Council to discuss rental and sidewalk cafe ordinances

Published 4:04 pm Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Austin City Council is scheduled to wrap up 2014 with a meeting to discuss a potential rental ordinance and sidewalk cafe policy.

The council will meet at city hall at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 30, as part of a special session prompted in part by a divided vote over the rental ordinance on Dec. 15.

The council has struggled with a rental ordinance for years as residents asked the city to deal with delinquent properties. Various councils have researched a rental ordinance since 2009 and proposed a similar registration ordinance in 2011, but the council voted it down.

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The council would create an ordinance to require all Austin rental property owners and managers to register with the city, which would effectively create a database for planning and zoning employees.

In addition, city departments would come together to create a mandatory educational program for owners and managers that covers owner and tenant rights before they can register. City officials say the registration process and class would be free.

Under the recommendations, city inspections would continue on a complaint-only basis.

Council members approved a draft plan of the ordinance in May but decided to table the issue and wait until the city’s planning and zoning department was fully staffed.

The council voted earlier this year to increase a part-time inspector position to full-time and three people have been hired to replace the previous community development director.

The council voted 4-3 on Dec. 1 to put the measure to a reading during a public meeting and voted 4-3 again on Dec. 15 to enact the ordinance. The ordinance hasn’t passed yet as the council needed a unanimous vote to push the policy through on the first public reading.

Mayor Tom Stiehm announced his intention to get a special session before the end of the year so the council could finish its work on the ordinance.

“You should get that stuff done with the same council that worked on it all year,” he said on Friday. “I just thought that was the way to go.”

The council will also look at a proposal to reconfigure the city’s current ordinance to allow medium-sized businesses under state guidelines with licensed kitchens to serve customers outside.

The city currently allows businesses to put out chairs to serve patrons as long as 70 percent or more of their sales come from food rather than liquor. Under the new ordinance, medium-sized businesses with state-licensed kitchens could put chairs and tables outside as long as they gated off the area using temporary fencing. In addition, the ordinance would allow outdoor seating until midnight.

Council members will meet in closed session at 4:45 p.m. on an unrelated employee matter.