Public Notice: New Math
Can CodeNEXT get to eight votes?
City Council began their CodeNEXT deliberations on Tuesday, discussing not the issues, but the process by which they'll try to make sense – and hopefully consensus – out of the years-long land development code rewrite, and the widely varied proposals for it that will land on their desks in the next couple of weeks (see "CodeNEXT Wrecks Austin," May 25).
Mayor Steve Adler described the framework that he'll be looking for: Council should move through the code proposal, looking for places where they can reach an eight-vote consensus, and where they can't, for now simply identifying those areas with notes on how far apart the sides are. Eight is a number picked very deliberately, in view of this Council's seemingly intractably opposed four-member voting blocs when it comes to planning and zoning matters: Having four hardcore density advocates in Casar, Garza, Renteria, and Flannigan, and four hardcore neighborhood preservationists in Tovo, Pool, Houston, and Alter, will indeed make it hard to reach an 8-3 consensus on any of the thornier issues – but where that's not possible, the mayor proposes "we place a bookmark," try to define a range of options wherein a compromise might fall, and come back to it later. The intent then would be to find enough reasonable concessions on both sides, in order to create a compromise that will be at least moderately palatable to a broad majority of the city, rather than a thin majority of the dais. The perpetually angry Jimmy Flannigan objected, clearly favoring the more confrontational strategy of taking as many divisive 6-5 and 5-6 votes as possible, as quickly as possible, but he seems to be a minority of one at this point. Others seem willing to at least entertain the possibility that they might change their minds about something. And so they may.
Meanwhile, the 13-member Planning Commission, tasked with making concrete recommendations to Council by the end of the month, has no such room for discretion, and is plowing through some 900+ proposed amendments to the draft three code, in three lengthy meetings this week, and leaving lots of 7-6 and 6-7 votes in its wake. On Tuesday they just about worked through compatibility issues, though tabling one core decision with the promise that a compromise was in the works behind the scenes. Presumably that will be presented and considered at the next meeting this Thursday, where there's still quite a lot of code text to get to, plus a multitude of tabled items, before commissioners can move on to considering the mapping – then or at their final meeting this Friday, May 25, after which they presumably have to turn in their homework, to be compiled into a coherent set of recommendations for City Council to consider in June, along with the CodeNEXT third draft, the draft addendum and errata, and separate recommendations from various other bodies, governmental and otherwise. Phew.
The PC's previous meeting last Wednesday, May 16, yielded one large shift in approach, courtesy of Commissioner Trinity White. Parking requirements are expected to be one of the major sticking points in the new code: One side wants to do away with them altogether, while the other thinks the reductions in draft three (50% of the current code to start with, ranging down to zero in some conditions) already go too far. White, generally on the "preservationist" side as Ora Houston's appointee, offered a surprise substitute amendment, offering to go past the current cuts, to as close as possible to zero, but with instructions to staff to figure out what that figure is, based on school zones, ADA needs, street and sidewalk conditions, and a variety of other factors that were not really considered in draft three. That was warily accepted on most sides, and it got the issue off of the PC's plate for now, but it'll be back. Remember, this is just a recommendation. If Council decides to follow it, they'll have to give staff those instructions at that time ... and wait for the report back ... and consider it anew at that point ... which is all as it should be, and could have a good result. I'm just saying, don't expect this saga to be over soon.
Oak Hill Parkway: TxDOT and the CTRMA are holding a public hearing tonight about their recommended build alternative for the Oak Hill "Y" at highways 290 and 71, which spans 12 lanes in all, including a mile-long six-lane upper deck. Predictably, there's opposition to this, organized as Fix 290, arguing for a ground-level, six-lane parkway instead. See the plan at www.oakhillparkway.com, and/or attend the meeting Thu., May 24: 6:15-7pm open house, 7pm presentation and public comment, at Bowie High School, 4103 W. Slaughter.
This just in: the Austin Animal Center is offering $20 pet adoptions (including rabbits), through Monday, May 28. Your new friend is at 7201 Levander Loop; see www.austinanimalcenter.org.