City Council votes to buy Rodeway Inn to be used as homeless shelter, approves floodplain regulation changes

Austin
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Council members would like the city to find money for two new MetroRail stops.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Here’s a rundown of the items topping Thursday’s Austin City Council agenda:

Motel purchase for homeless housing – Approved

Council voted unanimously to buy and renovate the Rodeway Inn motel off of I-35 and near Oltorf Street. The city would spend $8 million in total (that includes $6.4 million for the building itself plus additional funds for services to prepare the building) on this building to house people experiencing homelessness. This motel will offer shelter for around 80 individuals.

While the city will pay to purchase the building, Austin’s Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) has volunteered to pay for the operational costs. According to the city, ECHO was the only entity that volunteered to pay to operate this new shelter. ECHO says they don’t have the cash on hand currently, but they are willing to fund-raise.

Diaper changing station regulations – Approved

Council approved on consent new regulations for diaper changing stations in Austin. Diaper changing stations would be required as a part of new construction or major renovation of non-city facilities.

In this case, major renovations include any relocation of plumbing facilities or expansion of restroom areas. City staff recommended that a station be required in each gender-specific public restroom per floor or in one gender-neutral restroom per floor.

New MetroRail stops – Approved

In a resolution sponsored by District 7 council member Leslie Pool, council directs City Manager Spencer Cronk to work with Capital Metro on the completion of the Broadmoor Rail Station and the McKalla Place Rail Station.

Cronk would explore various funding options and provide a memo of the findings by January 2020.

Floodplain changes – Approved

City council will consider a series of major changes to how Austin defines its floodplains, with important implications to development citywide. The changes come in response to the Federal rainfall study Atlas 14, which found that Texas, and the City of Austin, are more likely to receive severe rainfall events.

The changes include revising the definition of the 100-year floodplain to the current 500-year floodplain and revising the 25-year floodplain to the current 100-year floodplain. Also, certain residential redevelopment that reduces flood risk would be approved administratively rather than by the City Council.

Another change would expand an exception that allows a building to encroach on the 100-year floodplain to include the Colorado River downstream of Longhorn Dam and along Lady Bird Lake to include Lake Austin and parts of Lake Travis.

Finally, the required height of new or redeveloped buildings would increase from one foot to two feet above the 100-year floodplain.

During council’s discussion Thursday, Council Member Alison Alter asked city staff at the meeting what people who live in the flood plain areas should be doing.

Kevin Shunk, the city’s floodplain administrator, replied, “Please tell anyone you know that’s in the 500 flood plain to get a quote on flood insurance.” City staff noted that flood insurance may be more expensive or may be required for some Austin residents when the federal floodplain maps are updated in three to four years.

Shunk said the city has already sent out postcards to alert people who are in the flood plains but will soon be sending out more postcards with updated information.

“Automatic Aid” agreements- Postponed

Council voted to postpone approving an “automatic aid agreement” with Travis County Emergency Service Districts, Williamson County ESDs, and the cities of Leander, Cedar Park, Round Rock, and Georgetown. They expect to pick this topic back up on December 5.

“Automatic Aid” refers to automatically dispatching the nearest available first responders to an emergency. The goal is to improve response times, especially to those living along jurisdictional boundaries. The agreement is for an initial term of one year, with up to nine additional one-year terms.

Since February 2013, the Austin Fire Department has had Automatic Aid agreements with Travis County ESDs. Over the last year, the Travis County Fire Chiefs have been meeting with Williamson County Fire Chiefs from the Cedar Park, Round Rock, Leander, Georgetown, Hutto, Sam Bass and Jollyville Fire Departments.

Fund for Rainey Street improvements- Approved

Council members voted to approve use of certain fees for the Rainey Street Historic District Special Revenue Fund.

Right-of-way fees, alley vacation sales payments, and license agreement payments from development projects within the Rainey Street District would be used to fund other projects in that area.

Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza said she hopes the fund can be used to create a sense of belonging fro Mexican American and Latinx Austinites, especially given the Mexican American cultural heritage in the area.

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