Council: Feelin’ Grove-y

All PUDs all the time at City Hall

A rendering of the proposed Grove at Shoal Creek

There's certainly a chance City Council will have time to address matters other than the Grove PUD at today's meeting (Thurs­day, Oct. 20), although, timewise, other issues might be treated like third cousins at the Thanksgiving kid's table. Chronicle colleague Nina Hernandez takes on the substantive, still-pending Grove issues here, but after much more amendment-and-flooding discussion at Tuesday's work session, Council tentatively decided to slow-dance through the Grove today, possibly pass a template version of the PUD on first reading only, but otherwise anticipate more meetings and further public discussion. 

To that end, Council set no "time certain" for Grove Items 33 and 39 (so nice they posted it on the agenda twice), and Mayor Steve Adler advised his colleagues not to encourage folks to appear for the posted public hearing – it will remain open, for later public debate. (Considering the simmering email and website wars among various interest groups, some folks may still want to weigh in briefly today.) From the looks of it, we can expect more weeks of debate and deliberation.

The dais won't lack for other business, even on the Grove-shortened 39-item agenda. One Grove spin-off item is No. 26 (sponsored by District 10 [and Grove] Council Member Sheri Gallo), that would direct staff to "explore the creation" of a Bull Creek Road Area Local Traffic Improve­ment Fund. In principle, the project would look for tax-increment or similar funding to enable traffic improvements that might be needed because of increasing density and vehicle trips in the Bull Creek Road area. (Why should Bull Creek Road have all the fun? While they're at it, other neighborhoods might submit suggestions of "Desig­nated Area Local Traffic Improve­ment" projects.) Other council member proposals include:

Mobile Amenities: CM Pio Renteria was still out sick Tuesday, but carried over from Oct. 13 is his proposed resolution (Item 30) to eventually require certain residential amenities (playgrounds, garden space, etc.) in mobile home parks; his Item 27 would explore strategies to help mobile/manufactured homeowners with necessary repairs (there exist similar city programs for conventional homes). 

Seeking New Management: Also pending is a resolution (Item 29) that would define the public and official process Council would use in searching for, reviewing, and selecting a new city manager. Currently, Chief Financial Officer Elaine Hart has assumed the managerial chair, and Council appears sufficiently comfortable with her not to be in a panic to pursue the next incumbent.

Constipated Contracts: Once again, the biosolids management and compost removal contracts (Items 22 and 23) for Austin Water's Hornsby Bend plant return to the agenda; and once again (via the work session), they are marked for postponement, due to a simmering dispute among potential bidders. 

Difficult Relations: Three items (9-11) concern the city's legislative representation contracts and agenda, with Item 11 an adoption of the legislative program for the 85th Legislature – that agenda not likely for unanimous approval.

Knobby Problem

Otherwise, the Pilot Knob/Easton Park PUD agreement – legally scuttled last week by a court ruling that the ordinance enabling it had not been adequately posted for Council and public consideration – does not appear directly on the agenda, but Item 6 from Financial Services would approve the issuance of $3.25 million in bonds by the Pilot Knob Municipal Utility District No. 3 (to be repaid out of MUD assessments). That's pro forma, but it might occasion some comment from Mayor Adler or CM Delia Garza, who worked together on the development's affordable housing deal that would redirect some Austin Water connection fees to an affordable housing fund. (State District Judge Stephen Yelenosky ruled that the potential 30-year cost – $50-$80 million, subject to annual Council approvals – was inadequately posted in the backup materials.)

Asked for comment, CM Garza noted that the judge's ruling concerned the agenda posting only, that the long-term costs were only estimates, and Council would retain authority over both the program and its annual costs. "We can change that on a year-to-year basis," she said. Mayoral spokesman Jason Stanford offered a similar defense of the agreement, adding that the mayor remains "real proud that the Council is doing such innovative stuff on affordability." He called the Pilot Knob agreement "a real positive force for affordability across the city," and said the mayor would be consulting with city legal staff on how to proceed and reiterate the agreement. As for the threat by plaintiff Brian Rodgers to re-file the lawsuit on more substantive grounds should the agreement move forward, Stanford said he couldn't comment on something that hasn't happened.

Proclamations: It's National Reuse Day and (presumably unrelated) National Re­tire­ment Security Week, and Austin is now a city Connecting Children to Nat­ure. Musical honorees Carry Illinois will carry the "Smoke and Medicine" of Lizzy Lehman to City Hall, which could undoubtedly use more of both.

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City Council, Steve Adler, Bull Creek Road Coalition, Sheri Gallo, Pio Renteria, Elaine Hart, Delia Garza, Brian Rodgers

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