The Austin Chronicle

Council: In the Zone

A full zoning meeting, with a few other wrinkles

By Michael King, May 15, 2015, News

Today's City Council meeting (May 14) is devoted almost entirely to 20 or so zoning cases, most with public hearings still open, so depending on degree of difficulty, it will be a test of the new Council's ability to plow through these by the dozen in a single meeting. They reviewed a few with staff in Tues­day's work session without obvious consensus, so much may depend on the advocates' cases in today's hearings. Zoning disputes tend to be very intense and very narrow, focused in particular neighborhoods and remote to nearly everyone else. A few appear to be ripe for disputation:

Items 7 and 8: a request for mixed use/office on a Crestview/Wooten tract currently designated civic/multifamily; it passed narrowly, on first reading only, with the previous Council, so it may fester on the dais today.

Items 11 and 12: a large tract on East 15th (Swede Hill) to change from residential to mixed use; staff and Planning Commis­sion made opposite recommendations.

Item 13: the 9201 Cameron Road tract, currently limited industrial, requesting commercial services/mixed use; staff and Zoning and Platting Commission made conflicting recommendations.

And there are plenty more eye-glazing cases in the queue, likely to test Council time and patience, including a Daniel Llanes appeal (Item 30) of an earlier Planning Com­mis­sion decision to allow a variance in the Eastside Waterfront Overlay at Red Bluff, over which some neighbors are highly exercised.

There are also a couple of nonzoning matters on the docket: second and third readings of the Ace Salvage Yard "impervious cover transfer agreement" on Spicewood Springs Road, returning for closer scrutiny (Item 2); plus more board and commission appointments (historically perfunctory, but not with this Council so far).

A seemingly noncontroversial resolution (Item 4) from D7 Council Member Leslie Pool would direct staff to incorporate milkweed into the city's garden portfolio (as part of a nationwide effort to restore endangered Monarch butterfly food sources). It took some heat on cost at work session (unless Council wishes to stop planting altogether, once established, milkweed takes care of itself).

And returning from the Health and Human Services Committee is a proposal (Item 6) to add Applied Behavioral Analysis benefits (reported to be a successful treatment for autism) to the city's health insurance package; staff is still confirming the potential costs, and at work session, a couple of members were hesitant.

Also worth noting this week: the Econom­ic Opportunity Committee voted against pursuing a proposed ordinance to regulate barbecue restaurant smokers, and recommended that the Decker Lake golf course proposal include greater benefits for the neighborhood and the city – so that project apparently remains in the running for full Council support.

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