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Elizabeth Pagano is the editor of the Austin Monitor.
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Spelman weighs in on Council agenda items
Thursday, November 20, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano
City Council Member Bill Spelman, who is considered the swing vote on several hot items coming before Council today, acknowledged his positions on CodeNEXT, the St. Elmo zoning decision and Decker Lake Golf. On St. Elmo, he said, “I’ll be voting yes, but I think there could be some amendments that I’ll be voting yes or no on … I think the St. Elmo development is a good development and it ought to go forward.” As for the rewrite of the Land Development Code, he said with great understatement, “It will be a little complicated.” He described the differences between two scenarios presented by city contractor Opticos, one favored generally by nondevelopers and the other by real estate interests. He said the difference between the two options is largely symbolic, and he believes Council can arrive at a good solution for both sides. It’s a scope of work for a contract, Spelman said. He said he believes the city needs a complete makeover of the code: “It’s just a matter of how we proceed and who does what.” He said he favors letting city staff do more of the work because they will be in charge of enforcing, interpreting and amending it, and they will need to know more about it than they would if Opticos rewrites the whole thing alone. Another item set to attract a lot of attention is the decision about awarding a contract for turning 718 acres of the Walter E. Long Park at Decker Lake into a golf course. Spelman said, “It has been on the books to be a golf course for a long time. We didn’t have the money to develop it as a golf course for a long time; we had higher priorities. We didn’t have a need for another golf course for a long time.” That may have changed with the closing of the Lions’ municipal golf course. Said Spelman: “There will be some value in having another golf course. As the hospitality community has told us, there is tremendous value for them in having a relatively high end golf course.” He noted that Austin residents would be able to play at the course for a substantial discount, and that “it’s something we’ve wanted to do since 1968.” He added that he wasn’t sure it was the best financial deal the city could make, but Parks Director Sara Hensley believes it is good. Spelman added: “It will allow the city to use 700 acres of parkland that is currently not being used.” There will no doubt be considerable testimony about the contract, with Brian Rodgers of ChangeAustin.org leading the charge against it. Rodgers argues that the city should find another way to finance its parks and that another golf course is an unwise use of water, among other things.
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