AUSTIN (KXAN) – The Austin City Council is meeting Thursday to go over 61 agenda items. Here are a few that KXAN is closely monitoring.
Contract for safety lighting
Austin City Council approved the Transportation and Public Works Department’s request for nearly $3.5 million to add safety lighting to Slaughter and Howard Lanes.
The Austin City Council voted earlier this year to create a funding agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) for the High Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) lighting projects, a federally funded program, per city documents.
The HSIP reported that safety lighting can decrease crashes by nearly 50%. Based on city crash data, both Slaughter and Howard lanes qualified for the safety lighting projects.
“Vision Zero has pursued state and federal grants in the past several years to fund street lighting improvements for locations with a high crash history and lack of lighting, and Howard and Slaughter were two of the highest priority locations that we identified through our safety analysis,” a spokesperson from Austin’s Transportation and Public Works Department said.
If approved, safety lights will be added along Slaughter Lane from Riddle Road to Brandt Road and on Howard Lane from Scofield Parkway to Dessau Road, according to city documents.
Purchasing former Salvation Army Downtown Center
The Austin City Council approved an increase of $5 million to the Housing Trust Fund budget to purchase the former Salvation Army Downtown Center to continue providing “critical” homeless services in the area.
The former shelter is located downtown at Red River St and will cost the city just over $15 million if they decide to acquire the retail space.
The Salvation Army Downtown Center opened in 1988 and was the only shelter downtown dedicated to serving single women experiencing homelessness. In Feb. 2023, the Salvation Army announced it would close the shelter, saying it could “no longer continue to offer the level and quality of care their brothers and sisters need at the facility,” according to a press release.
New state law requiring changes to city parkland dedication rules
This item was on the Nov. 2 city council agenda, but the Austin City Council decided to postpone the vote until Thursday. The council decided to postpone this item even further to the Nov. 30 meeting.
City Council must vote to approve a resolution to implement changes to parkland dedication ordinances, which are needed in order to comply with a new state law that passed last session and will go into effect in January.
Citing “complex calculations” in the new map, District 4 Council Member Jose “Chito” Vela asked to postpone the vote to Thursday so that council members had more time to look over the changes before voting.
Previously, Austin’s ordinance required developers to provide nearly 10 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents or face a fee. The new state law requires local officials to reduce that amount to 3,000 square feet in Austin’s downtown and three acres in suburban neighborhoods.
Delaying water reuse requirements
The Austin City Council approved in 2018 a Water Forward plan to ensure the city can provide residents with safe and reliable water for the next 100 years.
One method proven to be effective at conserving water is onsite water reuse systems, which collect rainwater, air conditioning system condensation, foundation water and water from sinks, baths and laundry so it can later be reused, per city documents.
In September 2021, the council voted to require developers to implement a water reuse system in all new commercial, multi-family and mixed-use site plans that exceed 250,000 square feet starting Dec. 1, 2023.
The city council voted to delay these requirements so more code requirements can be considered and so Austin Water can establish exemptions to these requirements, such as in affordable housing developments. District 6 council member Mackenzie Kelly was the lone member to vote no on this delay.
Property tax abatements for child care facilities
City council members confirmed its intent to provide tax exemptions on 100% of the property values for eligible child care facilities at the start of 2024.
This resolution comes after Texas voters approved Proposition 2, which amends the state’s constitution to allow cities and municipalities to provide exemptions on either all or part of the appraised value of any facility that is used for child care operations.
Eligible properties must be licensed and be a part of the Texas Rising Star program and maintain at least 20% enrollment of children who receive subsidized child care services.
According to documents, the city estimates up to 100 local providers are eligible for this tax relief. The city manager is directed to come back to the council with the appropriate ordinance by the first council meeting of 2024.
Safety measures at Austin’s airport
Council members unanimously passed a resolution to develop a ramp control system at Austin’s airport to increase safety for planes trying to push back from a ramp.
Council member Vanessa Fuentes proposed this resolution and said there are things the city can and should be doing locally to improve safety at the airport. There have been a string of near misses between aircrafts at the airport this year, and last month an airport employee died after being hit by a fuel truck.
U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett wrote a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration in October urging the agency to take action on staffing levels and requirements so that the airport can receive more resources.
The resolution also requires the city manager to immediately report any “significant event” at the airport to the city council and the city’s airport advisory commission.