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Council: Dem Ol' Railroad Blues

City takes on Project Connect but punts on Auditorium Shores

By Michael King, Fri., Dec. 13, 2013

A City Council meeting tonight with 141 agenda items does not look like a recipe for efficient government – nor for anybody getting home before midnight. (Foolproof cure for insomnia: Channel 6 after 10pm.) Neverthe­less, Council will soldier on, and they've got plenty to attack, based on the listed agenda as well as some hot-button items that struck sparks at Tuesday's work session. The morning briefing (Item 87), for example, is on the Project Connect urban rail plan, paired with a nominal "consent" Item 67 approving the proposed Phase 1 recommendations that came out of the PC working group and the Central Corridor Advisory Group, although here appearing with the bureaucratic boilerplate of being officially a City Manager's recommendation (see "Urban Rail: Which Way to Connect?"). The chances of that passing without a dais discussion – proceeded by public speakers – are nil, and on Tuesday, Council members (over Mayor Lee Leffing­well's objection) made it clear they want to move the whole subject to the evening to allow more public comment – 4pm "time certain," meaning around 7, after the dinner break. (Council also fussed dramatically over City Manager Marc Ott's plan to move the City Auditor's office out of City Hall as 10-1 comes in, but Ott wouldn't budge. That's a management decision, and not on the agenda, but it ain't going away – and may say more about Ott's future than that of the auditor's digs.)

A similar fate is likely in store for Item 33, proposed final approval of the Auditorium Shores improvement project. Since there's been plenty of public woofing over the last several weeks over the proposed shrinking of the off-leash dog park area, we might see an evening discussion (with public comment) but based on Council discussion, the whole can will be kicked down the road until Janu­ary – while the Parks and Rec Depart­ment tries to establish more of a public consensus. (Best of luck!) Word is that the same may be true for public hearing over Item 131, proposed revision of "vested development rights" (grandfathering) ordinance.

Of course, they may never get to those, as Item 32 proposes to approve the installation of parking meters at the Butler Shores Ball Fields on Toomey Road – but PARD has taken a lot of flack over that proposal as well. Depending on Council support, that might also see another day, though it's already been bumped several times.

Overshadowed in these recent headline items are former headline items: Item 28, which would authorize the negotiation and purchase (for up to $18 million) of the 600-acre Jeremiah Venture tract in Hays Coun­ty as water protection lands instead of the treated effluent receptor lands once contemplated by the developers; and Item 70, proposing approval of the 100 or so public and nonprofit sites (a few still jockeying for position) selected to receive Google Fiber high-speed connections.

A newer controversy will also surface: Council has been hearing loudly from Allan­dale residents upset over TxDOT's planned MoPAC soundwall near Bullard Drive that will turn at least some of their home lots into visual handball courts. City authority may not reach very far on that one, but Council would ask (Item 76) staff to investigate the situation, poll the residents, and suggest what might be done to ameliorate the plan.

If they manage all of that, there are several proclamations for retirees, a performance by the Sixth Street Cowboy, and (if it's deemed feasible by staff) potentially $85,000 to help transplant the Big Ol' Heritage Oak at Highway 290 W. and William Cannon. Treehuggers to the rescue!

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