Council: Where There's Smoke, There's Barbecue

Council takes on barbecue smokers, and smoke gets in their eyes

Fresh from alarming book lovers last week by nearly rejecting a long-term lease*[Correction below] for the Library's nationally acclaimed Recycled Reads bookshop on Burnet Road (see "Council: Committed to Committees," March 31), City Council is today (April 2) threatening to take on a much larger and more entrenched local constituency: barbecue fans. Item 15 on today's 38-Item agenda is a resolution that would begin an ordinance process to "mitigate the effects of smoke emissions from restaurants and mobile food vendors near residentially zoned areas."

Sponsored by District 3 Council Member Sabino "Pio" Renteria – and co-sponsored by Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo (D9), Mayor Steve Adler, and D4 CM Greg Casar – the proposal is an offshoot of a Bouldin Creek neighborhood dispute with Terry Black's Barton Springs Road joint, where, because of the cliffside landscape, the smoker was directly below some residences. But that localized issue (reportedly mostly resolved) has now spread to other neighborhoods and vendors, including Eastside trailers that have set up shop in and around residential neighborhoods.

At Tuesday's work session, Council bristled like folks whose phones have been ringing off the hook, and Renteria was backpedaling about the larger intent of any potential ordinance (still to be drafted) – he now wants all "stakeholders" to come together to come up with a solution. Other CMs were sufficiently spooked to wonder why the resolution hadn't first been vetted by committee (although four CMs can post anything to the agenda) – the discussion quickly devolved into one about just how the new committee structure is supposed to work. In brief, it looks like this proposal isn't quite yet cooked for public consumption, although we can expect some meat mavens to show up today to serve Coun­cil a slice or two of succulent crow. Also on tap today:

Item 4: Would authorize the Circuit Events Local Organizing Committee to act on behalf of the city for the purposes of seeking state money to put on the Summer X-Games through 2017; could be pro forma, or could spark a debate on the city's ongoing relationship with Circuit of the Americas.

Item 5: Austin Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr proposes adding two new division chiefs to oversee "special services," including wildfire, ABIA, hazmat, etc. Some firefighters have objected, and Council didn't seem too keen on the idea last week, when the vote was postponed.

Items 8 & 9: Unrelated, but 8 would fund a staffer for the Asian American Resource Center, and 9 would authorize expenditures for tennis consultants at the Caswell Tennis Center – at work session, some CMs questioned the need for either expenditure.

Item 14: Would put pressure on the city manager to speed and monitor reform of the permitting process – more fallout of the Zucker Report (see "Council: Diminishing Returns," March 13) and its harsh criticism of planning and development processes. (The morning briefing is also on development review, inspections, and permitting.)

Item 26: The return of the mayor/Council additional staffing proposal, returned from the Audit & Finance Committee with recommendation of one additional staff member for each CM, and two for the mayor. At work session, Adler said he needs more, but other members were hesitating over any addition outside the regular budget cycle.

Also: a few zoning cases, an eminent domain decision over expanding parking at the University Hills Library, and a handful of contracts that might get more editing.

It's National Donate Life Month, Public Health Week, Jazz Appreciation Month, and a few other proclamation-worthy occasions. The musical honoree is the spectacular Gina Chavez – save yourself a place.

*Correction: This passage originally reported, in error, that Council had amended the proposed seven-year lease for the Library's Recycled Reads bookstore on Burnet Road to a one-year lease (terms to be negotiated). In fact, the seven-year, $1.2 million lease was approved by a vote of 6-4 (ayes: Tovo, Pool, Garza, Adler, Renteria, and Casar, with Kitchen off the dais).

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City Council 2015, Austin Fire Department, Sabino "Pio" Renteria, Steve Adler, Recycled Reads, Zucker Report

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