Council Set to Tackle 'Stealth Dorms' Next Week

No meeting this week, but plenty of contention next week

Council will hear testimony and possibly vote Feb. 13 on proposed occupancy limits for single-family zoned properties.
Council will hear testimony and possibly vote Feb. 13 on proposed occupancy limits for single-family zoned properties. (Courtesy of Stop Stealth Dorms website)

There's no City Council meeting this week, but a draft agenda for the Feb. 13 meeting is already filling up with some potentially contentious items.

One long-simmering controversy in Central Austin is the growing presence of "stealth dorms" in neighborhoods near the UT campus. Parking issues are one chief complaint coming from residents who live in these neighborhoods. A public hearing will precede possible Council action on a proposal to limit occupancy to no more than four unrelated adults in single-family-zoned properties (Item 73). The changes would apply citywide. But such amendments to the ordinance – which currently limits occupancy to six unrelated adults per household – also raises concerns about affordability for tenants in Austin's increasingly out-of-reach rental market. Expect to hear sound arguments from both sides.

The stealth-dorm matter will be preceded by a hearing on a proposal that would allow breweries to sell alcoholic beverages produced onsite for onsite consumption (Item 72).

Council will also consider approving several loans – including a $333,829 business loan to Richard Kooris and Dennis McDan­iel (operating as 11E5 LLC), who aim to renovate existing property at 1100 E. Fifth to create a year-round farmers' market in the Saltillo neighborhood (Item 10). Kooris, a filmmaker, also runs 501 Studios in East Austin.

Other loans would go to Foun­dation Communities (conditional on the award of tax credits by the Texas Department of Hous­ing and Community Affairs) to build two new affordable housing rental projects and to expand an existing multifamily development. Council may also approve a similar housing development loan to DDC Merritt Lakeline Station (Items 15-19).

Council is also set to approve $7.5 million in bonds to acquire a 352-acre site in Hays County for designation as water quality protection land. The acreage along Onion Creek is in the recharge zone and is considered one of the more environmentally sensitive areas of the Edwards Aquifer (Item 20).

Last week ...

As expected, Council approved close to $700,000 in incentives over a 10-year period for Massachusetts-based AthenaHealth to expand its medical presence in Austin, taking up quarters at the decommissioned and redeveloped Seaholm Power Plant on the north shore of Lady Bird Lake. The vote was 5-2 with Council Members Laura Morrison and Kathie Tovo dissenting on grounds that the city shouldn't have to incentivize companies to come here when Austin is already experiencing an economic boom like no other.

Council also gave Little Woodrow's bar on Burnet Road the right to serve alcoholic beverages, despite neighborhood opposition. Morrison, Tovo, and Chris Riley were on the losing end of a 4-3 vote.

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