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Planning Commission launches measured approach to CodeNEXT study

Tuesday, April 19, 2016 by Elizabeth Pagano

At its most recent meeting, the Planning Commission worked to establish how it would stay up to date on what’s going on with CodeNEXT, the ongoing effort to rewrite the city’s Land Development Code.

“There’s a certain amount of effort we need to do so it’s not like a presentation on every product you do,” said Chair Stephen Oliver.

Matt Lewis, who is the city’s project lead on CodeNEXT, spoke to the Planning Commission about the project’s newly released prescription paper, which is about the natural and built environment in the city. It is the first of four to be released over three months, and the CodeNEXT Advisory Group took public input on it yesterday. The next prescription paper will address household affordability, followed by prescriptions on mobility and fiscal health.

As the Austin Monitor has reported, the draft code rewrite is scheduled for release to the public in January 2017. The new code will be a “hybrid” code that combines the current principles of Euclidean zoning with form-based code.

The project is a huge undertaking that’s been years in the making. The idea of tackling the draft code in one fell swoop has made Zoning and Platting commissioners nervous enough to have recently proposed a change to the process. Planning commissioners took a different tack, with Commissioner Nuria Zaragoza leading the way.

“I would hate for us to get to January not having chipped away at this huge product,” said Zaragoza.

“It seems as though you have cracked the door to presenting to us these prescription papers,” said Zaragoza. She asked whether it would be possible to get an overview of each prescription paper and public feedback on the papers in a series of briefings, and Lewis said it would.

Planning commissioners also hatched a plan to study the prescription papers in advance. Their rough strategy is to form working teams around the four papers and to rotate their efforts to study them in depth. The first group of four will meet before a presentation and discussion on the paper that is scheduled to take place on May 10. That paper will also be presented to City Council on May 3.

On the other hand, Commissioner Chito Vela said he was not interested in a piecemeal approach to the rewrite.

“I’m waiting for the big shebang to hit,” said Vela. “It’s difficult to analyze anything without seeing it, since this is supposedly a comprehensive rewrite of the city code that is going to apply citywide. To me, I want to see that before I can make any judgments.”

Photo by woolywonderworks made available through a Creative Commons license.

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