CodeNEXT and Compatibility
News and tidbits from the land of the land use rewrite
Mayor Steve Adler opened up City Council's special called meeting on CodeNEXT Wednesday with a short tribute to John Fregonese, the city planner who succumbed to cancer last week. Fregonese was a major consultant on Austin's land use rewrite, and Adler said he will be sorely missed. But the pleasantries didn't last long, and the dais waded into two controversial topics: compatibility standards and transition areas.
In theory, the two tools help ensure a symbiotic relationship between residential-scaled building and high-density development. Consultants argue our current compatibility standards are "uncommonly suppressive" and limit development along corridors and city centers, which limits the number of housing units that can be built. But naysayers worry that loosened compatibility standards will trigger a "domino effect" from increased density along corridors into neighborhoods, said Leslie Pool, who noted that people are "afraid" this will happen "really quickly." The dais spent the better part of Wednesday debating the impact of the tools and directed staff and consultants to return in August with additional information.
In pulling "placeholder" Item 125 from this week's Council agenda for discussion, Adler emphasized the importance of publicly and transparently testing CodeNEXT as it's proposed in draft 3.5, as well as the land use commissions' recommendations. (Staff previously proposed six months of testing after adoption, prior to implementation.) The dais will vote on a formal resolution on testing directives today, June 28. The conversation on next steps was ongoing as we went to press. Look for an update online today, at austinchronicle.com/daily/news.
Back at the Land Use Commissions
Adler has proposed appointing Yvette Flores to the Planning Commission in place of Stephen Oliver, the former chair who stepped down earlier this month. This won't be Flores' first rodeo with the land use commissions; until recently she served on the Zoning and Platting Commission, also as the mayor's appointee, where she was one of the four commissioners to vote against ZAP's "terminate CodeNEXT" Council recommendation. Flores has worked for the Texas Department of Transportation since 2014. During Council's Tuesday work session, Adler said that unlike Oliver, an architect, Flores has no professional ties to development or real estate (a hot issue with the Planning Commission these days, in case you haven't heard). If all goes as planned, Council will appoint Flores during today's meeting.
The court hearing to decide if the petition to put CodeNEXT to public vote is in fact legal was rescheduled. Travis County Judge Orlinda Naranjo will hear arguments this coming Monday, July 2.