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Council increases CodeNEXT advisory group, ANC still chagrined

Monday, May 25, 2015 by Sunny Sone

The Land Development Code rewrite team is about to get a lot more voices.

City Council voted unanimously Thursday to increase the size of the CodeNEXT Citizen Advisory Group at its regular meeting. This resolution, sponsored by Council Member Greg Casar, comes after a call for greater geographic and viewpoint diversity in the group, especially with regard to representation from neighborhoods.

“At this moment, the membership on the CAG is unbalanced,” Austin Neighborhoods Council President Mary Ingle said. “The dollar pressures are great, and those pressures are driving this rhetoric.”

Mayor Steve Adler and Council members representing Districts 2, 3, 4 and 7 will each immediately appoint a member to CAG, increasing its size from 11 to 16. At the end of the current term in September, that number will go up again, and the group will start with a fresh slate of appointments, thanks to an amendment from Council Member Ann Kitchen.

According to the amendment, 10 members will be appointed by Council members, two members will be appointed by Adler and up to five members can be appointed by committees.

The new members are to be selected based on their experience with affordability, environmental issues and conservation, green planning and design, urban planning and architecture, construction and permitting, historic and neighborhood preservation, health and human services, and small and local businesses. Representation from both renters and homeowners will also be sought.

This resolution for group expansion followed a proposal from Adler and a unanimous favorable vote from the Planning and Neighborhoods Committee in April, chaired by Casar.

Much of the debate at the April meeting centered on placing a member from the Austin Neighborhoods Council on CAG, a sentiment echoed in the Council meeting. Three of the four people who signed up to speak at Council – Ingle, Daniel Llanes and David King – are from the ANC and called for representation for neighborhoods, the environment and water. Llanes and King both recommended appointing Ingle.

“This is the most important thing that we’re working on in this city, and I think we need to make sure we have all the bases covered,” King said.

King opposed limiting the number of members on the advisory group, citing the 100-plus development-code rewrite committee in Washington, D.C.

This change in composition is contingent upon Council renewing CAG for another two years. Council was unable to renew the advisory group at Thursday’s meeting because the language posted on the agenda concerned only increasing the group’s size, not extending the term. A vote to extend the term would have been in violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act.

Council expects to vote to on this matter before September.

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