Council: If This Is Thursday, the Public Hearing Is Closed
Short-term rentals may cause quite a stir at today's City Council meeting
Last week, we might have guessed geographic districting – 10-1 vs. 8-2-1 – was going to raise the most sand in today's City Council meeting (Thursday, Aug. 2). In theory, this meeting should schedule fall's charter election and settle the ballot language (Items 13 and 15); last week, the City Clerk confirmed sufficient petition signatures gathered by Austinites for Geographic Representation for 10-1, already on the ballot through earlier council action. But AGR supporters say they will also push to keep the competing, 8-2-1 proposal (scheduled for second and third readings), off the ballot. (See "No Doldrums Here: Council Rumbles Into August," and "Point Austin: The Usual Suspects," July 27).
As we go to press, districting may turn out to be a teapot tempest compared to short-term rentals, currently the subject of two flatly contradictory items (84 & 122) on the official agenda. The first calls for a public hearing, the latter (a late addendum) declares the public hearing closed and a vote due on second and third readings. Late last week, staff first determined that the initial June 7 hearing had not been properly publicly noticed in advance and would have to be reset for later this month – today's agenda was amended accordingly. A few hours later, the original notice was found – ergo Item 122, closing the public hearing. The opponents are not amused.
Dueling op-eds appeared in Monday morning's Statesman – Council Member Chris Riley defended the proposed ordinance ("Reasonable regulations would protect our neighborhoods"); members Laura Morrison and Kathie Tovo reiterated their earlier op-ed saying commercial short-term rentals pose a threat to city-center neighborhoods ("This type of commercial enterprise is not permitted within residential zoning and should not be allowed"). Opponents rallied Monday on City Hall plaza, while HomeAway hosted a media-op defending CSTRs.
So while the hearing may be closed (or not), expect the meeting room to be packed and the discussion prolonged, while Tovo and Morrison pepper their colleagues with potential amendments, or move to delay.
Then again, it may take a while to get to that particular vexed subject, as Austin Water is scheduled to present its latest conservation plan (Items 10-12), and there are plenty of folks ready to argue that the plan doesn't hold water (see "Then There's This: No Drought Here," July 27). Also on the agenda is the first formal public discussion of the proposed November bond package (Item 117), when we get to hear council and public priorities. Just before that (Item 116), is an appeal of the outdoor music permit granted to Home Slice Pizza on South Congress – it could well be the opening shot fired in the next SoCo neighborhood war.
City Manager Marc Ott's annual job evaluation will take place Thursday as well, in closed-door executive session.
All in all, more fun than a barrel of zoning cases.
The entire City Council agenda is posted on the city's website, at www.austintexas.gov/department/city-council/council-meetings.