday, April 20, 2017 by Joseph Caterine

Where’s T6?

At the joint work session of the land use commissions on April 18, agent Victoria Haase with Thrower Design spoke for developers everywhere when she raised concerns that the T6 transect, the highest-density category in CodeNEXT, did not appear in the current iteration of the map. “We were led to believe that T6 is what we would see in the downtown area and the urban core area, and we don’t see it at all,” she said. Later in the meeting, consultant John Miki of Opticos Design explained that the CodeNEXT team had decided T6 was not appropriate for downtown because the zoning there was already highly negotiated. However, for other areas that had not been subject to as much planning as downtown, like the South Central Waterfront or even the Domain, there was an “opportunity” to map T6. “Over time, developers might want to change from what they have today in terms of zoning, and we provide options and tools for doing that,” he said. “While today’s map doesn’t have T6, we expect that as we move forward it will be used.”


Thursday, April 20, 2017 by Nina Hernandez

Kealing Middle School turns 30 in style

East Austin’s Kealing Middle School has a long history, and this weekend will bring together its alumni for an event to celebrate that history. The school opened in 1930, closed four decades later due to desegregation and, finally, reopened in the mid-1980s with the addition of a magnet program. It’s a legacy that affects the school to this day. This celebration marks the 30th anniversary since the school school reopened. Former students and their families – the Hornet community – are invited a lunch with games, tours and music on campus. The reopening starts at 10 a.m. at Kealing Middle School.


Thursday, April 20, 2017 by Elizabeth Pagano

But what is Allandale?

On Tuesday, City Council Member Leslie Pool assured her colleagues via the City Council Message Board that a resolution to define the border between Rosedale and Allandale was “a District 7 housekeeping change to sync the neighborhood boundaries with the planning area boundaries.” It all seemed very calm for a day. But Wednesday, a post from Council Member Jimmy Flannigan hinted there might be more to discuss. Flannigan wrote, “I think the planning area boundaries should follow logical planning principles, not just neighborhood association lines. I think it makes much more sense to plan the proposed area with Rosedale and keeping Hancock as the border between areas rather than add that area to Allendale when there is no connectivity between it and the rest of the area. Keeping the planning areas as-is (divided by Hancock) would keep Bull Creek Rd and 45th in the same contiguous planning area, rather than split between two. Is there some pressing need to make this map change now separate from initiating the plan for Rosedale? Couldn’t the map change be made at that time when a more robust conversation about the planning process could be had?” The item will be up for discussion during today’s City Council meeting.


Thursday, April 20, 2017 by Elizabeth Pagano

And now let us celebrate Freak Out Day

After one day of chill, the urbanist group AURA has released a statement on the new CodeNEXT maps, declaring the current plans to have “near fatal flaws.” The April 19 statement reads, in part, “AURA members, along with many other community advocates and Austin taxpayers, are in disbelief that the City of Austin spent $6 million and over two years only to maintain the status quo. The nominal differences between current and future land maps are a slap in the face to the Austinites who have spent hundreds of volunteer hours in the hopes of improving our city.” The full statement is available online here, but the stated concerns roughly boil down to missed opportunities for more housing and density and a concern that the rewrite enshrines some of the more convoluted aspects of the current code, failing to deliver on the promise to make it clearer and more concise.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017 by Elizabeth Pagano

Let Allandale be Allandale

City Council Member Leslie Pool has explained one of the more mysterious items on this week’s Council agenda in an April 18 post on the City Council Message Board. Pool has sponsored a resolution clarifying the boundaries between the Allandale and Rosedale neighborhoods. The reason for the resolution is not, she explained, to make sure that this year’s softball leagues are appropriately formed. Instead, Rosedale is next up for a neighborhood plan, and Pool wants to “make sure the boundaries are clear when Rosedale starts its planning process.” She explained, “In this case, the Rosedale Planning Area would encompass Rosedale, Ridgelea, and Oakmont Heights. My resolution would not change that – it would just fix a discrepancy in the boundaries in order to keep Allandale whole, rather than splitting it up among two different planning areas.”


Wednesday, April 19, 2017 by Nina Hernandez

Well Water Checkup Day is here again

Today, the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District hosts its annual Well Water Checkup event, where well owners can drop off samples for testing and then ask experts about a host of water and environmental issues. It’s an effort on the part of the nice folks at the conservation district to help residents better understand what makes up their groundwater. From 9:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., staff at the district office will “process the nitrate, pH, and salinity analysis” for the first 75 registered residents. A bacterial analysis will be performed in another location, with the results back in a week. The results for the first three screenings will be available tomorrow. The district encourages residents to ask as many questions as possible of the assembled experts, who will include representatives from Texas State University’s Edwards Aquifer Research & Data Center, Balcones Water Well Service and water-treatment supplier Culligan of Austin. The district supplied this list of resources for those unable to participate in the event but are still interested in well water testing. Here’s a link to a handy video explaining how to prepare a sample.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017 by Elizabeth Pagano

Artwork approved for Austin Energy district cooling plant

On Monday evening, the Electric Utility Commission authorized a request to commission artist Beili Liu to develop and install artwork for the Austin Energy District Cooling Plant No. 3 project. This comes after the Arts Commission approved the artist at its May 3 meeting. The project, located on Electric Drive in the Seaholm EcoDistrict, will cost $202,500. According to Jim Collins, director of on-site energy resources at Austin Energy, the project’s funding falls within the Arts in Public Places ordinance, which grants 2 percent of eligible capital budgets for commissioning or purchasing art for a public site. Some commission members, however, questioned whether a cooling facility constitutes a public space and whether it’s appropriate to allocate such funding to it. Collins answered that the artwork would be visible on the north and south sides of the building, allowing for public viewing. The project is expected to be complete by the end of the year.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017 by Elizabeth Pagano

Short-term-rental day at the Capitol

It was a big day for short-term rentals over at the Texas State Capitol Tuesday. The biggest news on regulations came out of the Texas Senate, which approved Senate Bill 451. That bill, written by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills), prevents cities in Texas from banning short-term rentals. It also narrows the scope of allowed city regulations governing short-term rentals to those designed to protect the public’s health and safety. Also yesterday, the Texas House companion bill – House Bill 2551 – was taken up by the Committee on Urban Affairs, where it was still being discussed at the time of publication. Among the speakers on HB 2551 was Austin Mayor Steve Adler, who spoke against it. The Austin City Council passed regulations on short-term rentals in 2015 that would be largely negated by the state action. The Austin regulations are the subject of a lawsuit that Attorney General Ken Paxton joined in 2016.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017 by Elizabeth Pagano

Chill out, we have a CodeNEXT timeline

By way of wishing all of our readers a happy and super-calm CodeNEXT map release day, the Austin Monitor would like to reveal our new CodeNEXT timeline. The tool is intended to be an easy and informative way to track the myriad stories about CodeNEXT past, present and future. Here is the link to the timeline, which we will be adding to over the next year or so, as the draft code is hammered into shape.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017 by Elizabeth Pagano

RECA gets new CEO

Yesterday, the Real Estate Council of Austin announced that it has a new CEO. Effective immediately, Dianne Bangle will be heading the group, managing its operations and overall strategy. According to a press release about the hire, “Bangle joins RECA with more than 15 years of nonprofit and fundraising experience. Most recently, she served as the Executive Director of Development at the University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business, where she oversaw a team of major gift and annual giving officers; created and implemented donor and stewardship strategies; and led capital campaigns and other major projects.” Bangle also served as the executive director for the nonprofit Shoes for Austin for 12 years prior to her work at UT. In that same press release, RECA Board Chair Nick Moulinet explained the move, saying, “The concept of ‘it’ is impossible to describe, but with Dianne, we found it. … She has a wealth of business and management experience, a strong relationship with the Central Texas community and the wisdom needed to guide us through an increasingly complex regional landscape.” Bangle herself said she was excited to get the chance to lead the real estate group, adding, “We have such an important role to play in the ongoing conversation about how we grow as a region, and I am ready to join in and do my part.”


Monday, April 17, 2017 by Nina Hernandez

Provide feedback on Grove at Shoal Creek parks plan

Tired of a brief respite in attending meetings about planned unit developments? Never fear. Next week, the Parks and Recreation Department hosts a community meeting to get feedback on the Grove at Shoal Creek’s Public Parks Master Plan. City Council approved the 76-acre planned unit development in December, requiring just shy of 9 acres in park and open space. The event takes place at 7 p.m. at Bryker Woods Elementary School, 3309 Kerbey Lane. Learn more about the nearly 17-acre signature park and other planned improvements at austintexas.gov/parksatthegrove.


Monday, April 17, 2017 by Nina Hernandez

Austin wins statewide community health contest

Austin won his year’s It’s Time Texas Community Challenge, in which cities, schools and colleges in different population categories compete over a three-month period to become the healthiest. That’s measured in points earned through community events, fitness tracking, making health pledges, and sharing health and fitness photos on social media. Austin ranked first in the metro category with a total of 931 registered users. Organizations and businesses hosted 131 activities, and local schools hosted nearly 100 in that span. Austinites lost 716 pounds and recorded nearly 700,000 minutes of activity. “After many years of friendly competition with our good neighbors in San Antonio, the IT’S TIME TEXAS Community Challenge trophy has been restored to its rightful place in Austin which everyone surely recognizes as its true and proper home,” Mayor Steve Adler said in a statement. “The Community Challenge is proof that when we unite, Austin can accomplish anything.”


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