Council: Short-Term Rentals, Long-Term Meeting

After clearing the budget hurdle, Council is back to the grind

After its summer-long sojourn in Budget­an­i­stan, City Council returns to more mundane duties this week, including the usual pileup of zoning proposals – no less than 30 – as well as a brace of annexations. The largest of these is of the long-beleaguered Wildhorse Ranch acreage – 2,380 acres of ongoing legal troubles at the intersection of US 130 and 290 East. (It's unlikely we'll hear more stories about Russian mob Ponzi schemes, but one can always hope.) The Goodnight Ranch tract near East Slaughter Lane is on that list, as is the Morse tract at 290 East and Ed Bluestein Blvd. (isn't that already in Austin by now?)

If annexation doesn't get your acquisitive blood moving, no doubt the return of the short-term rental regulations (Item 144) should do it. Staff has been banging away on this subject for quite a while, and while it's certain they've not answered every objection, from the discussion at Council's Tuesday's work session, it seems conceivable that the revised regs will meet with majority approval – always pending public feedback, of course. That little pied-à-terre for hire you've cobbled together off the alley should escape city scrutiny until after next month's ACL Festival checks have cleared – after that, watch out for Code Compliance. Similarly contentious are the Rental Registration ordinances which come up as Items 11 & 12; tenants' rights advocates have been pushing these for a long time, but there's still strong opposition among property owners and landlords.

Council will approve, likely pro forma, a newly negotiated contract with the Austin/Travis County Emergency Med­ical Ser­vices Employees Association, as it came in within the budget estimates already ratified earlier this month. (Still waiting, alas, on the AFD.) The budget decisions also defunded the police overtime used to patrol the pilot program allowing overnight use of several trails for bicyclists; Mayor Lee Leffing­well and Council Member Kathie Tovo have proposed repealing the program altogether, although the name of CM Chris Riley (who sponsored the original program) is conspicuously absent – since he argued from the beginning that the police overtime was superfluous, he may have more to say on the matter.

Other proposals from Council include an online message board for members (because the county attorney says they shouldn't exchange a thought unless we can overhear it); a request for a report on special events costs by Nov. 1 (an ordinance is already in the works); and a move to create a "Commission on Seniors" and to increase property tax exemptions for seniors (and the disabled). Item 77 addresses a Highland neighborhood issue over a shared ballfield and/or park; the city manager is asked to look into it and report back Oct. 24. (See "Park, Pond, or Ballfield?".)

At 149 agenda items, there's plenty more where that came from, including proclamations: It's Mental Health Aware­ness Month and Jim Swift Day (no relation). The musical honoree is the Hot Texas Swing Band, to which one can only say: "'Bout Time!"

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