Council: Project Duration Ordinance vote on hold, Trail of Lights shines on
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Project Duration Ordinance
Thursday marked the longest city council meeting so far this year, partly because more than 189 people showed up to city hall to share their thoughts on the Project Duration Ordinance.
The ordinance has been in the Austin books since 1977. Right now, if a construction project sits idle too long, developers have to start the approval process over and meet new city code.
Community leaders say throwing out the ordinance compromises some of Austin's most notable laws, including the Heritage Tree Ordinance, McMansion Ordinance and the Save Our Springs Ordinance.
About 89 people weighed in from a development standpoint, and more than 100 people from neighborhood and environmental associations voiced their thoughts to council.
“They are asking you to buy a pig in a poke that could fundamentally change the future of this community in ways that we can hardly even imagine right now,” Bill Bunch with environmental group Save Our Springs Alliance said.
Developers and opponents say the issue is cut and dry because the city is not in compliance with state law. Attorney General Greg Abbott issued an opinion in December which stated the ordinance would likely be shot down if challenged in court.
“By voting in favor of repealing project duration, you are simply bringing Austin’s code in compliance with state law,” Austin resident Rebecca Bray said.
The decision on repealing the ordinance was postponed.
APD’s new helicopter grabs upgrades
The Austin Police Department's new helicopter is getting a $1 million upgrade.
The special equipment is similar to what STAR Flight uses to help local fire departments during times of emergency.
Last year, the city council approved buying a new $3 million helicopter, which will replace one that dates back to the Vietnam War.
The special accessories include a searchlight, night vision goggles and GPS maps for crime fighting. It will also include gear to detect and fight wildfires--an infrared camera and cargo hook system.
Potential new leadership for Austin Energy
The Austin City Council also voted to take a deeper broader, approach to how it may establish an independent board of directors over Austin Energy.
The item has been on the books for a few months, but now council has decided to take a look at how other cities govern their utility companies.
“I think council should retain authority over rates, over major financial decisions,” Council Member Kathie Tovo said. “I would define 'major financial decisions' differently as did the ordinance.”
The city council will get the report on how utility companies are monitored around the country from the city manager on April 11. Mayor Lee Leffingwell wants the item to go to vote before April 25.
Trail of Lights shines on
The holiday season came a little early at city hall Thursday. The council signed off on a five-year contract with the RunTex Foundation to continue hosting the iconic Trail of Lights at Zilker Park.
The group brought back the Austin holiday staple this past December. As many as a half million people toured the Trail of Lights after a two-year hiatus.