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Point Austin: Beside the Point

The long hot summer

By Michael King, Fri., July 8, 2005

The next City Council meeting isn't until July 28, but there's plenty left over to contemplate in the meantime. It's budget time, and much of the late summertime will be devoted to juggling the numbers (of which more later). Meanwhile, the citizens' bond committees have been meeting and will begin to have specific proposals on the bond estimates first presented by staff some weeks ago. We will ponder those as well, in due course.

The next agenda hasn't been posted yet, but tentatively scheduled for discussion at the July 28 meeting will be the hiring of an outside consultant planning team for the planned overhaul of the city's land development code – a protracted process last accomplished in full 20 years ago and likely to be both a highly technical and massively emotional war game among developers, neighborhood associations, business people, environmental activists, and many other interested parties. According to a city staff presentation delivered to the Austin Neighborhoods Council June 22, the three consulting teams contending for the job of rewriting the code are the Austin/Berkeley team of Jim Duncan Associates/Calthorpe; Denver-based Clarion Associates; and the Miami/Austin team of Duany Plater-Zyberk/Gateway Planning. The Duncan/Calthorpe group reportedly has a leg up because of its specific experience in code revision, but council is expected to ask for presentations from all three teams before making a selection. Once a team is selected and a contract negotiated (to be funded from Cap Metro money earmarked for planning), the rewrite process, including public hearings, advisory committees, and boards-and-commissions input, is expected to require 18 months to two years. The city plans to incorporate and make consistent incremental changes that have occurred over the years, as well as responding to current initiatives like the commercial design standards, transit-oriented development, and broader goals like those developed through the Envision Central Texas process.

Other matters still pending before council include the tollway contracts that were postponed June 23 amidst much debate on whether approving them would commit the city to tolling currently free roads (staff says no, toll opponents smell a rat), and long-term plans for city involvement in development along SH 130 – where planning staff is determining where best to request annexation of county lands. A darker shadow looming is whether there will be any official council response in the aftermath of the Austin Police Department shooting of Daniel Rocha, unlikely to fade any time soon.

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