Joe Clifton, Friday 14 October 2022
The city council on Thursday chose to postpone a decision on changes to the city’s environmental regulations related to drainage, landscaping and site planning requirements. Staff and environmentalists argue that the change is a significant update to regulations related to stormwater drainage, wastewater infrastructure, landscape requirements and wetland protection.
The Planning Commission has already recommended deferring certain sections of the new rules, and staff members have asked the council to approve the remaining rules on Thursday, with other changes to come later. I am making plans to return to the Council.
The real disagreement was whether to approve the new regulations or defer all regulations proposed by the staff. Council members Ann Kitchen, Kathie Tovo, and Leslie Pool wanted to move forward according to the rules blessed by the Planning and Environment Committee. These three were the only council members who voted to advance a subset of regulations immediately. Poole warned his colleagues not to postpone new rules, saying climate change is happening now.
Council members Mackenzie Kelly, Pio Renteria and Chito Vera insisted they would take no action, saying many community members were unaware of the new rules. Although he said he would support the issue, Mayor Steve Adler also indicated he was not ready to move forward.
One of the postponed changes involves raising the critical water quality zone below Longhorn Dam to 400 feet above the riverbank. Council members have indicated that they are not prepared to approve such changes, especially in light of the fact that many property owners in the area may not be aware of the proposed changes. I got
Poole asked staff whether the city was following proper procedures for notifying people about changes to city ordinances. Said it was a notice about a Planning Commission hearing. These regulations do not require the notice required for changes in zoning regulations.
Several environmental groups have sent representatives to urge Congress to implement improved regulations immediately. Maura Powers of the Travis Chapter of the National Audubon Society urged immediate adoption of the item, whose local chapter manages the Baker Nature Reserve, which primarily protects the Golden Herb Teak Her Warbler. Powers told the council that over the past 30 years, Texas has seen a significant decline in migratory and native bird numbers. She said the proposed environmental regulation changes would be an important improvement to the system.
Meanwhile, Sam Pfeiffer, who describes himself as a civil engineer, told the council he was concerned about what he saw as a “rush” to change environmental regulations. He suggested that properties with 80% or more impervious coverage be required to comply with infrastructure-based requirements such as green roofs, landscaping, and stormwater runoff control. These changes were first proposed five years ago but fell by the wayside when staff began to focus on changing zoning regulations.
Mayor Pro Tem Alison Alter proposed a resolution to the dispute that included a specific date of October 27 to reclaim the incontrovertible part of the proposed ordinance change. The rest of the changes will come back on an undetermined date.
Photo by Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
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