Council: Green WTP Redevelopment, and a Few Other Things
APA secures a three-year lease at Town Lake Animal Center
The early draft version of the June 7 City Council meeting agenda looks rather unburdened – a bare 41 items, with none jumping out as likely to be terribly controversial. In part, that may be because at its May 24 meeting, the council kicked enough matters down the road to fill several agendas, including virtually all of the zoning items, and some items – like the public hearing on the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan – that will likely bring out a crowd. Expect a revised and bulging agenda to emerge late this week, when the June 7 meeting becomes a remix of the May 24 meeting, and the June 14 meeting becomes the Greatest Unplayed Hits of June 7. The June 7 meeting also hosts what is scheduled to be the final discussion and the decision on the Austin Energy rate case – if they manage to get anything else done that day, it's gravy.
The comp plan discussion got bumped (to June 14) effectively by the evening debate over the Green Water Treatment Plant redevelopment plan, which took up several hours and rewrote the agreement. (For a detailed report on that debate, see "Then There's This.") Also bumped (to June 7) was the short-term rental discussion, which may be heated, as several neighborhood groups say that while they are friendly to residents' renting out their own homes on an occasional basis, they've dug in their heels to resist the widespread allowance of commercial rental uses in residential areas. According to a letter circulated by Blake Tollett of the West Austin Neighborhood Group, "The best estimate is that there are more than 600 of these commercial STRs (CSTRs) in the City, and we don't think this intense of a commercial residential use is appropriate in our single-family neighborhoods." Commercial use would require an ordinance change – currently the land-use code prohibits residential rentals of less than 10 days.
One thing that did get done last Thursday was a confirmation of the Austin Pets Alive! lease contract on the former Town Lake Animal Center, now extended to three years. That extension stuck in some folks' craws – the Travis County Animal Advocates, a new coalition of smaller rescue groups, argued to hold the agreement to one year to allow closer monitoring. But the agreement had been worked out among staff, APA!, and council members over the course of a couple of weeks, and after extended discussion Council Member Chris Riley pointed out that the agreement contained a 90-day opt-out for either side, that it included the veterinarian standards the groups were requesting, that intake would be restricted to Central Texas animals, and most importantly, that 60 kennels would be reserved for the smaller animal groups to take part in the rescue process. That appeared to persuade the opposition – although it's worth noting that when the new Levander Loop shelter was opened, it was envisioned as the replacement for the old and increasingly decrepit (and flood-prone) TLAC. Now the TLAC has effectively become a satellite adoption center, to be run by APA!.
This week council continued its Austin Energy rate review (during a Tuesday work session), still targeting June 7 as the day of final reckoning. It could be an anti-climax, as voting to lower AE's reserve balance (which council did early on) may well have been the most pragmatic move council could make to soften the inevitable blow of increased rates. Meanwhile, the urban rail discussion continues, and projected budget review is also cranking up – there are three regular meetings remaining in June, before council takes its July hiatus.