Friday, January 22, 2016 by Vicky Garza

Planning and Neighborhoods Committee approves contact-team changes

City Council’s Planning and Neighborhoods Committee has voted unanimously to move forward on staff-proposed changes that would add oversight and compliance requirements to neighborhood-plan contact teams.

The ordinance, which on Jan. 12 was also approved by the Planning Commission, would change the city’s Land Development Code to clarify that a neighborhood-plan contact team’s bylaws must be consistent with a template and instructions provided by the director of the Planning and Zoning Department. It also provides a dispute-resolution process that allows the public to formally submit complaints against a contact team.

These recommendations from Planning and Zoning Department staff are based on stakeholder outreach conducted back in October, which consisted of a couple of meetings and an online survey.

During discussion of the ordinance, the four-member Planning and Neighborhoods Committee heard from seven speakers, the majority of whom were in support of contact teams but had some suggestions for changes to the bylaws.

Council Member Greg Casar, the committee chair, asked for some clarification from the Planning and Zoning Department on what could be done with regard to modifying the bylaws.

Right now, those bylaws are amended through an administrative process, said Casar, which means that Council doesn’t get to vote on them or change them. Therefore, he added, “As far as I can tell, we can’t amend those bylaws because right now they are in the director’s realm.”

“Assuming the bylaws remain an administrative document,” said Stevie Greathouse, acting division manager for the Planning and Zoning Department, “we’re open to guidance and input from y’all on how to modify them to make them as useful as possible.”

Greathouse said that the bylaws are really more of a guidance document for the neighborhood-plan contact teams; however, she added, “Whatever we do in those bylaws works in tandem with the (land development) code.”

“I think our presumption is that after this series of input, involvement and direction from Council occurs, we would finalize, at least as an administrative document, that bylaws template,” said Greathouse.

“Since the conversation of the bylaws has been struck up by so many members here and several contact-team chairs in District 4 have sent me some suggestions that weren’t able to be brought up today, I think that it’s an important conversation,” said Casar. “We can potentially just have it recurring as we work out our kinks on it.”

Casar recommended that committee members pass the ordinance and then, after it goes before Council on Jan. 28, find some way of posting the bylaws so they can modify them over the coming weeks.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin City Council Planning and Neighborhoods Committee: A City Council committee that reviews neighborhood issues, including neighborhood planning and code issues.

neighborhood planning contact team: A neighborhood plan contact team is a group of individuals designated to be the stewards or advocates of their adopted neighborhood plan. They work with city staff towards the implementation of the plan recommendations, review and initiate plan amendments, serve as community points of contact, and work on behalf of other neighborhood stakeholders.

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