BG Note | News - What We're Reading (July 31, 2017)
Big-city mayors still waiting to hear back from Gov. Greg Abbot (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY
"Gov. Greg Abbott has targeted the power of Texas cities in the special legislative session he has called this month, but so far has not responded to requests from the mayors of three of the state's four largest municipalities [Houston, San Antonio and Austin] seeking to discuss their concerns."
Two Bills Up During The Special Session Would Limit Local Spending (KUT) LINK TO STORY
"The Texas Senate has been moving quickly on many of Gov. Greg Abbott’s priorities for the special legislative session. But one item has seen little movement: a spending cap on city and county budgets in the state. State Sen. Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls) authored Senate Bill 18, which limits budget growth for cities and counties. Local governments would be limited to either the amount they spent the year before or a limit calculated by multiplying statewide population growth, which has stayed around 2 percent for the past decade, by a state inflation rate. (The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says it doesn't publish state-specific inflation rates. Estes’ office did not return an email about this point)."
Austin real estate exec shifts focus to preserving middle-class housing (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY
"Looking to address the problem of Austin’s diminishing supply of middle-class housing, the head of the area’s lead real estate trade group is rounding up investors more interested in social good than eye-popping returns. David Steinwedell plans to leave his position as executive director of Urban Land Institute-Austin in September so he can lead Affordable Central Texas, a private equity fund that will purchase and hold multi-unit properties in the middle-class price range, the market for which earns between 60 and 120 percent of Austin’s median income of $55,000."
Flag lots could be making a comeback (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY
"There’s more to CodeNEXT than zoning, believe it or not, and last week the land use commissions received an update from staff on non-zoning changes that would be part of the rewrite’s second draft, with the hottest item of discussion being the loosening of flag lot regulations. The subdivision tool, intended to facilitate infill and minimize sprawl, got its name from its unusual shape, where a narrow strip of land connects the street to the more typical rectangle of a regular parcel. Senior planner Steve Hopkins explained that at the moment, developers could create flag lots from unplatted land by right, but with platted land developers have to go through the resubdivision process and obtain a variance, adding time to an already lengthy permitting process. In terms of application fees, he said that in all it costs about $4,000."
Pedestrian Safety Action Plan open for public comment (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY
"Austin’s road to eliminating traffic deaths will involve more planning and at least one new tool in the toolbox according to the draft version of the Pedestrian Safety Action Plan. The document – itself a recommendation of the Vision Zero Action Plan adopted by City Council more than a year ago – provides 21 recommendations aimed at reducing the risks of walking in the city of Austin. “The Recommendations were heavily informed by a detailed analysis of the crash data, along with concerns and priorities expressed by the public through (the Austin Transportation Department’s) public outreach efforts this past spring,” Austin Transportation Director Robert Spillar wrote in a memo attached to the draft sent to Mayor Steve Adler and the other members of Council."