Will Austin Vote on CodeNEXT?
Petition filed with City Clerk. But is it legal?
By Sarah Marloff,
1:20PM, Thu. Mar. 29, 2018
A petition to put CodeNEXT on the November 2018 ballot for public vote was officially filed with the City Clerk on Thursday morning.
Rolled in on a cart, the paperwork was delivered to City Hall in four banker-sized boxes and was said to contain the signatures of more than 32,000 registered voters – at least 12,000 more than the required 20,000 needed to put a proposed city ordinance on the ballot.
The group of anti-CodeNEXTers – who’ve been working for several months to collect these signatures – includes Fred Lewis, Susana Almanza, Nelson Linder, and Mary Ingle. Each has spoken out against the ongoing effort to overhaul the city’s land development code. Today, however, Lewis said this petition isn’t about whether or not CodeNEXT is good or bad for Austin, but rather about giving residents a say in the matter. (Other speakers did hedge that the existing code, written and adopted in the Eighties, isn’t broken – specifically in regard to neighborhood plans in East Austin.) Lewis also said the city "still has time" to get the rewrite right.
Lewis estimates that it’ll take the City Clerk’s Office three weeks to a month to verify the signatures. Ultimately, he believes CodeNEXT will end up in front of voters in November (as would any of Austin’s future land use code overhauls from here on out, if the city deems this petition request to be legal). A statement handed out before the press conference charges that today’s petition filing doesn't prevent City Council from approving CodeNEXT, “but it requires a waiting period and a public vote before the comprehensive rezoning initiative goes into effect.”
City staff released the third and final draft of CodeNEXT in February. It’s the rewrite’s longest draft yet, containing more than 1,500 pages. Though the proposed code is scheduled to arrive at Council for a first read in June (last week Council approved public hearing dates of May 29 and June 2), numerous residents fear the latest draft is too complicated and doesn’t do enough to protect against displacement or offer enough much-needed housing.