Public Notice: Planning for Affordability
Council tackles thorny zoning cases
As I noted last week, the highlight items at today's City Council meeting (Thu. Sept. 22) are the first and last items on the zoning agenda: starting with the controversial Lenox Oaks development – which is asking to tear down the current Cactus Rose Mobile Home Park in Montopolis to build a new mixed-use development – and ending with the even more controversial Grove at Shoal Creek PUD proposal, finally making its first appearance at Council. Click their headlines to see more detail on those issues, but briefly, let me quote from the "Response to CodeNEXT Prescription Papers" which the Planning Commission issued this week, largely praising the city staff for their work on the ongoing Land Development Code rewrite process, but also pointing out some concerns about as-yet-unaddressed areas, including: "Demolition of modest housing in Austin's older neighborhoods to make way for larger, more expensive homes ... which harms affordability ... Our older stock of market affordable units must be preserved or replaced when facing demolition." And, lest the Grove dispute get rolled up into the affordability argument, it's worth noting (again) that the neighbors opposing the current plan are not asking for a reduction in the residential component – except to include more affordable units – but for a scaling back of the massive and incompatible commercial space, and for sufficient parkland and flood mitigation to not worsen "the well-known inadequacy of the stormwater utility system in the central city" – another Planning Commission bullet point. Council: Don't say you weren't warned.
Elsewhere on the agenda:
• Item 5 would amend the regulations regarding lobbyists, ethics review, and campaign finance; after a long slog, these seem to have been hammered out to (almost) everyone's satisfaction.
• Item 6 sets the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau 2016-17 marketing plan and budget of $19,282,933; this includes $2 million less in hotel tax revenue than ACVB originally proposed, with the cuts coming primarily in the marketing and "future convention commitments" budgets.
• Item 45 will set "the compensation, benefits and transition plan for the interim City Manager and City Manager" – which is of course a hiring task that deserves much of Council's attention over the next months.
• Item 68, a rezoning of Ross Road Homes, appears to be being offered as an alternative site for the Cactus Rose residents, but they and the Montopolis NA object to the plan because the site is seven miles further east from the current site, is nowhere near any transit or walkable retail, and is in an extreme food desert. (A presumably better plan is in the works, but not yet cooked; see Joseph Caterine's story on p.19.) For those reasons, the Zoning and Platting Commission recommends single-family zoning instead.
• Item 72 would remove a 1979 restrictive covenant, limiting development on the site of the current Villas on Town Lake in the Rainey Street neighborhood to 30 units per acre. The land has since been rezoned from MF-3 to CBD, but the restrictive covenant remains, blocking reported plans to sell the property to Sutton Development, who plan to build two 48-story condo towers on the site.
• Item 78 is a public hearing on an appeal of Scoot Inn's Outdoor Music Venue permit.
Meanwhile, the next mega-controversial PUD, the proposed Austin Oaks development at Spicewood Springs and MoPac, is also wending its way through the permitting process; if all goes according to schedule, it's being heard at the Environmental Commission as we go to press Wednesday.
There are just two City Council election forums left in the Monitor/KUT series, but they should be the two most interesting ones, representing the opposite sides of the Grove debate, and the debate over affordability in neighborhoods in general.
District 7 (Leslie Pool, Natalie Gauldin): Tuesday, Sept. 27, 7-9pm, Alamo Village, 2700 W. Anderson
D10 (Sheri Gallo, Alison Alter, Rob Walker, Nicholas Virden): Tuesday, Oct. 4, 7-9pm, LCRA Redbud Center, 3700 Lake Austin Blvd.
Bill Oliver and the Otter Space Band's newest CD, Rockin' the Republicans, features "11 songs, and 34 years of Republican bashing," with cameos from Rick Perry, Ronald Reagan, and two Bushes, plus Sara Hickman, Austin Lounge Lizards, and more. "It's supposed to be comedy and irony and history," Bill says. Catch the CD release party at Saengerrunde Hall on Sunday, Sept. 25, 4-7pm, splitting the bill with Mike Westergren, progressive Democratic candidate for the Texas Supreme Court. "Many pols will be there." You probably should be, too.
Senator Kirk Watson's Concert Under the Stars is held yearly at Zilker Park, the site of the ACL Music Festival, the night before the festival begins. This year, Thu., Sept. 29 starting at 8pm, will feature the legendary Joe Ely and newcomers Anderson East. All proceeds benefit Sen. Watson and indirectly the Travis County Democratic Party. $50 general admission tickets, plus a wide variety of reserved seating and exclusive V.I.P. packages are available at www.kirkwatson.com/concert-under-stars.
The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization is now working on amendments to the four-year Transportation Improvement Program and the long-range CAMPO 2040 Plan. You can see the proposals and provide comments at CAMPO's online open house; they're accepting public comments until 5pm Monday, Sept. 26 at www.campotexas.org/get-involved.
As in previous years, Austin B-cycle is looking for volunteers to help work their bike valet program at the Austin City Limits Festival, Sept. 30-Oct. 9. Work one shift to get half off an annual membership, two shifts and it's free. They supply meals and a B-cycle T-shirt. www.austinbcycle.com.
It's Diaper Need Awareness Week! See, I'll bet you weren't aware of that. It's Sept. 26-Oct. 2, and the Austin Diaper Bank, a local nonprofit which has provided over 500,000 diapers to locals in need since 2013, is celebrating the opening of their warehouse at 8711 Burnet Rd., Suite B-34, with a Family Fun Fest and Diaper Drive, offering music, dance, kids' classes, and demos at Northwest Recreation Center, Saturday, Sept. 24 from noon-3pm. And look for their popular Diapers for Doughnuts event coming up Nov. 3.