Public Notice: The Greatest Show on Access
ZAP, PC take turns hacking code
As I noted last week, the Planning Commission and Zoning and Platting Commission meetings (alternating Tuesdays at 6pm at City Council chambers and on access channel 6) continue to be must-watch TV for those interested in city planning, affordability, quality of life, and other such. It's kind of a low-key, action-free adventure series, as PC and ZAP take turns trying to hack their way through the jungle of issues entangling the CodeNEXT land development code rewrite, and find the magic formula, which no one has ever seen, that will legislate sustainable and affordable civic growth patterns in a free-market economy.
Bless them for trying.
Neither body seems to think much of the raw material they've been given to start with, the draft code and mapping. At ZAP on May 16, commissioners decided to organize their thoughts into four major topics:
• What parts of CodeNEXT are good?
• What parts are worth changing?
• What parts are unacceptable?
• What's missing?
When they started with what parts are good, about all they could come up with was that they liked the layout of the pages. The other topics drew considerably more comment, and a couple of the "unacceptable" suggestions were pretty vehement – Commissioner Betsy Greenberg said the mapping decisions showed "complete disregard for the rights of existing residents," and the procedures section "seems like a deliberate attempt to reduce the rights of citizens."
At this week's PC meeting, May 23, commissioners spent some time talking about the Envision Tomorrow spreadsheet tool that a number of commissioners, council members, and others had been asking to see, which is supposed to model the effects of different zoning strategies over time: If we zone this neighborhood this way, what will it look like in 15 years? PC chair Steven Oliver told his colleagues that "staff did put up earlier this month a massive spreadsheet on the CodeNEXT website .... It's what we asked for, but it's also with no presentation ... I don't have a user's manual, so it means nothing to me right now, but technically, they gave us what we asked for. ... It looks cool, but, then what?" Meanwhile, CodeNEXT critics claim that the tool shows sharply rising prices, accelerated teardowns of existing affordable housing, and widespread displacement of low-income residents. But that's what they've expected all along.
There are a lot of underlying policy differences about how much density ought to be encouraged where in the city, but what everyone seems to agree on at this point is that they don't like the fact that there are planned to be three sets of codes, with different but overlapping rules, procedures, and terminologies. With all comments due in just two weeks in order to be considered for the supposedly second-and-only major draft, it's looking like a major schedule reboot is in order.
PC and ZAP will hold a combined meeting next Tue., May 30, at 6pm. Also, all ZAP and PC meetings are archived at austintx.swagit.com/planning.
There are still more CodeNEXT public meetings coming up before the comment deadline:
Mobility Code Talk: Wed., May 31, 6-8pm, Austin City Hall, 301 W. Second
D9 Mapping Meeting: Sat., June 3, 10am-noon, Austin City Hall, 301 W. Second
Permitting & Process Code Talk: Wed., June 7, 6-8pm, Austin City Hall
During last year's squabbles over the zoning and development of the Grove at Shoal Creek PUD, much of the back-and-forth had to do with the park component. Negotiations produced a pretty robust parks component, including a 16.25-acre Signature Park, a "town center" plaza area, a Pocket Park, and a greenbelt buffering the 45th Street side of the property. The Parks & Recreation Department and the property owners have been working on the Grove's Public Parks Master Plan, presenting two drafts at public meetings earlier this year. They'll present the refined master plan for each of the park elements, and discuss phasing options, at a final public meeting, Tue., May 30, 7-8:30pm at Bryker Woods Elementary, 3309 Kerbey. After that, see the final plan, and the meeting presentation, at www.austintexas.gov/parksatthegrove.
This Saturday through Monday (May 27-29), is the state sales tax holiday for the purchase of certain water- and energy-efficient products. See details at the Comptroller's website, www.comptroller.texas.gov/taxes/publications/96-1331.php. They also have a guide to the relative savings from upgrading to efficient products: Leading the energy savings list are compact fluorescent lightbulbs (80%), ceiling fans (60%), dehumidifiers (30%), clothes washing machines (25%, plus 45% water), and dishwashers (12% & 30%).