In an attempt to regulate drivers of motor-assisted scooters who have increasingly crossed over its borders—from adjacent Austin neighborhoods, through Zilker Park and into Rollingwood roadways—city leaders contemplated how best to control the popular devices.


The Rollingwood City Council debated the issue during its Jan. 15 meeting, with some members of the dais pushing for penalties for folks who abandon the motorized scooters on private property or public rights of way rather than an outright denial of the vehicles’ access on city streets.


City Attorney Charles Zech is slated to bring back to the council for approval at a later session a proposed ordinance that prohibits the abandonment of scooters on public property and unauthorized private property while still allowing access to the devices on city streets.


Council Member Wendi Hundley argued that a total ban on motorized scooter use on Rollingwood streets would unjustly penalize residents who own the vehicles. Council Member Gavin Massingill agreed and said prohibiting the abandonment of the devices would be “a good compromise” for the city’s ordinance.


The ordinance proposed at the meeting included a $500 fine for an individual caught abandoning a motorized scooter and the ability for city officials to impound the vehicle.


The proposal defines a “motor-assisted scooter” as being a “self-propelled device with at least two wheels” that includes a braking system. The device can have either a gas or electric motor that is no bigger than 40 cubic centimeters. The vehicle also houses a deck for a rider to stand or sit on while in operation, and the device can be driven by human power alone.


At the meeting, the council opposed granting a permit to commercial scooter companies to bring motor-assisted scooters into the city. Massingill and Pattillo said a commercial permit granted to a company to allow the vehicles in city limits might incentivize riders to possibly abandon the devices on city or private grounds.


Hundley considered possibly limiting the permit process to only two companies but questioned the difficulty in enforcing the city’s regulations even in that situation. She also said a permit process would help the city cover the expenses of police efforts incurred with impoundment.


Council Member Sara Hutson voiced concern that there wasn’t a safe place for a company to drop off or pick up scooters in the city, especially if that location was on heavily trafficked Bee Cave Road.


“We don’t really have a good place or reason for too many people to rent scooters in Rollingwood,” she said. “It seems more likely that we would have people renting scooters someplace else and coming into Rollingwood.”


Advocating against a permit process for scooter companies, Council Member Amy Pattillo pointed out that Rollingwood’s hills aren’t conducive for scooter riders, and commercial scooters are not designed to navigate that terrain.


“If we just make it an offense for people to leave (a motor-assisted scooter) or abandon it,” she said, “people could still ride the scooter in, park it in a private space and keep it running and then be able to take it back without there being an issue.”


Council discusses fate of former Mr. Gatti’s Pizza store


Following a Jan. 14 Planning and Zoning Commission vote to not make a recommendation on a decision that would impact the site of the city’s former Mr. Gatti’s Pizza, the council unanimously agreed to refer the matter back to commissioners to take action.


Vista Bank, a 106-year-old bank based out of Lubbock, is seeking to buy the roughly 1,200-square-foot space at 2802 Bee Cave Road and remodel the tiny property into a commercial financial institution, said its representative William Milligan, principal of the High-Line Group.


However, the property is zoned C-2, commercial, a category that doesn’t expressly allow for financial institutions, he said. Also, Vista Bank can’t avail itself of the city’s special use permit process since this process isn’t expressly made available to financial institutions, he said.


The situation pushed Vista to choose to advocate the city either amend its C-2 zoning category to include financial institutions or change its special use permit process to make the endeavor available to these entities. Milligan said Vista asked ZAPCO for the C-2 zoning category change because it believed that route to be shorter but commissioners declined to make a recommendation to Council.


The site has ingress and egress issues with a right-turn in, right-turn out only, he said. The lot is surrounded by a gas station on one side and a strip center on the other, very narrow and presents other challenges, he said.


Recent information supplied by the city’s consultant, The Retail Coach, showed Rollingwood is in need of more retail entities to add sales tax to its coffers, and the proposed project wouldn’t fulfill that need.


Hundley advocated not changing the property’s zoning until the corridor’s overall zoning scheme has been determined by the city, although Council Member Buck Shapiro, noting the lot’s impediments, said the property would be a difficult fit for a retail environment.


According to state law, since ZAPCO had declined to take action on the matter, there was no measure for council members to approve or deny, leaving the dais without authority to act, Zech said. Therefore, the council was obligated to remand the issue back to the commissioners for a decision and re-notice a public hearing once a vote has been taken, he said.