Public Notice: Tracking the Major Arcana
Geeking out at Planning Commission
It was a tough call Tuesday night. While half of the town's planning wonks were down at the CodeNEXT public comment meeting (see "Talk, For Sure. But Action?," Jan. 15), the other half were across the river at the Planning Commission meeting. And a few split time and hit both.
Of the two, the PC was probably more substantive, as tucked among the never-ending stream of sometimes thorny zoning cases on the agenda were two interesting, if somewhat arcane, policy matters, whose resolution (or absence thereof) could have a profound effect on how CodeNEXT rolls out. And while the discussions didn't start until well after 11pm, they were worth staying up for.
First up was a resolution amending rules on planned unit developments to require a 75% supermajority for City Council to override a negative vote from the PC when considering previously unzoned land. The immediate cause, of course, is the controversial Grove PUD in West Austin, but the fact that Austin is riddled with state land, that the state is anxious to turn into cash, makes it a much broader issue. Should rules on developing those properties be looser than they are on land that's already zoned? In the end, the resolution failed despite city staff's recommendation; the vote was 6-5 in favor, but with two members absent, seven votes were needed to pass it. And so the purely advisory commission declined to ask Council to give it more actual authority.
The second matter was more broad-reaching: a resolution proposing tighter guidelines, but also more support, for neighborhood plan contact teams – the bodies tasked by city ordinance with being "the stewards or advocates of their adopted neighborhood plan." Staff recommendation regarding NPCTs was to clarify and standardize bylaws and practices such as meeting times and inclusivity, to provide training, plus a half FTE and web platform for public info, and to continue to look at how NPCTs and public involvement will work going forward through CodeNEXT. In the end, this passed, 8-2, with only Jose Vela and Michael Wilson opposed. Wilson is CM Don Zimmerman's appointee, so is expected to oppose everything, but Vela is a more interesting matter. He's Greg Casar's appointee, and appears to reflect his CM's antipathy for the traditional neighborhood lobby.
Casar was badly burned by Austin Neighborhoods Council's inexplicably dogged support of Laura Pressley in the last election, and has become the council's loudest voice against that group, and along the way, the council's most hawkish pro-gentrification vote on land-use issues. Vela dismissed NPCTs as being full of "homeowners" and "neighborhood association members" – both clearly pejoratives in his lexicon – and questioned whether such local-control bodies ought to exist at all.
Casar, meanwhile, is chair of the council's Planning and Neighborhoods Committee, which will take up both these matters on Tuesday, Jan. 19, before they go on to the full council – possibly as soon as the shaping-up-to-be-marathon Jan. 28 meeting.
The city will host two Community Visioning Workshops for the new Montopolis Recreation and Community Center, which will be a joint-use facility between Parks and Recreation and Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services departments. The city has already begun the design phase; these events will let residents and neighbors in on "the planning of access to the new facility, how it connects to the community, and how the building and its amenities fit on the site." Thu., Jan. 21, 6:30-8:30pm at Allison Elementary School, 515 Vargas; and Sat., Jan. 23, 10am-noon at Montopolis Rec. Center, 1200 Montopolis.
The Hill Country Ride for AIDS is coming up Sat., April 30 out at Krause Springs. The event Kickoff Party is next Thursday, Jan. 21, 7-9pm, at Zach Scott Theatre; they promise "free food, drinks, and awesome prizes," and early registration is only $17 through that date in honor of the 17th annual ride. Register there, or at www.hillcountryride.org.
Back to School: Austin ISD News
AISD is accepting transfer requests for the 2016-17 school year, through Jan. 29. Families may request sibling, tracking, majority-to-minority, or general transfers. Submit requests to the Office of Student Services Rm. A200, Carruth Administration Center, 1111 W. Sixth, during regular business hours, 7:45am-4:45pm; see more info at www.austinisd.org/transfer. AISD announced that 23 schools will be frozen to transfers during the 2016-17 school year, because they're over-enrolled, or to maintain stability in tracking patterns. Those are: Akins, Anderson, and Bowie high schools; Gorzycki, Lamar, and Murchison middle schools; and Baldwin, Baranoff, Barrington, Becker, Blazier, Brentwood, Casis, Clayton, Cowan, Davis, Doss, Gullett, Hill, Kiker, Menchaca, Oak Hill, and Webb elementaries.
Here's a scary statistic. A recent national study found that in a single day in Texas, more than 7,600 cars illegally passed stopped school buses. AISD has just launched a program to install cameras on buses to address the problem. Cameras will be mounted on the side of each school bus. When the stop-arm is out, the camera automatically detects a vehicle passing the bus in either direction and captures video of the violation, and the license plate. After review by law enforcement officials, a citation may be issued, with a $300 fine for the vehicle's owner. So remember: When a school bus is stopped with its lights flashing, drivers in all lanes must stop unless they're on the other side of a median.
AISD is hiring bus drivers, food service managers, and substitute food production specialists. Applicants can attend a job fair, 8:30am-noon, Wed., Jan. 20, at the Baker Center, 3908 Avenue B. See www.applitrack.com/austinisd/onlineapp to apply online and be eligible for an on-site interview.
Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) needs to recruit 200 more volunteers to count the people sleeping outside, a requirement so they can continue drawing down federal funds to help house people. The Austin/Travis County Point in Time (PIT) Count is coming up Sat., Jan. 23; see "Homeless Count Scheduled for Jan. 23," Jan. 15, or www.austinecho.org.