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Jo Clifton is the Politics Editor for the Austin Monitor.
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State complex deal may be postponed
Wednesday, June 21, 2017 by Jo Clifton
The Texas Facilities Commission has plans to create a pedestrian-oriented Texas Mall with two new state office buildings, just north of the state Capitol, as part of the Texas Capitol Project Master Plan. It is asking the city to help out in that process by waiving $6.9 million in utility tunnel easement and right-of-way usage fees. In addition, the state is asking the city to vacate and convey to the state some right-of-way at North Congress Avenue and 17th Street. But it’s all moving a little too fast for some members of City Council, including Council Member Ann Kitchen. Council got details on the project at Tuesday’s work session from Rodney Gonzales, director of the Development Services Department. Gonzales noted that the state is asking for an expedited process, including Council approval on Thursday. Kitchen told the Austin Monitor she and perhaps other Council members would be asking for a postponement on Thursday. If the item is postponed, the state can still go forward with its excavations in June but Council would not direct staff to negotiate an interlocal agreement with the facilities commission until August. She said, “I don’t think that two days provides sufficient time for the public to provide us with any feedback they might have. … So normally on projects as large as this we would take more time. We’re being asked to invest well over $6.9 million of the city’s dollars, so I think it’s prudent,” to wait and study the issues. Kitchen said she would be asking for the postponement “whether it was the state or anyone else, I would be asking the same question.”