Council: Get Your Motors Running

Instrumental Incentives, Rainey Street, and more …

Council: Get Your Motors Running

Thursday's City Council meeting features a relatively light agenda, although Council will consider the National Instruments incentives proposal, moving houses from Rainey Street, and just how much parking should be mandated Downtown.

The headline item on this week’s agenda is likely to be the National Instruments Corp. incentives proposal public hearing (Item 66), briefed last week by the Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services Office (just granted a renewed lease on life by Friday’s presumptive settlement of the Austin Energy rate case). The deal for the Austin-based high-tech company has some unusual wrinkles – not only a performance-based rebate of half the real and personal property taxes over the next decade in return for 1,000 new, high-paying jobs, but under the contract, National will continue or expand its existing science education program with local schools, serving 1,000 students each year. The contract also mandates at least prevailing wages for all workers (including construction), and abides by the other standards currently required by the city’s incentives program.

There was a bit of pushback at last week’s briefing on the proposal –- mostly on the question of out-of-town recruitment, since there aren’t enough unemployed engineers in town to fill the company's dance card. But the issue didn't seem sufficient to scuttle the deal, especially since National is a home-grown success story.

Also nominally on the agenda is the much-debated Barton Springs Grounds Improvement Project, although Item 40 would only set a public hearing (most likely March 28) on the variances proposed to complete the planned changes and upgrades. But Springs enthusiasts have zestfully bird-dogged the process throughout the planning process, and several will be speaking during Citizens Communications to lobby Council against some of the most controversial proposals. (That should at least provide respite from some of the wackier CC regulars.)

Also of note is Item 65, the public hearing on Rainey Street matters, this time an ordinance to make it easier to relocate historic buildings that don’t necessarily fit into the visible future of the bubbling district, which seems to have diverged into two possible variations: high-dollar highrises and polyform saloons. Only last week, Rainey Street received its initial wave of parking meters, and parking regs are also on the agenda; Item 41 returns the discussion of Downtown parking requirements, on second and third readings because Council is split on whether eliminating parking minimums for most new development will make matters better or worse.

The morning briefings feature works-in-progress: recommendations to Council on the Air Quality Program (Item 48) and an update on the revisions to the Comprehensive Land Development Code (Item 49), aka The Neverending Story.

There are no obvious rattlesnakes lurking in the zoning underbrush, although the much postponed East Riverside Corridor re-zoning returns (Items 42-47) for what presumably is some sort of decision; the myriad delays reportedly had to do with backroom disputes over the plan’s treatment of drive-through businesses like banks and fast-food outlets. One day in the distant future, the question of what to do about motor vehicles will no longer dominate discussions of metropolitan land use.

That day, alas, has not yet arrived.

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