Public Notice: When the Cats Are Away …

The mice are left trying to figure out what happened to the damn cheese

Public Notice: When the Cats Are Away …

With City Council on hiatus, they've left their surrogates on the Planning Commis­sion and Zoning & Platting Commission to keep working on the elusive pimpernel that is CodeNEXT. Problem is, at the moment no one can seem to find hide nor hair of the slippery beast. We thought we had it pinned down three weeks ago: a set of codes, and a matching map, on which officials, and stakeholders, and the public, had been making voluminous (mostly critical) notes for months … but, presto chango! On June 27, planners whisked that one away – said, essentially: "We hear your pain; we never really liked that idea anyway; here's the rough idea for a whole new plan you're going to like a lot better." And with that they took their new idea away to be fleshed out as "Version 2.0," and left the commissioners (and all those other interested parties including every property owner in Austin) grasping at thin air.

Tuesday night's PC meeting was a tragicomic case in point, as commissioners took turns trying to express in different ways that they really didn't have the foggiest idea what they're meant to be reacting to. They voted formally to support the general direction outlined June 27-28 for the CodeNEXT reorganization, and to pass along their original recommendations regarding the first draft. But there wasn't much enthusiasm. Noting that the proposal had already changed substantively in the one day between the presentation to ZAP and PC on June 27, and the presentation to Council the next day, Karen McGraw abstained, saying she didn't "feel prepared tonight" to vote on a such a nebulous proposal. Chito Vela agreed: "I mean, our comments are based on the first draft, which has already been thrown away, and is being revised, so at this point, I'm just kind of sitting tight, waiting for something to look over and comment on. … I just feel like these are conversations that should have happened like, two years ago."

James Shieh, who's supposed to be in charge of the PC's mapping subcommittee, said he'd like to know what's happening there: "What is going on? … It was kind of left there. We don't even know what to comment on. I mean, it's frustrating …. There's another map that's happening, that's nothing like what was presented to us, that supposedly is taking into consideration the transportation corridors, and the centers and the nodes, and it's like, how's this going to effect this whole process? … What does this mean?" Replied PC Chair Stephen Oliver: "Yeah, we just don't know where they've gone with it."

The PC will hold a special called meeting at 7pm on Thu., July 20, for staff and consultants to provide some of the various pieces of the plan that are not yet completed: density bonuses, 3-D modeling, and the overall direction, structure, and content that might be included in the second draft, along with a definitive timeline for draft two code and mapping. Five PC members will be missing for that meeting, leaving them with a bare minimum for a quorum, but it's their one chance to meet with the consultants while they're in town.

Then at their next regular meeting, a joint meeting with ZAP to be held on July 25, the PC will try to address the parts of the code being written by staff, apart from the consultants, such as the Heritage Tree ordinance, alleys and street design, process issues, and also (and this is a big one) Development Services and permitting.

Meanwhile, two joint PC/ZAP committees are forging ahead, taking the micro and macro views of the planning conundrum: The Small Area Planning Joint Committee is meeting as we go to press Wednesday, and the Comprehensive Plan Joint Committee is set to meet at 6pm, July 20, just before the full PC meeting, both discussing the five-year update of the Imagine Austin Compre­hensive Plan.

Carrying Hope is gearing up for its second annual citywide Kids Helping Kids Hope Pack Drive for foster children on Sat., July 22, 9am-noon at the Browning Hangar at Mueller. They're looking for donations of "a backpack, duffel bag or diaper bag filled with comfort items and essentials intended to help ease the transition for children who are entering a new foster home," and the premise is, kids themselves are the best at identifying what items bring the most comfort. So if you've got a kid of a certain age, or perhaps just were one once, go to to pick the age and gender of a child you'd like to shop for, including an online shopping option.

Anthropos Arts is a great group I've written about here before. They've been providing high-quality music education for low-income and at-risk students since last century, and they're doing their major fundraising push this month. No event to plug – just dig in and help them help music save someone's life.

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