Public Notice – CodeNEXT: Where We Stand
Taking stock after a hectic week
In by far the busiest week yet on the CodeNEXT front:
• Land use commissioners held three lengthy meetings in the past eight days, including the long-awaited unveiling of a tool for testing different mapping scenarios;
• Staff released a 400-page addendum to draft three of the code rewrite, plus an errata document, and a map atlas showing corrections made to the draft three mapping thus far;
• The city clerk certified the Community Not Commodity citizen petition, seeking to force a November election that would require voter approval and waiting periods before CodeNEXT or other code revisions could go into effect;
• All parties are girding for a pair of lengthy public hearings coming up this coming Saturday and Tuesday.
Taking those one at a time: The joint land use commissions met last Wednesday on mapping, a day after the Zoning & Platting Commission meeting, and before the Planning Commission met this Tuesday, April 24. One interesting thing is that this week, it was the Planning Commissioners, not the generally more critical ZAPistas, who were venting their frustration the loudest: At the April 18 joint meeting, density hawk Conor Kenny led the charge in complaining about not ever getting a clean map to start with, calling it "enormously frustrating to not be able to separate out" where zoning changes have been made in draft three due to policy decisions, and saying that "our mapping working group didn't feel like we were in a position to map on top of D3" because of it. And the normally unflappable PC Chair Stephen Oliver appeared to be banging his head on the table at one point, and complained vehemently to Planning Director Greg Guernsey that "we have a failed starting point .... You gave me a half-baked solution that's unworkable. It's just not." By this week's PC meeting, Oliver had prepared a resolution, proposing: "We take up the hardest stuff first, not last," and concentrate purely on the zoning and mapping issues, leaving the rest of the code – technical specs and the bulk of the code text itself – for further review at a later time, not even trying to make recommendations before Council begins deliberation in June.
The mapping meetings also confirmed that there won't be any adjustments coming there either: Even though commissioners have just now been given a look at the tool that can predict the outcomes of different mapping strategies and create different mapping scenarios, the map that was described when it was introduced some months ago as a "placeholder, certainly not the final product," will indeed be the one and only that goes to Council for their consideration. To quote an oft-repeated comment on the public commenting tool: "WTF?" Perhaps the most depressing part of the Wednesday meeting was Guernsey (Planning Director, mind you; director of Planning) explained to the assembled land use commissioners that city land use planning – "regulating uses that are permitted here but not there, or, I can park my car here but not there, or I can have driveways of a certain design in this block but not that block, it's very complicated ... it's not a simple process." Well, no shit. That's why you're supposed to have been working on it for [four] years now.
The addendum and errata don't change anything substantial – they're basically lists of things that have been previously identified as simple mistakes in the third draft – but confusingly, they won't be incorporated into the document that lands on Council's desks. (Neither will the multiple documents that have been produced by various entities such as American Institute of Architects and various other interested parties, which should lead to an awful lot of paper shuffling when it does come time for Council to take up the debate.)
The anti-CodeNEXT petition didn't come up in any of the discussions, and no one seems to be taking it seriously at this point. That may be whistling past the graveyard, but city leaders are convinced the petition is invalid on a couple of different grounds, and has already spent $58,000 on outside legal counsel to bolster those arguments. Right or wrong, that's going to be a loud and ugly fight when it rolls around.
As for the public hearings, those are destined to be a stultifying waste of everybody's time, as we all get to hear the same arguments rehashed, by the same people who've been filling the slots at citizen communications for the last many months. Democracy in action! On the other hand, if you don't go say your piece now, you won't get another chance until next month, when the whole circus moves on over to Council. Details below.
From Deep in the Heart is the sorta-annual supper fundraiser for SouthPop, the South Austin Popular Culture Center: $125 gets you a custom-menu supper seated with a celebrity of your choice, plus a limited-edition art print, and a chance to be inducted into the Order of the Sacred Varmint. It's Thu., May 3, 6-10pm at Threadgill's WHQ, 301 W. Riverside; see www.southpop.org to reserve, or for more info.
The CodeNEXT draft three addendum, errata, and map atlas are available at austintexas.gov/codenext, along with links to commenting tools, and info on the public hearings.
Joint Land Use Commissions Public Hearings
Saturday, April 28, 10am-5pm at Dove Springs Rec Center, 5801 Ainez;
Tuesday, May 1, 4-9pm at Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Rd.
Each speaker will get three minutes; donating time is prohibited.
Sign-in begins 30 minutes before the meetings; speakers must be present and sign in individually, and will be called in order they sign in.
Speakers may not speak at both hearings.
Anyone signed up but still waiting when time expires Saturday will be rolled over to the Tuesday list.
[Just added]: There will be sign-up sheets for 120 speakers.
Public speaking time will be 10:30am-4:30pm.
Barks for Beers is a tasty fundraiser for Divine Canines, who provide free therapy dog services to various populations in the area: Buy a Divine Canines pint glass for $30, then from now through the end of May, get one free pour at each of 25 Austin craft breweries. For more info: www.divinecanines.org/barksforbeers.
Hill Country Ride for AIDS is this Sat., April 28, and they still need for race day volunteers; see more, or donate, at www.hillcountryride.org.