Council: Zoned Out

Arguing about zoning

Photo by Jana Birchum

There are no less than 28 zoning cases on the City Council agenda today (June 11), the latest fruit of Council's policy to segregate zoning matters into their own meetings. Some of these are likely to be contentious, including Item 43, the Bluebon­net Hills Historic Landmark District case. This is in Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo's District 9, but the landmark case was already a bone of contention in an earlier meeting, concerning D6 CM Don Zimmer­man's appointee to the Historic Landmark Commission – Arif Panju, who lives in Blue­bonnet Hills and disagrees with the neighborhood association over the issue. So even though it arrives with positive recommendations from staff, the Planning Commission, and the Historic Landmark Commission, it may not go smoothly.

There are several other items that bear watching, including Item 23, the Cameron Apartments (9201 Cameron), where the Zoning and Platting Commission and the staff split on their recommendations. While a few cases are certain to get punted to another day, among the 28 are bound to be a few land mines, and consider the arithmetic: Even if they're cut to say, 20 cases, requiring perhaps 15 (conservative) minutes each, we're talking five hours in Council time.

But that's not all, of course. CM Zimmer­man has raised questions about an ABIA terminal management lease (Item 2), so that disquisition may gobble some time. A flooded house buyout in Barrington Oaks (Item 4) that Council postponed in April returns – it's not clear whether the absence of a "citywide policy" on buyouts (quibbled at the June 4 meeting) will scupper the purchase again. There are a couple of afternoon public hearings on the agenda: a neighborhood appeal (Item 49) of a waterfront variance granted to a hotel project at Red Bluff (Mayor Steve Adler had earlier suggested a possible workaround involving moving a city road); and a couple of administrative hearings (Item 50) required by the U.S. Department of Hous­ing and Urban Development and another by state law (expect to hear CM Zimmerman expound on the horrors of HUD).

There are also a handful of Council items that will need airtime. Item 8 would authorize payment of some of the costs associated with an April 18 Capitol rally to commemorate the Armenian genocide. MPT Tovo is sponsoring a resolution to create a city-county working group to move forward on a "sobriety center" as an alternative to booking every public intoxication arrest – that's an initiative of the previous Coun­cil, and it's not clear yet whether this one will follow suit. As promised, D4 CM Greg Casar is sponsoring a resolution to budget funding to benefit lower-income Aus­tin­ites (prompted by last week's homestead exemption for homeowners; see budget feature, p.22) – we'll see if there's money left over for that. D8 CM Ellen Trox­clair and four colleagues want to defund $3.2 million budgeted for "non-sworn" (i.e., not public safety) positions that have been "vacant" for more than 12 months (although they may have temporary occupants); she also wants to freeze at 2015 levels the taxable value of homesteads owned by seniors or people with disabilities – the draft "resolution" (which should likely be an ordinance) does not mention the ability to pay or mention any cap on the value of the homestead, and some are proposing a raise in the over-65 homestead exemption as a fairer alternative.

The morning briefing is on "The Grove at Shoal Creek" PUD (the private development at 45th and Bull Creek Road, formerly state land). There are no proclamations or musical honorees, so noontime Citizen Com­mun­ications will have to provide the liveliest entertainment.

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City Council, Bluebonnet Hills, Arif Panju, Kathie Tovo, Don Zimmerman

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