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ANC wants Land Development Code rewrite held for 10-1 Council

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano

The Austin Neighborhoods Council and others are calling for the ongoing rewrite of the city’s Land Development Code to be put on hold until the new 10-1 City Council is seated in January 2015.


At their Monday afternoon meeting, members of the Land Development Code Advisory Group heard from several citizens, all of whom expressed concern with the rewrite of the code, which is expected to be complete in 2017.


Austin Neighborhoods Council President Mary Ingle told the group that the ANC executive committee had recently passed a resolution explicitly asking City Council to defer approval of the first draft of alternative approaches for the new Land Development Code until the 10-1 Council officially convenes.


“We would really like to slow this process down,” said Ingle. “The alternative approaches would be voted on by this Council and we feel that is absolutely inappropriate – absolutely inappropriate – because the new 10-1 Council should be choosing the direction of this code.”


The ANC resolution also asks the City Council to adjust the timeline to allow more time for neighborhoods to produce community character maps and for more information about where current code falls short of new requirements.


The ANC resolution will be discussed at the next meeting of the City Council’s Planning and Transportation Committee.


Ingle also expressed concern with a process that asks Austinites to define their community character, asking for a better explanation of how the data gathered would be used.


Several other people commented, expressing concern that Austinites could weigh in on whatever neighborhoods they wanted, regardless of intention.


Windsor Hills Neighborhood Association President Laura Pressley was one of those people who expressed concern about the Code Next “listening” process, saying the willy-nilly labeling of maps by people, including developers, led to a “data integrity issue” at the community Code Next meetings.


There was also some talk about process concerns within the nascent working group.


Advisory group member Stephen Oliver, who also sits on the Planning Commission, stated some of his concerns during discussion of a proposed timeline. He noted the importance of discussing some of the city’s priority conflicts like how to balance protecting neighborhood character with encouraging compact and connected development well in advance of mapping new zones in the city.


“If we don’t have an open, honest, healthy conversation in those code talks, if we punt the controversial issues to the end, we are in trouble.” said Oliver. “They need to be structured in such a way that people can really open up and talk honestly about what can be done to make the different parts of our policy stay in balance. If we don’t talk about what will happen in various districts – if we don’t talk about the reality of that process upfront, you’re going to have a lot of disenfranchised people at the end.”


At this point, the advisory group is just starting to organize itself around a whole host of issues, including the transition to single-member districts, their role in relation to the city’s development review process, and how the group could potentially use subcommittees or working groups to target such pressing issues as affordability in the city.


As of Monday there is at least one working group, formed to address the “envision tomorrow” modeling tool. That group will consist of Jeff Jack, Chris Bradford, Mandy De Mayo, Stephen Oliver and Dave Sullivan. But by the end of the meeting, many of the other issues broached remained in flux.


”Someone used the word chaos to describe this process) others have used confusion,” said city facilitator Larry Schooler. “Guys, this is confusing. We need to live within some of the confusion and chaos. None of us have ever done this before.”

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