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Council: Everything Old Is New Again

Council considers the East Riverside Corridor, Downtown Austin, and Barton Springs

By Michael King, Fri., March 29, 2013

Council: Everything Old Is New Again
Photo by John Anderson

There's no obvious new conundrum facing City Council today (March 28) on the relatively brief 57-item agenda. It's the old stuff that may cause problems, including the seemingly eternal return of the East River­side Corridor Regulating Plan (Items 40-44). After an initial approval March 7, the ERCRP has hung fire on second and third readings, reportedly in the hopes of some resolution of the questions addressing drive-through establishments – should they be grandfathered? Can they be regulated? How long can I idle my car before I die of asphyxiation? Those kinds of questions.

At Council's Tuesday work session, members wondered when city staff might make quicker progress on the Downtown Austin Plan – when the ERCRP is completed, was the not entirely joking staff response. Item 31, a proposal from Council Members Laura Morrison and Kathie Tovo, would codify that part of the DAP that addresses the density bonus program – a matter of sharp contention on the dais in a couple of recent zoning cases, in which developers declined to participate in the still-voluntary program as part of a zoning change request (see "Zone Defense," March 22). It's not clear where this proposal stands at the moment – CM Bill Spelman has argued that Council's "discretion" allows it to impose standards (e.g., affordable housing contributions), but thus far the other members have balked.

But they may never get that far, if debate resumes over Item 19 – the proposal to repeal the city's current "project duration/project dormancy" ordinance, which occupied several hours of often heated public discussion last week. I won't rehash all that here (for the gristle, see "Then There's This," p.14), but the public comments are nominally closed, so any fireworks are likely to spark directly on the dais.

Other matters of interest: The first morning briefing is on the progress of the Barton Springs Improvement Project, which has been slowly moving forward despite continuing debate over the more controversial proposals (increased parking, changes to the south grounds); what you don't hear during the briefing will likely be trumpeted during Citizen Communications. (Note: The bypass is repaired, and the pool reopens Saturday morning at 5am.) The 5:30 live music is by country chantoosie Janie Balderas, and don't forget: Next week is National Public Health Week.

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