How the Austin City Council Might Reconsider the Pilot Knob Housing Deal
Austin City Council members will decide Thursday whether to revisit an affordable housing deal approved by vote in December. But just how they might go about reconsidering it is complicated.
The deal – called Pilot Knob – would move anywhere from $50 to $80 million dollars normally slotted for Austin Water’s coffers and put it into the city’s affordable housing trust fund. That financial information though, many council members have said, was not available to them at that December vote.
Council Member Ellen Troxclair is proposing an amendment that would initiate a second look at the deal. (Council Members Leslie Pool, Ora Houston and Don Zimmerman are co-sponsors on this item).
“I for one just wanted the opportunity, from a procedural standpoint, to be able to cast my vote with all of the information – which the vast majority of the Council clearly did not have the ability to do, because we did not have access to that information,” said Troxclair.
But according to the laws that govern council, council members can only reconsider a vote as late as a day after that first vote was taken. So, should Troxclair’s amendment pass, the city would open an entirely new zoning case on the item – meaning Pilot Knob would head back to boards and commissions.
Mayor Steve Adler said, should the Council vote for a relook, he’s okay with it.
“It’s not going to hold anything up,” he said. “The developer and the project can proceed, which is important. Because it’s already breaking ground out there, and it’s going to be putting up homes; that is going to provide permanent affordability in the city, and that’s what we need.”
Usually, zoning has little effect over where funds from a housing deal would be routed within the city. But Pilot Knob is a Planned Unit Development (PUD). In the simplest terms, this means it’s a build-your-own housing plan – and so reconsidering any part of it means reinitiating the zoning process.
“It’s a blank piece of paper,” said Jerry Rusthoven, with the city’s Planning and Zoning Department. “What it really does is allow you to modify the land development code. So, tweak it to be what you need on your property, and your property only. But in exchange for that, the city gets superior development to what we can normally get.”
A new zoning case also potentially opens up the Council to a petition from the developer. Should the deal be tweaked, when it gets to the full City Council the dealer has the right to object. In that case, the deal would only pass with a supermajority vote – that is, 9 votes. Council members will decide whether to revisit Pilot Knob at Thursday’s meeting.
This story was produced as part of KUT’s reporting partnership with the Austin Monitor.