The Austin City Council has approved some changes to the review process for the city’s new land development code, known as CodeNEXT, allowing for additional scrutiny at City Hall before its planned adoption in April of next year.
CodeNEXT staff will now be issuing an additional draft of the code, which will be reviewed by multiple city commissions before the city council takes a final vote next year. Speaking at City Hall on Thursday, District 10 Council Member Alison Alter, who authored the resolution, said she wants the revision to provide more clarity on the complex code rewrite.
“I think that this will increase public confidence in the process and help us to end up with a better product at the end,” Alter said. “I think it enhances transparency and invites people to engage with the process.”
Alter said the changes will not delay a planned 2018 adoption of CodeNEXT by city council, but will hopefully allow for more time to correct errors in the code maps and incorporate feedback the city's received. The second draft of CodeNEXT will be presented to the city’s Planning Commission. Austin’s Zoning and Platting Commission, the Environmental Commission, and the Historic Landmark Commission will also have the option to weigh in. Any suggested changes will be incorporated into the final draft presented to council next year.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler said he thinks it’s important to stick to the established timeline for adopting the new code. That idea was seconded by Council Member Ann Kitchen, who said the resolution "should not be interpreted as a vote to move back the April timeline."
“This memo is just dealing with what’s in front of us right now, which is the need to do a third draft.”
But others, like Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, disagreed. She said it’s not often Austin gets to take a fresh look at its land development code. The last time it got a comprehensive update was in 1984. Tovo believes the priority should be to get the changes right, rather than meet a deadline.
“At the end of the day, we need a code that represents the values and the goals of this city, and so while I support the continuing interest in wrapping up by April, it is more important to me to do it well and to do it right than to meet that goal,” Tovo said.