Council to tackle Great Hills zoning, city manager compensation and border wall

Manuel's restaurant and Arbor Cinema movie theaters are on the property where Great Hills Retail is proposing a residential rezoning in North Austin. (KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard.)
Manuel's restaurant and Arbor Cinema movie theaters are on the property where Great Hills Retail is proposing a residential rezoning in North Austin. (KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard.)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Thursday marks the Austin City Council’s first full council meeting after a holiday break. Arguably the biggest item on deck is moving forward to fulfill the city’s biggest opening – the city manager position, which has been vacant for more than a year. It’s a huge decision heading into the rest of 2018 and beyond and council members, feel like they have their guy.

Keep in mind, filling other positions, like a permanent Austin police chief, has been at a standstill, waiting to appoint a new city manager.

Here’s what council will potentially vote on:

Resolution appointing Spencer Cronk as the City Manager and establishing compensation and benefits (Will be heard after executive session)
Thursday, Council is expected to appoint Cronk as Austin’s new city manager and finalize compensation and benefits. The mayor posted the following details on the Council Message Board, outlining his recommendation of an offer to be extended to Cronk.

• Base salary: Annual salary of $325,000
• Executive allowance $7,200 annually
• Housing Allowance $4,500 per month for six months to offset costs of a temporary residence

Studying the potential impacts on Austin of any wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and a policy that applies to the city’s contracting policies and procedures – Approved on consent
Council Member Delia Garza, Mayor Steve Adler and other council members plan to come together Thursday morning to show their support for Austin immigrants and opposition to the construction of President Donald Trump’s proposed $25 billion border wall. Part of the resolution states, “It is the policy of the city council, to the best of its ability, not to procure services from any company involved in the design, construction, or maintenance of the border wall.”

Approve adoption of the Aquatic Master Plan – Approved as amended
City staff states the purpose of the master plan is “to provide guidance and decision-making tools to plan for and create a future aquatics system” that is equitable, financially, operationally and environmentally sustainable. There’s been much debate over the best path to take to do this though. Back in August, after learning the master plan could include the shutdown of several neighborhood pools, council created a task force to specifically look at other paths forward and gather more public input. Ultimately, there was a recommendation to consider a $124 million stand-alone bond proposition for the city’s aquatics resources.

Safety lighting under several overpasses – Approved on consent
This resolution would authorize and agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to install safety lighting under various overpasses along I-35 between Lady Bird Lake and 15th St.

Dockless bike share pilot program – Approved as amended
Austin City Council will consider a resolution Thursday to start a pilot program for dockless bike shares, which rely on GPS, automatic locks, and apps to connect riders with short-term bike rentals. The Austin Transportation Department is proposing the pilot, which would potentially bring several dockless bike companies to the city, to help work out a management system and fix any problems that may arise from an arrangement that has caused headaches in other big cities.

Great Hills shopping area rezoning – Approved on 2nd and 3rd reading
Great Hills is back on the council agenda for the second and third reading of an ordinance that would rezone the shopping area to allow residential use. Back in October, Council Member Alison Alter told KXAN, “What we’ve been hearing from people is that they’re concerned about traffic, they’re concerned about Manuel’s [restaurant] and Arbor Cinema, and they are concerned about whether or not these apartments would be affordable, and depending on the development of the residential, what the impacts on the schools would be.”

Just this week, Manuels told KXAN it has secured a lease in Great Hills through 2025.

In a news release, the restaurant’s founder and co-owner, Greg Koury wrote, “There has been some misinformation out there, and we want to set the record straight… We just renewed our lease at Manuel’s Downtown, and we own our building on Jollyville Road with almost a decade left on the ground lease. We are open for business and look forward to the future as our community continues to grow.”

Establish affordability standards for Austin’s water and garbage bills – Approved as amended
Council Member is introducing a resolution that directs city staff to conduct a study of other public and private water and solid waste utilities in Texas. With the findings from the study, city staff will make recommendations for “Affordability Standards” for Austin Water and Austin Resource Recovery.

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