AUSTIN, Texas — It was a busy day for Austin City Council Thursday as they approved several ordinances aimed at helping residents impacted by the winter storm that came through Central Texas last week.
The Development Services Department stated that two ordinances will go into effect from Feb. 9 through March 31.
"Our priority is to ensure our community can recover safely and quickly from this winter storm," said José Roig, interim director of Development Services. "We want the community to know we're here to help through the recovery and thank the City Manager and the City Council for taking quick action to support Austinites in need."
Ordinance No. 78 will waive "permitting and development fees for structural repairs and tree removal with the winter storm."
According to the ordinance, it "applies to plan reviews, inspections, demolitions and variances, but not to re-inspections when repairs do not comply with Code requirements and fail initial inspections."
This ordinance also waives any late fees for City of Austin utility bills with due dates between Jan. 31 and Feb. 17.
This ordinance focuses on electrical work permitting throughout the City.
It will allow "the Building Official to exempt some electrical work from permit requirements, extends the deadline for some permit applications and waives a City of Austin registration requirement for electricians who are licensed to work in Texas."
According to the City's Electrical Code, people are required to obtain a permit so they can "install, alter, repair, replace or remodel an electrical system."
The temporary waiver will help crews complete repair jobs faster and prevent more structural damage to buildings. However, workers will still have to follow all federal, state and local requirements.
The City has also extended deadlines by five days after work begins on retroactive permits. On the application, those filing should note "2023 Winter Weather Event" to allow for the extended deadline.
There will also be inspectors for electrical and plumbing emergency repairs available 24 hours a week. Residents can call 512-974-2030 for electrical inspections and 512-974-1250 for plumbing inspections.
For more information about emergency repairs and permitting, visit the Development Services Department's Permits for Emergency Repairs website. Residents can also call 311 about emergency repairs or the DSD emergency repair hotline at 512-974-1500 between 7:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The last ordinance passed during the meeting was No. 81, which covers the vegetation issue for the City.
There were some amendments made to the ordinance that would change the focus to more vegetation management following the downed trees during the winter storm.
The ordinance states that the City Auditor will conduct a compressive audit of Austin Energy's Vegetation Management Plan. The auditor will review several areas including:
- The vegetation management plan which will identify areas for improvement
- Execution of the plan which includes frequency and quality of inspections, pruning and removal activities
- A closer look at best practices and lessons learned from the recent winter storm
- Allocation of resources such as staffing, equipment and funding during storm response and vegetation management
- Recommendations for improving the plan, the response and overall resiliency of the energy system and infrastructure