Activists working against the city's proposed deal with Stratus Properties got a reprieve last week when the City Council delayed a pair of public hearings on the matter. The hearings, originally scheduled for Nov. 2 and Nov. 9, have been postponed until Nov. 30 and Dec. 7. The delay was requested by SOS Alliance Executive Director Bill Bunch, who wrote Mayor Kirk Watson and the members of the City Council on Oct. 25, saying that any proposed settlement should be reviewed by the Planning Commission and relevant neighborhood associations before the issue goes to the council for public comment.
The deal, which could allow Stratus to develop some of its land in the Barton Creek watershed or to take control of part of the land at the former Robert Mueller Airport, has been controversial. If the council approves a proposed settlement with Stratus on its Barton Creek property, the company could be allowed to build 1,400 single-family homes, nearly 5,000 apartments, a new golf course, and 6.5 million square feet of commercial development along the environmentally sensitive creek. On the other hand, if the city traded the land at Mueller for Stratus' in Southwest Austin, residents in the Northeast Austin neighborhoods surrounding Mueller fear that Stratus would fail to abide by zoning restrictions and affordable housing requirements laid out in a master plan for the area, which has not yet been adopted by the city.
Mayor Watson has said the city needs to move forward on the settlement because Stratus has been bolstered by House Bill 1704, a pro-development law that the Texas Legislature re-enacted last year after it was inadvertently repealed in 1997. The city has been fighting Stratus (formerly FM Properties, which used to be the real estate subsidiary of Freeport-McMoran) for more than 10 years. Stay tuned.