Austin City Council—Nov. 20

Councilman Bill Spelman is back on the Austin City Council dais Nov. 20 after missing the last meeting Nov. 6. The council has a busy day scheduled, with 182 agenda items scheduled for its Nov. 20 meeting. Mayor Lee Leffingwell suggested during a Nov. 18 council work session the meeting may be extended to Nov. 21 to accommodate the expansive agenda. However, no action was taken to ensure such an extension takes place.

Consent agenda highlights

(Posted 10:55 a.m.)

Council amended an ordinance to require rental properties to be registered if two or more notices of City Code violation are issued for the same property within a consecutive 24-month period and the owner fails to correct the violations within the time frame required by a code official. The amendments also require rental property registration for sites with five notices of violation—regardless of compliance—or two or more citations within a two-year period.

Council approved a percentage-based homestead exemption of .01 percent, which ultimately could give each home owner at least $5,000 in tax breaks, which is projected to cost the city $3.2 million in foregone General Fund property tax revenue during the next four years.

Council approved an ordinance amending City Code to allow more use of reclaimed water, gray water and rainwater in Austin while maintaining protections for drinking water.

Council agreed to create a group called Vision Zero whose mission will be to find ways to reduce Austin's number of deaths and injuries in the transportation network to zero.

Council agreed to set a public hearing to consider an ordinance amending City Code to allow swimming in Barton Creek. City staff suggested scheduling the public hearing for 4 p.m. Dec, 11 at Austin City Hall.

Council also set a public hearing to consider an ordinance amending City Code to prohibit fishing from the new Boardwalk at Lady Bird Lake along the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail.

Bonds for airport projects passes

City Council approved the sale of $350 million in bonds to help fund projects at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

The project money allows the city to increase terminal floor space on the east side of the airport, build seven or more new passenger gates and and a new five-level parking garage that will include 5,000 parking spaces. The projects will be completed between 2015 and 2018.

How this will affect taxes for those in Austin was not disclosed in documents related to the item. The bond sales are expected to be finalized Jan. 6.

Vote: 6 "yes" votes, 0 "no" votes with Mayor Lee Leffingwell off the dais

St. Elmo's Market and Lofts project to move forward

After facing opposition of neighbor stakeholders at previous council meetings, a residential and retail project now has the green light to begin construction.

The South Austin Combined Neighborhood Plan and City Code had to be amended in order to allow construction. City Council approved those changes during its Nov. 20 meeting.

The development will be located in a heavy industrial area, which was one of the main concerns from those opposed to the project. Some council members and city staff previously raised concerns that residents of the future development would not feel at peace in their homes due to noise from the nearby industrial businesses.

However, the project is not opposed by all. At a previous meeting the owner of Saxon Pub, a longtime music venue on South Lamar Boulevard, said at a previous meeting he may relocate his business to St. Elmo's Market and Loft once construction is completed.

Vote: 5 "yes" votes, 2 "no" votes with Councilwoman Kathie Tovo and Councilwoman Laura Morrison voting "no"

Water concerns delay decision on proposed East Austin golf course

Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park's master plan has called for a golf course for decades, but a proposal to bring a PGA-quality golf facility remains in limbo.

City Council voted unanimously to delay any decision until Dec. 11 on a proposed development deal that would bring a golf course to the East Austin park. The vote to delay action came after about three hours of public comments and discussion.

Many of the residents in the park's surrounding area voiced support for the development and claimed the project could attract more development such as restaurants, hotels and grocery stores.

Those residents opposing the plan said the park land could be better utilized, and a golf course in the area would require more water and further complicate Austin's drought situation.

Joe Ogilvie, a member of the Decker Lake Golf LLC development team proposed the project, assured council his team will develop the proposed golf courses sustainably, allowing mother nature to dictate whether the landscape looks green or brown.

Austin Water Utility Director Greg Meszaros said that if the city allows the golf project to be developed during a drought, it could be used against Austin and the Lower Colorado River Authority in the water agency's attempt to gain long-term protection from providing water to downstream agriculture users during extreme drought conditions. LCRA in September approved a plan that effectively keeps Highland Lakes water in the reservoirs during drought conditions similar to the past four years. Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has the final say on whether that plan is approved.

Upon hearing drought-related concerns from Meszaros, council opted to postpone any decision until Dec. 11 in case any potential assurances can be made that LCRA's efforts to gain approval on a long-term water management plan would not be threatened. Richard Subtle, a representative for Decker Lake Golf LLC, said that Maszeros's comments blindsided his development team, and he was under the impression all the concerns from Austin Water Utility had been addressed in the contract drafted for approval during the Nov. 20 meeting.

Some council members pointed out that an agreement between the two parties may not be achieved by Dec. 11, and the next council may have to handle the fate of the proposed project.

Vote: 7 "yes" votes, 0 "no" votes to postpone until Dec. 11

Coyote conflict plan passes

A reportedly more humane plan for dealing with the presence of coyotes will be implemented despite a lengthy back-and-forth debate between Austin residents and stakeholders.

Lethal action can now only be taken against a coyote if something aggressive in nature occurs, such as an attack, a lunge or nipping. Those who opposed the plan sought more protections for pets and children so lethal action can be taken before a coyote gets close enough to act aggressively.

Recent coyote sightings in yards and school playgrounds throughout Austin sparked interest in revisiting the city's coyote-management plan. The new plan does allow for steel leg traps to be set out for coyotes—traps that animal advocates opposed. Concern also arose that pets and children may be vulnerable to accidentally triggering a trap.

Vote: 6 "yes" votes, 1 "no" vote with Mayor Lee Leffingwell voting "no"

By Jennifer Curington
Jennifer covers Austin City Council, its various committees and local business news. After covering Florida's 2013 legislative session she graduated from Georgia Southern University and joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2014.


COVID-19 precautions such as a masking requirement remain in place at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. (Courtesy Austin-Bergstrom International Airport)
'Signs of hope' on the horizon at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport after year-plus dip in air travel

Rising passenger counts, new airline operations and an increase in vaccinations could all support the airport's recovery in 2021.

A University of Texas office tower is under development at the downtown Central Health site formerly home to the Brackenridge hospital campus. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Central Health's 'cornerstone' downtown site moving forward on path to redevelopment

Much of the site's future scope is yet to be determined ahead of a May 20 rezoning hearing before City Council.

Photo of a man climbing on a rock wall
Four Austin institutions celebrate anniversaries

Crux Climbing Center and Austin Vet Hospital are among the businesses hitting milestones in May.

Capital Metro bus
Capital Metro announces increased transit services for Austin FC games this season

Capital Metro has increased the frequency of several bus routes for Austin FC game days at Q2 Stadium.

CDC ends all mask requirements for fully vaccinated people

The guidance states fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks indoors or outdoors.

The property has been a redevelopment and neighborhood revitalization target for years. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin evaluating 6 plans to redevelop 19-acre St. John site into mixed-use district

The city has long been seeking to rejuvenate the St. John neighborhood property off I-35 with new housing, retail and recreational space.

Students at Norman-Sims Elementary School and Austin ISD's 124 other schools across the district will now be allowed to remove masks during outdoor physical activities with the permission of a parent or guardian. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin ISD makes outdoor masking optional, eases other health, safety restrictions

Students engaging in outdoor physical activity will now have the option to remove masks.

Photo of the Indeed Tower in downtown Austin
Four Central Austin businesses on the move

These Austin businesses are relocating.

Sienna at the Thompson will include 331 apartment rental homes on floors 15 through 31 of the Thompson Hotel, under construction in downtown Austin. (Rendering courtesy Magellan Development Group)
Forthcoming Thompson Hotel in downtown Austin will include apartment rental homes, restaurant from Chicago-based group

Sienna at the Thompson will provide 331 units on floors 15 through 31 of the hotel, while Land and Sea Department will be opening a restaurant on the fourth floor.

House Bill 1024, signed into law May 12, allows restaurants and bars to permanently sell alcoholic beverages to-go. (Courtesy Pexels)
Cocktails to-go are here to stay in Texas: Gov. Greg Abbott signs change into law May 12

Supporters say the change will help restaurants continue to recover from the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.