AUSTIN, Texas — If you venture over to West Austin on a sunny and warm day, teeing up at the Lions Municipal Golf Course seems like the ideal plan.
Since 1936, the City of Austin has leased out more than 100 acres of green space from the University of Texas for the community to enjoy. However, the future of 'Muny' remains uncertain as the City's lease with the university approaches its end in May 2020.
In addition, the Brackenridge Development Agreement created to manage how the University of Texas develops the land will also end after more than 30 years.
According to Alison Alter, councilwoman for District 10, the university originally suggested selling Muny to the City for $110 million. Alter said that it is financially unfeasible.
"Our city faces revenue caps. We don't have $110 million sitting around for anything," said Alter.
Under the current contract, Alter said the City makes a $500,000 lease payment once a year. In return, UT gets development rights under the Brackenridge agreement.
However, the land was given to the university under the conditions that the property would continue to benefit them. Upon review three years ago, the Board of Regents recognized they could no longer lease out the property to the City at the current price.
In the most recent interactions between the two parties, on Jan. 23, the City of Austin sent a letter to UT requesting that they consider extending the Muny lease and the Brackenridge Development Agreement on a month-to-month basis.
"We are looking for other things that are not monetary cash that we have to offer as a city," Alter said.
In addition, Alter said they could come to agreements on future use and development of the land, but first, she needs additional clarification on what exactly the university plans to do.
"As a city, we have a responsibility to our citizens to make sure we are planning responsibly," Alter said. "It's very difficult to negotiate and plan responsibly if you don’t actually know what the other side wants to build."
In response, the University Board of Regents sent a letter to the City on Feb. 3 stating their plans for development. This includes:
- Appropriate zoning of the Brackenridge Tract and other UT properties during the Land Development Code Revision process
- Exploration of traffic improvements with the city and other agencies around the Wildflower Center
- Future construction by UT of new housing for 750 graduate students near campus
- Revision of the Brackenridge Development Agreement by releasing some restrictions set by the City
With these guidelines in mind, during a meeting at the end of February, the Board of Regents will consider the university's recommendation for a more affordable solution to purchasing the golf course.
In January, Alter wanted the university to recognize that through the course of years-long negotiations, the City has already extended a helping hand in multiple regards.
"My hope is they will recognize the many efforts the City has taken to advance the interests of the university through our work on the arena, on Red River and Redbud Trail Bridge, as well as efforts we have made specifically in that area in the HEB in helping solve some of the traffic issues," Alter told KVUE.
The Austin City Council will discuss progress on the golf course in their work session on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, in their letter, the university proposed drafting a memorandum of understanding between the two parties by April 23, should both find common ground.
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