Council: Down by Lady Bird

City Council returns with a less imposing agenda

Fresh from a contentious, exhausting – and still unconfirmed – decision on occupancy limits in certain residential neighborhoods (aka "stealth dorms"; see "Point Austin," Feb. 21), and a less heated debate but split vote on economic incentives for high-tech firms Websense and Dropbox ("Split Council Approves Incentives," Newsdesk, Feb. 24), today's City Council meeting faces a less imposing agenda (a mere 76 Items). One that was very likely to involve at least some head-banging – a proposed settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice over hiring practices at the Austin Fire Department (dubiously listed on consent at Item 12) – has already been marked for at least a week's postponement and, with mediation stirring in the background (see "AFD: Smoke or Fire"), possibly more delay.

There remains plenty to argue over. Already raising online hackles is a proposal (Items 15 and 73) to allow the Radisson Hotel to build a restaurant deck and public terrace on parkland overlooking Lady Bird Lake. (Depend­ing on your perspective, it's either a great public amenity or one more invasive commercial encroachment on The Com­mons: To the pitchforks!) Probably less contentious but more complicated will be Item 75, a public hearing on the "Master Plan for Holly Shores/Edward Rendon Sr. Park at Festival Beach," addressing nearly 100 acres also along the Lake, from I-35 eastward.

Before they get to that, Items 68-71 are hearings concerning bond financing of four proposed housing projects – three in South Austin and one at Parmer Lane – that would add more than 900 affordable housing units, pending the city's application to the state Department of Housing and Com­mun­ity Affairs for the tax-exempt bonds to help underwrite the projects, potential fruits of the city's affordable housing efforts. They're not likely to raise much opposition – unless somebody wants to object to the developer's faux French "Pointe at Ben White."

Also scheduled: second and third readings of the revised Density Bonus Program for the Rainey Street Neighborhood (Item 54); the public hearing is closed, and we can only hope that this version will persuade at least some developers to actually use the program.

Council member proposals include the creation of a "Distracted Driver Study Group" (Item 45), presumably a spin-off of the earlier ban on text-messaging while driving – with said group to bring back recommendations this summer. And we're about to embark on a "Sister City" relationship with the London Borough of Hackney; informed of this prospect, the Chronicle News Staff Englishman lamented, "That's the saddest thing I've ever heard." Pending a visit to Sutton House, we defer judgment.

The morning briefings are on "Human Capital Management" (e.g., buy cheap and pay less) and the Urban Forestry Plan (just in time for spring budding), and the musical honorees are the local rockabilly wonders, Ruby Dee & the Snakehandlers, who will presumably check their reptiles, but not their rhythms, at the City Hall door.

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News, U.S. Department of Justice, Austin Fire Department, Butler Park, Lady Bird Lake, Festival Beach, Austin Parks Department, affordable housing, Density Bonus Program, Rainey Street Neighborhood, stealth dorms, Radisson Hotel

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