"Some Dates Will Change"

ZAP Chair Jolene Kiolbassa predicts "a crazy sprint to the finish"

Greg Guernsey
Greg Guernsey

On Tuesday, with the holiday hangover still lingering, Austin's Zoning and Platting Commission reconvened to once again dive into the murky waters of CodeNEXT. There's a bit more time now – draft three's Novem­ber delay pushed its release to Feb. 12 – but ZAP chair Jolene Kiolbassa still predicted a "crazy sprint to the finish."

Only seven commissioners were in attendance for what would have been a short meeting if not for the CodeNEXT discussion, which lasted more than two hours. Project lead Greg Guernsey confirmed staff is on track for February, though project manager Jorge Rousselin repeated throughout that "some dates will change" regarding the updated timeline. Rousselin called the process a "work in progress," and reminded commissioners that they still needed to schedule public hearings.

Should the timeline stay on track, draft three could arrive at City Council by late April. But Rousselin said that even if the draft makes it to the dais before May, that "doesn't mean Council will take any action then." Prior to the extension, draft three was expected at Council by late February, with a final vote in April. Given the same sort of timeline, Council could vote on CodeNEXT by June. However, as Commissioner David King pointed out, Austin's new City Manager Spencer Cronk is yet to officially start, and may want to learn about the overhaul. Guernsey told commissioners he's eager to meet his incoming boss and update him on CodeNEXT "after he does some other stuff – police contracts and whatnot." He said it's unclear how Cronk's learning curve could affect the timeline.

“Imagine Austin says we have a problem with PUDs.” – Jim Duncan

Commissioners then turned their attention toward Vice Chair Jim Dun­can, who gave a presentation on planned unit developments. Duncan declared PUDs "broken" under the current code, and chided its language as ultimately too confusing. "Imagine Austin says we have a problem with PUDs," he said. His issue with CodeNEXT is that it does not fix the current issues, nixes existing criteria, and disregards recommendations offered by the city's 2016 audit of PUDs. Kiolbassa said she'd have PUDs added to the agenda for the next joint meeting of the ZAP and Planning commissions, set for Jan. 30.

CodeNEXT spokesperson Alina Carnahan told the Chronicle her team is working to finish comment consideration on draft two, and also gathering accompanying materials to clarify questions regarding draft three's release. Despite anti-CodeNEXTers' push for a petition to put the rewrite on a ballot instead of allowing Council autonomy to vote on the new code (see "The (Longer) Road to CodeNEXT," Jan. 5), Carnahan said staff will continue to work "according to the updated timeline unless advised otherwise" by Council.

The Planning Commission, the city's other land use commission overseeing the CodeNEXT process, has a regular meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 9, where members will surely discuss the rewrite and potentially hear from working groups doing deep dives into the code. PC and ZAP will have its joint meeting on Jan. 30, focusing solely on CodeNEXT. The next official ZAP meeting falls on Feb. 6, though special meetings for both commissions could be called.

If all goes to plan, draft three hits the printer right around the time of ZAP's Feb. 6 meeting. Commissioner Betsy Greenberg asked to pencil in a preview of 3.0 for that evening. Guernsey's reply was vague: "We'll see what we can do."

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CodeNEXT, Greg Guernsey, Jolene Kiolbassa

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