Council discusses land development, Rainey St.


by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and Photojournalist SCOTT McKENNEY

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

Posted on January 31, 2013 at 7:16 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 31 at 9:22 PM

AUSTIN -- The Austin City Council looked unified Thursday morning, but members were split over who should help rewrite the City's Land Development Code.

On Wednesday, Council Members Laura Morrision and Kathie Tovo held a news conference speaking out against a resolution that would allow lobbyists or real estate lawyers to help. They said it is a conflict of interest. Council Member Mike Martinez was also against it.

So Council member Bill Spelman, who wrote the resolution, withdrew it but Spelman said the code is complex and excluding stakeholders with legal expertise does not make sense.

"When you're designing a plane, you ask the pilot. You also ask a flight attendant, a mechanic and some very experienced passengers if you're smart and we're doing all of that. All those experienced passengers and mechanics and flight attendants are all going to be in at that table. I think it's only appropriate we ask some pilots to show up as well," Spelman said.

Another hot topic was Rainey Street. Austin City Council heard an update from the Public Works Department. It plans to spend $750,000 on safety improvements.

"That will get us sidewalks on both sides of the street. It will get us a protected cycle track. It will get us some traffic improvements both at the intersection of Rainey and River Streets and Rainey and Davis streets," explained Public Works Department Director Howard Lazarus.

Rainey Street will also be converted into a one-way street running northbound with back-in parking.

Construction will begin in the spring and be completed by SXSW in March.

Austin City Council also approved a $200,000 agreement with Troublemaker Studios, owned by local writer and producer Robert Rodriguez, to establish a creative industry incubator to promote the film and digital industry in Austin. 

The agreement is for one year, but there is an option to continue the agreement for two years at the same price.

City leaders said they realized what a lucrative industry film is, and the impact it has on the Austin economy.

Kevin Johns, director of the Austin Economic Growth & Redevelopment Services Offices, said the creative industry kept Austin afloat during the recession.

"During the recession, the creative part of our economy grew 25 percent and created $4.3 billion in investment, created 49,000 jobs and $71 million worth of taxes," Johns said.

Under the agreement, Troublemaker Studios will have to secure at least one major film to be shot in Austin per year and the studio must create 130 jobs. The incubator will also have to promote local artists and smaller studios, and provide opportunities to local film students.