Bill Oakey with Austin Affordability came to speak against the new Travis County Courthouse. He feels it is too expensive when it is compared to other comparable projects in other parts of the country. This was a counterpoint to Judge Sarah Eckhardt’s presentation last month citing the reasons why the city needs a courthouse downtown.
Mike Hebert, a business lawyer who has dealt extensively with land development issues gave a summary of the findings of the Zucker report. (The Zucker Report reviewed the Planning and Development Review Department in response to dissatisfaction from both residents/neighborhoods and developers). The Zucker team has done over 150 similar reviews in other cities across North America and sited gross mismanagement issues that are among the worst they have seen. They noted and acute lack of responsiveness to customers in terms of permitting lead times, in-person visits, and phone inquiries. Employees are extremely dissatisfied and cite a lack of clarity in their responsibilities. Staff are frequently unaware of changes to zoning requirements – thus residents are builders only find out about new code when permits are denied. Unlike other planning departments they do not include infrastructure plans in their mapping as part of CodeNext (the Land Use Code Rewrite).
Mayor Steve Adler came to speak and gave a summary of key priorities for the city right now. He urged incrementalism in dealing with findings from the Zucker Report. The City Manager will come back with his response to the findings of the Report on June 30th. The city is filing challenges to property valuations. He believes that commercial properties are severely undervalued in appraisals and is working with City Council to remedy this.
The Mayor noted that the flat homestead exemption was not approved by the state legislature so any increase will have to be on a percentage basis. He views development and growth in Austin as a balance between supply and demand. When we have brought companies to Austin we have also had to import people to fill most of the jobs. He feels we now need to upskill labor not import it (and deal with the ongoing strains on infrastructure). While we do need to contribute to the supply of housing stock, introducing smaller and smaller housing in the core that is more expensive cannot be viewed as a solution to affordability.
The Clean Affordable Energy Resolution and Resolution Regarding Flood Mitigation resolutions passed (SRCC voted in favor of both).
There is one proposed resolution: Resolution Regarding Mopac South Expansion. The Texas Department of Transportation is considering adding elevated lanes and a flyover at the Mopac South Bridge. There is concern that this will tower over Zilker Park, Austin High and create noise pollution in surrounding areas. Other cities like Boston, San Francisco and Portland are trying to bury lanes and create green space not elevate them.
- urges Austin City Council to oppose proposed elevated lanes and flyover on Mopac South Bridge.
- supports resolution #20150507-026 urging Capital Area Metropolitan Organization to define the MoPac South expansion project as not exceeding two managed lanes in either direction.
- asks City Council to urge the Texas DoT to identify solutions that do not include elevated lanes or a flyover.