Council: Call It Spring Break

Leffingwell's absence makes for a very short meeting

With SXSW looming and Mayor Lee Lef­fing­well having hopped the initial Dreamliner redeye to London last Monday, last Thurs­day's City Council meeting was among the most perfunctory in recent memory, actually adjourning in pre-DST daylight at 5:25pm, before the music and proclamations made their honorary appearances. The day was not without its accomplishments, although certain vexed questions were, as anticipated, punted down the road.

At the mayor's earlier request, and after some consternation over the projected numbers in Tuesday's work session, a proposal to raise the residential property tax exemption for the disabled and those 65 or older (Item 4) was postponed to March 20.

The setting of a couple of public hearings on expanding environmental protections along Lake Austin (Items 27 and 28) were postponed to March 20; the hearings themselves will probably take place in April.

All three scheduled 4pm public hearings were postponed: a review of vested development rights (i.e., grandfathering), until April 10; a floodplain variance on Jim Hogg Avenue, until March 20; and most interesting, the hearing on the proposed master plan for Festival Beach/Fiesta Gardens – delayed until the evening of May 22; apparently quite a few neighborhood folks and associations want to weigh in on the 99 acres of potential parkland.

Council did get a few things accomplished on this abbreviated day, notably a resolution to "research the feasibility" of Austin's attracting a Major League Soccer franchise – thereby mainly triggering the public media discussion, which at the moment is focused on potential stadium locations. It'll be a while for that conversation to percolate. And they created a "Generation Resource Planning Task Force" to gather input from the usual renewable energy advocates along with big users.

Perhaps the most substantive action was Item 12, the approval of the "Urban Forest Plan: A Master Plan for Public Properties," after some sharp criticism by tree advocates who believe the plan is insufficiently "data-driven" and doesn't pay enough attention to the entire "tree canopy," including on private lands. Staff and Council members talked over plans to gather additional data (and legal counsel) on the latter issue. This was described as a first step in "a long process" to get the city's arms around the whole question of urban trees, while the ongoing drought continues its deadly work. Staff set an "ambitious" 18-month goal to return to Council with the next stage of research.

Looking forward: The thus-far 76-item draft agenda for March 20 will return to both that property tax exemption matter and the residential, four-person "occupancy limit" that caused so much heartburn at the Feb. 13 meeting. The public hearing is closed, but the wounds remain open.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More News
An 'Open' Search for AISD Chief
An 'Open' Search for AISD Chief
Timetable to allow stakeholder input

Richard Whittaker, July 4, 2014

AE's Solar Deal: 'Game Changer'
AE's Solar Deal: 'Game Changer'
Recurrent Energy price could lower energy rates

Nora Ankrum, July 4, 2014

More by Michael King
Dana DeBeauvoir Fought for Election Access in a Year of Barriers
Dana DeBeauvoir Fought for Election Access in a Year of Barriers

Nov. 27, 2020

Texas Book Festival 2020: Isabel Wilkerson on <i>Caste</i>
Texas Book Festival 2020: Isabel Wilkerson on Caste
Festival talk highlights structural foundations of U.S. divisions

Nov. 17, 2020


News, Lee Leffingwell, Lake Austin, Festival Beach / Fiesta Gardens, Major League Soccer, Urban Forest Plan, stealth dorms

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle