Public Notice: It Doesn't Get Easier
Council gets no rest after marathon budget sessions
It's all budget all the time this week down at City Hall; I inherited this space when Michael King's "Point Austin" grew into the feature story that starts on the next page, and as we go to press, Council is still hunkered down, plowing through the numbers. Assuming they work through the night, though, and do their constitutional duty by coming up with a City of Austin Fiscal Year 2016 Budget by midnight Thursday, the world will start turning again on Friday morning, and a myriad of postponed issues will start pressing in again from various sides.
That may start as soon as Saturday morning, with the Spirit of East Austin Community Forum at the Expo Center (see "Civics 101," Sept. 11), because District 1 CM Ora Houston is itching to see some action toward economic development on the Eastside, and may want to collect some ideas to bring to the Council Economic Opportunity Committee she vice-chairs. But where the pressure is really going to mount is at the Planning and Neighborhoods Committee's special-called meeting at 1pm, Tuesday, Sept. 15, called specifically to consider regulations on short-term rentals. When last we saw them, Council passed the uncontroversial elements of CM Sheri Gallo's resolution on the topic last month; this, then, is the meeting for which they postponed the hard questions. The committee will wrestle with a number of fairly complicated proposed regulations, but the big underlying question is: Is there a council majority ready to sign on to the proposition that Type 2, non-owner-occupied, commercial STRs are a failed experiment, not appropriate in residential zoning? I think there may be, and if so, then a number of the decisions become much simpler. In any case, the committee will consider, among other things, the following code amendments proposed by Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo:
• Suspend new permits for Type 2 STRs.
• Require existing Type 2 STRs to get conditional-use permits.
• Allow Type 2 STRs to operate in commercially zoned areas.
• Repeal provision allowing 25% of multifamily units in commercially zoned areas to be Type 3 STRs, and cap at no more than 1-3%.
• Clarify that Type 2 STRs and non-owner-occupied Type 3s are subject to federal ADA requirements as commercial places of lodging.
Personally, I'd like to see Council ease up dramatically on both the regulation and cost for Type 1, owner-occupied STRs, which have never been a problem. But while neighbors have been pushing that idea for a while now, as of yet none of the proposals Council has brought forward addresses this, and Greg Casar is the only CM I've heard even bring it up in public (see "Public Notice: Paralysis by Committee," Aug. 21). But then, he's the committee chair, so maybe he has some pull.
The P&N committee will have their regular meeting the following Monday, Sept. 21 at 2pm, and they have some thorny agenda items then as well, including additional dwelling unit regulations, and trying to add some oversight for neighborhood plan contact teams, which have been a little Wild West on some recent occasions.
Spirit of East Austin Community Forum: will try to "create paths for equitable economic development in eastern Austin and Travis County." Organizers ask that people "come ready to participate with their hopes, needs, struggles, and ideas," and promise the "three-hour session will be interactive, with small group discussions and short presentations." Council Member Ora Houston hopes to identify "short, mid and long range goals ... to implement equitable, economic, and employment opportunities in our community. [Despite] master plans, conversations, and requests ... nothing has ever been done. This time the conversation is about strategic action." The event, hosted by Mayor Steve Adler, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, and City Manager Marc Ott, will also be broadcast by ATXN, and on KAZI 88.7FM. Free parking and supervised kids' activities. Sat., Sept. 12, 9am-noon at Travis County Expo Center, 7311 Decker. More info at spiritofeastaustin.bloomfire.com.
Musicians: Get your free money here: The city's Music & Entertainment Division and Texas Accountants & Lawyers for the Arts co-host a workshop for Austin musicians, lawyers, and managers entitled "Get Your Money: Registering for SoundExchange, Collecting Performance Royalties and Union IP Funds." It's free, open to the public, and if you have unclaimed royalties, you can sign up to claim them there. Wed., Sept. 16, 4-8pm at the Entrepreneur Center of Austin, 4029 Capital of TX Hwy. S. In addition, the Music Office has been compiling a partial list of Austin artists, musicians, and vocalists with unclaimed royalties; it's now available at www.atxmusic.org.