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Council: Time for a Beer

A short but packed agenda for this week's Council

By Michael King, Fri., Feb. 1, 2013

The south side of the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail
The south side of the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail
Photo by Jana Birchum

At 69 items, it's not an unusually daunting agenda for City Council's final January meeting (Thursday, Jan. 31). But there are several items already raising eyebrows (and we don't mean conspiracy and fluoride during Citizens Communications). Generating the most controversy in advance of the meeting is a proposal (Item 29) from Council Member Bill Spelman (with Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole) to reverse the ban on ­registered lobbyists serving on the newly formed Land Development Code advisory group, under the argument that some may have "particular expertise" and would make the group more inclusive of all stakeholders. Tuesday's work session suggested that at least CMs Laura Morrison and Kathie Tovo object to the idea; whether they can swing two more of their colleagues against it is another matter. (See "Then There's This" for more.)

Council also still seems split on whether to try CM Chris Riley's proposal (Item 28) to open (as a pilot program) three hike-and-bike trails to 24-hour use; what initially appeared a fairly innocuous idea has met objections on potential cost and liability, with staff suggesting that adding police officers and park rangers might cost as much as $3.7 million. Riley bristled at those estimates, and CM Mike Martinez asked if the pilot couldn't be tried without the additional staff, suggesting a similar idea had worked well in Denver. Riley's co-sponsors are Cole and Tovo, so even if the money's not there, the votes may be.

Also simmering is the potential role of the city in the planning and redevelopment of the Capitol complex and other local state properties; Cole had earlier proposed the city take a more direct role in working on that effort with the Texas Facilities Commission. That project was put on the back burner by the state Sunset Commission (pending session legislation), and Martinez (co-sponsored by Morrison) is proposing (Item 33) that the money allocated for that purpose be redirected to Austin Energy's low-income weatherization program. For more, see "State & City Redevelopment? Hold That Thought ...," Newsdesk, Dec. 7, 2012.

On zoning matters, both the proposed Little Woodrow's for North Burnet ("Council Preview: A Bar on Burnet?!?," Jan. 11; Item 51, public hearing closed) and the Austin Hotel for North Congress Avenue (Item 61, now burdened by a valid opposing petition; see "Hotel Project Sparks Downtown Skirmish," Jan. 17) return to the agenda. And a couple of items (38, 67) address the vexed question of how to regulate (or not) outdoor assemblies and amphitheatres, especially for "religious" uses (see "Disquiet Over Amphitheatres").

In other words, plenty to pray over. At 5:30, you can break for an adult beverage with What Made Milwaukee Famous.

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