Public Notice: The Planning Puzzle
Music venues, hospitals, & neighborhood plans
The weather keeps bouncing back and forth, but looking at the schedule of community events going on around town, Austin is definitely finished with its midwinter break (see below). The most consequential action on the local scene is that the city Planning and Zoning Department is preparing to roll out the first parts of CodeNEXT, its multi-year project to rewrite the Land Development Code. But so far, we're all merely spectators, staring at the black box that is the code-writing process, waiting for the big reveal later this month. So in the meantime, here's a trio of upcoming events, each reflecting a different facet of the planning puzzle.
One of the most notable developments over the holiday break was Mayor Steve Adler's posting on the Council message board, vowing activation of the Austin Music and Creative Ecosystem Omnibus Resolution passed in 2016, which pledged city support for a music industry and community hit harder than most by the city's spiraling costs and space crunch. There's no room for that on Council's plate immediately, but it's not on the back burner for long. The City's Music & Entertainment Division is holding a Venue Summit this Thursday to present new developments in city venue policies, including licensing policies, and to get feedback from venue owners before these policies go to Council. The event is Thursday, Jan. 19, from 3-5pm at St. David's Episcopal Church, 301 E. Eighth; RSVP to email@example.com by Jan. 16. See more at www.atxmusic.org.
If you've tried to drive anywhere on Red River Street in the last couple of years, you're aware of the new medical campus taking up much of northeastern Downtown. Central Health is holding a discussion and taking feedback regarding the redevelopment of the 14.3-acre Central Health Brackenridge Campus, in advance of two upcoming hearings before the City of Austin in January. In particular, CH will "discuss the potential land-use overlay for the property," and "share an update on the proposed public marketplace, projected timeline for redevelopment, and … the transition of health services including those from University Medical Center Brackenridge to the new Dell Seton Medical Center Brackenridge at UT in May 2017." That's Thursday, Jan. 12, 5:30-7pm in the Central Health Board Room, 1111 E. Cesar Chavez – and it'll also be live-streamed at www.centralhealthcampus.net.
Much of the angst regarding the CodeNEXT process has surrounded the status of existing neighborhood plans, which are sort of the Endangered Species Act of the city planning world: some view them as obstructionist and a pretense for NIMBYism, others see them as a last legal defense against rapacious development destroying their lifestyle. Wherever you stand on that, it seems clear that these existing small-area plans are at best inconvenient for the Planning and Zoning Department. The Imagine Austin master plan dictates that their values, at least, be reflected in the new code, but of course they're written in the old code, and are in many cases out of date, or otherwise incompatible with the goals and spirit of CodeNEXT. (Plus the entire system of creating and maintaining the plans, as overseen by city Planning staff, was savaged by an independent audit issued a few months ago.)
So, given all that, it may seem curious that the P&Z Dept. is hard at work developing a new North Shoal Creek Neighborhood Plan, covering the area between Burnet Road and MoPac, from Anderson Lane to U.S. 183. P&Z invites the public to the fourth neighborhood workshop, from 9am-noon next Saturday, Jan. 21, in the Pillow Elementary School cafeteria, 3025 Crosscreek Dr. The department pledges, "While Imagine Austin articulates a citywide vision for Austin, the North Shoal Creek Neighborhood Plan will provide a neighborhood-scale plan that accounts for local conditions." And if they can show us how that's done in here, perhaps they can show the way as well for the 53 other neighborhood planning areas in Austin that have completed the planning process and have adopted neighborhood plans.