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City Council Preview: Rainey St. Standoff, Urban Rail Funding, F1 Annexation

The Austin City Council is tackling a full agenda today. While no one item looks to have the potential to grind the meeting to a halt, a clutch of smaller controversies have the potential to make this meeting a long one. Here’s what’s on the agenda:

The proposed sale of a plot of land on Rainey Street, next to the Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC), has likely been taken off the table.

As KUT News reported earlier this week, a private group of investors had offered to buy the parcel and build a parking structure; today, the council was set to consider offers for the land.

The MACC’s board of directors protested that it was never consulted about those plans, which it said would impact the MACC’s view and future plans for the area. 

Several council members apparently agree; an addendum to today’s agenda calls for the city to take the parcel of land off the market, and incorporate the land into the MACC’s future plans. The Austin Chronicle notes that council won’t take the MACC items up until at least 4 p.m.

More funds for the city’s as-yet-unapproved plans for urban rail are on tap today.

Council took the topic up at its work session earlier this week; the item would authorize an agreement with Capital Metro to spend $5 million for urban rail planning. The bulk of the money ($4 million) will come from a federal grant that requires a local match of 20 percent ($1 million). Transportation department director Rob Spillar promised council on Tuesday he’d bring a fuller breakdown of expenditures at its meeting today.

No action is on the table, but council is set to receive comment on the city’s plans to annex the 1,584 acre Circuit of the Americas area in southeast Austin, which will be hosting the Formula 1 Grand Prix in five (count ‘em – five) weeks.

KVUE reports:

If the annexation is approved, tax dollars generated at the track will go straight to the city. On Thursday the council will get public input on the move. The council is looking to move fast. If the annexation doesn't happen by the end of the year, the city won't be able to collect 2012 taxes on the property.

Pump your breaks: Rounding out the agenda are a clutch of a transportation items – permitting issues for taxicabs and pedicabs.

In its council roundup, the Chronicle notes:

Items 66 and 68 concern the always-fraught issue of issuing additional taxi franchise permits – these the second reading of a proposal awarding such, respectively, to Lone Star Cab Com­pany and Austin Cab. … That this is only a second reading of three confirms that members have not reached consensus, among either themselves or the interested stakeholders, which include not only the companies but the drivers (effectively independent contractors) and potential passengers, especially customers with disabilities, who say the companies provide inadequate accommodation.

Additionally, Item 69 would extend an existing moratorium on pedicab permits into the spring; “With over 500 currently permitted pedicabs, this proposed extension will allow time to further gauge the impact of the recently adopted regulations,” agenda backup reads.

That’s just a sampling of what’s on the agenda; with a total of 116 items, we’re sure council will have its hands full.

The meeting begins this morning at 10 a.m.; you can watch the meeting on the city’s website

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
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