Naked City

This Week in Council ...

In addition to deciding whether to borrow $3.57 million to pay the city's homeland-security bill (see "City Faces Tax Debt," at left) and whether to put single-member districts on the May 4 ballot (see "Chartering a Course," p.24), the City Council faces a full plate this week:

The controversial supply contract with Rainbow Materials -- cited for dumping concrete into the Colorado River -- is back on the agenda, to the chagrin of environmentalists who oppose new dealings between the city and the company. Also on the contracting front, council will discuss in executive session "legal issues related to rejecting bids based on contractor performance or non-compliance with other city concerns." This presumably relates not only to Rainbow but to last week's council rejection of Cadence McShane's $14.3 million bid to build the new Central East police substation and forensics lab on Springdale Road. That bid got trashed after complaints about Cadence's "terrible" performance finding minority subcontractors.

Council will also try for the third time to allocate $925,000 (in leftover matching funds for a federal transportation grant Austin didn't receive) to help fund the Central Texas Regional Visioning Project planning effort. Last week's vote was shelved after Mayor Gus Garcia -- who's an incorporating officer of the nonprofit RVP corporation -- raised questions about whether he could legally sponsor the item. The answer is no, so the sole sponsor is now Will Wynn, the council's designated planning head.

Barring a last-minute postponement, Stratus Properties' controversial zoning request for its Bear Creek development is slated for a 4pm public hearing. Stratus seeks a zoning change from Rural Residential to Planned Unit Development, or PUD, for a large, suburban-style project straddling Travis and Hays county lines, near the intersection of SH 45 and FM 1826. The Zoning and Platting Commission narrowly approved Stratus' request, but neighborhood and environmental groups are fighting the zoning on traffic safety and density grounds. They want council to retain the Rural Residential zoning (limiting the development to no more than one unit per acre). And they want Stratus to design its development to direct all PUD traffic onto the four-lane SH 45, rather than the two-lane FM 1826 -- considered one of Hays County's most dangerous roadways, given the number of developments that have sprung up in the area.

Council has postponed the second reading of a request to grant super-dense, MF-6 zoning to the developers of the Villas on Guadalupe, a 163-unit student housing complex and parking garage proposed between the Drag and Hemphill Park. Concerned about traffic, aesthetics, and the future of their neighborhood, the North University Neighborhood Association has pressured council to approve a less dense zoning designation for the Villas. The University Area Partners "neighborhood association" -- in whose territory the Villas would sit -- support the project's current dimensions.

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