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ANC takes no position on Proposition 1

Thursday, October 20, 2016 by Jo Clifton

Mayor Steve Adler has written to the executive committee of the Austin Neighborhoods Council to reassure those neighborhood representatives that he will do his part to protect neighborhoods “in conjunction with the proposed transportation bonds” and the rewrite of the Land Development Code, known as CodeNEXT.

His letter was in response to resolutions approved by the ANC executive committee in September criticizing the $720 million transportation bond proposal as well as the rewrite of the Land Development Code. Long before they had the details of Proposition 1, neighborhood advocates expressed concern about the fact that they had not seen any of the proposed new code.

Adler’s letter, dated Oct. 14, points out that he was proud to have the endorsement of ANC when he ran for Council in 2014. He was obviously hoping that ANC would also endorse the bond proposal. That is unlikely to happen.

However, ANC President Mary Ingle told the Austin Monitor on Wednesday, “We are very pleased with the mayor’s letter to the executive committee, to his commitment to protecting neighborhoods. ANC is not going to take a position against the bond.”

The same cannot be said for CodeNEXT, which is set to be introduced to most members of the public starting in January.

Ingle said, “The fact is that we haven’t seen one sentence of code, and we’ve spent three years on this and we are going to see it in January – I kind of think we’ve been working on the emperor’s new clothes. … We’re spinning around with a bunch of jargon.”

ANC had asked Council to address the group’s concerns before the start of early voting on Monday. In addition, the group asked that Council “enact a policy that the corridor improvements will not be utilized to override neighborhood plans or facilitate the elimination of single-family homes or upsetting of single-family zoned properties immediately adjacent to the corridors.”

Ingle said, “The corridors are where the friction is, and we don’t really have any set plans for how this is going to work. We haven’t seen any code yet; we’re just gearing up to put the Trojans in the belly of the horse, and then when the code gets voted on: Boom!”

Adler went to great lengths in his letter to state the need for more housing and greater mobility. “In order to achieve this number of new units (75,000) without exacerbating sprawl or destroying our natural environment, we must have reasonable density in reasonable places. I believe the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan strikes the right balance on this issue by guiding our city to focus growth on designated activity corridors and centers, while respecting our neighborhood plans.”

CodeNEXT is supposed to be designed to take its cues from the Imagine Austin plan. One of the big problems currently is that the meaning of that direction is unclear to most people.

The mayor also said there would not be enough housing supply “outside of the potential areas of transition within our single-family neighborhoods to justify the public outcry that will no doubt erupt when residents organize to defend their neighborhood’s character.”

The letter also included a commitment that neighborhoods would have substantial influence on the transition areas between single-family neighborhoods and areas of denser development.

In addition, Adler said, “I oppose changes to CodeNEXT that would result in the elimination of current single-family zoning outside of the areas of transition in single-family neighborhoods, without sufficient notice, input, and consent of affected neighborhoods.”

Ingle said, “The mayor has made promises and assurances that neighborhoods and neighborhood character will stay intact regardless of what happens on the corridors. That’s really important for maintaining the Austin we know.”

Ingle said that was a “verbal assurance that the mayor supports protecting neighborhoods,” but she said she wasn’t sure what that means in terms of CodeNEXT, because she and the rest of the public have yet to see the new code.

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