The Austin Chronicle

City Council: Park It Here

By Michael King, March 18, 2013, 4:36pm, Newsdesk

You might want to begin prepping for this week’s City Council meeting with featured musician Susan Arbuckle’s “Everything She Needs”; by the middle of the 70-Item agenda, you may well find yourself singing ruefully, “So Much More to Come.”

Although it’s listed as a consent matter, Item 22 may well raise some renewed sparks, as it concerns the city’s Project Duration/Project Dormancy ordinance; the Attorney General recently opined that the ordinance -- which would kill certain development projects when their city permits have expired -- violates state law on vested rights. City Legal has accordingly drafted a rewrite that would conform city code to the state law, but it sets off Austinites’ allergies to grandfathering. Council delayed the change from an earlier meeting, but they may have no choice but comply, if obstreperously.

The Austin Energy governance issue is still simmering: There’s no action item pending immediately, but Council Members Laura Morrison and Kathie Tovo will propose a resolution (Item 41) to ask the City Manager for a state and national comparison of the relative performances of utilities with and without independent governing boards; several advocates have also signed up to testify on the subject during Citizens Communications (matters of actual substance, for a change!)

There’s plenty of parking to be contemplated: Second and third readings (Item 49) of the Downtown Parking Ordinance revisions, which would enter the Brave New World of repealing minimum parking requirements (with exceptions for bicycles and disability parking); a public hearing on revised bicycle parking regs is also nominally on the agenda (Item 67), following the Bicycle Program staff’s recommendations – but staff has asked for a month’s delay to fine-tune the revisions, so anticipate punting; and the first morning briefing (Item 51) features the Parking Reduction Incentive Pilot Program, followed conveniently (52) by the Air Quality Program Recommendations.

Thursday’s wild card is likely Item 44, a proposal by Tovo and Morrison to codify into ordinance the Downtown Density Bonus Plan, adopted in 2011 as part of the Downtown Austin Plan but not yet codified into ordinance, and therefore developers on some Downtown projects have been sidestepping the potential incentives (especially for affordable housing contributions). Council has been split on the issue, related to its debate over “contract zoning.” We might know more about how the proposal will play after Tuesday’s work session; for an update on contract zoning, see this week’s Chronicle.

If all that’s not enough – along with a proclamation in support of April as “Safe Digging Month” (Know What’s Below!) – there’s a scheduled ceremonial farewell for longtime Austin TV newsman Ron Oliveira, let go recently by KEYE. Ronnie, we hardly knew ye! Well, not really.

Many happy returns of the day!

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