Beside the Point

Return of the Butt-Numbathon

You've got to admire their tenacity: After doing without a regular meeting for three weeks, what's planted smack dab in the middle of today's City Council agenda? A resolution canceling the Oct. 26 meeting. Maybe they know something we don't. Or just maybe, with their meetings inching indeterminably longer and longer on Will Wynn's watch, they've developed some sort of superhuman endurance, leaping all zoning ordinances and restrictive covenants in a single bound. Or perhaps City Manager Toby Futrell took their car keys for safekeeping.

Whatever the reasoning, today's meeting is notable for its breadth, if not depth, only obliquely touching the issues crowding council's fall agenda – like the continuing Cortaña Tract follies. The public hearing on siting Water Treatment Plant No. 4 on the Cortaña site is scheduled for 6pm; looking back, the city's insistence that today, Sept. 28, was to be the county's absolute last day to acquiesce to official Austin's superior wisdom is even stranger than it seemed when the bluff first appeared (the county didn't blink, scheduling its own WTP 4 hearing for Oct. 4).

Lee Leffingwell's accompanying water-conservation report-in-progress is revisited (Item 71), granting the appointed committee a 30-day extension, now in four months. Council's also moving toward a new cab company; the uneasiness over selecting a new taxi franchise via lottery is addressed at Item 40, with formal selection criteria hammered out by Public Works and the Urban Transportation Commission.

Other threads entangling council for months finally unravel today: The mobile-food ordinance (i.e., the taco-stand amendment) is up for passage on second and third reading (Item 20), with an extension of the interim ordinance also announced in case disagreement tips the cart (Item 21). Miraculously, council looks ready to close on the McMansion ordinance, also on second and third (Item 22). Aside from settling arguments over height measurements, permits, and other design commission concerns, the ordinance allows Denver-based Clarion Associates (last seen channeling mixed-use commercial design standards into a pretty, picture-laden book) to do the same for these oft-convoluted McMansion rules. Two items additionally address the development deluge: Item 72 would direct Futrell to work with the design commission in revising Downtown Design Guidelines, while Betty Dunkerley's Item 70 implements accountability guidelines for the affordable-housing funds in the November bond election.

Speaking of money, council drops a bundle this week. A mere $6.5 million is dedicated toward building the Gustavo "Gus" L. Garcia Recreation Center (Item 32). The 19,000-square-foot center in Northeast Austin sees groundbreaking in October, scheduled for completion in a year. The city's also set to shell out $4.5 million for water-utility-related relocations at the Seaholm Redevelopment site (Item 12); they stand to recoup a whopping $11,000 by selling a small, long-owned (ca. 1958) parcel of city property to the Spring Condos group for their Third and Lamar site (Item 25). Rounding out the festivities are a cluster of possibly contentious zoning cases: the East Riverside/Oltorf Combined Neighborhood Plan (Item 103); creating Neighborhood Plan Combining Districts for Parker Lane, Pleasant Valley, and Riverside (Items 104-106); and a zoning tweak for the massive Domain development out North MoPac way (Item 95).

Which occasions our first question for the holiday season: Who wouldn't want to live above a Neiman Marcus?

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