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Commission vents about CodeNEXT’s momentum

Thursday, October 19, 2017 by Joseph Caterine

Somewhere, hiding mysteriously in the drafting timeline of the new land use code, there is a point of no return. The Zoning and Platting Commission, a body that has repeatedly called for the CodeNEXT review process to be slowed down, questioned at its Oct. 17 meeting if it was too late to postpone adoption of the code on the current schedule.

Since the first draft was released in January, the Zoning and Platting Commission has submitted multiple letters of recommendation to City Council, begging for more time so that it and the Planning Commission can study and revise the hundreds of pages of the CodeNEXT draft.

Last week, Council authorized $2.27 million more for lead consultant Opticos Design Inc. to spend in continuing work on the rewrite, which is currently being molded into what will be its third and final draft. Council Member Leslie Pool had attempted to add amendments that would have made completing revisions to the second draft a condition before proceeding down the timeline, but her proposal was ultimately shut down.

“I think it’s time we put our foot down. Enough is enough,” said Commissioner David King at the Zoning and Platting meeting. “I’m just not willing to continue to pretend that we’re going to plan all these public meetings and that we’re going to be in a position to make a recommendation on the code that’s going to affect us for 30, 40 years down the road.”

Both land use commissions have made repeated requests for more information from staff and consultants during their joint CodeNEXT work sessions. Greg Guernsey and Jerry Rusthoven with the Planning and Zoning Department have slowly been following up on some of those inquiries, like the criteria used for the CodeNEXT maps and tracking what changes have been made between maps, but many commissioners have said that the scrambled back-and-forth between those writing the new code and those reviewing it has jeopardized the whole procedure.

Chair Jolene Kiolbassa said that in response to Commissioner Ana Aguirre’s ask for data on localized flooding to be incorporated into the new maps (something Aguirre brought up soon after the release of the first draft), a consultant had told her that the commission was “asking too many questions” and that they were “asking questions for questions’ sake.”

Still, Kiolbassa admitted that the land use commissions are not charged with setting the schedule, and their appeals to change it have seemingly been disregarded. “I’m at a loss,” she said.

Guernsey said that the city’s Public Information Office has been assisting his department in preparing answers to questions submitted by the commissions. He told commissioners that answers to questions from Council, which were similar in content, could be out as soon as the end of this week.

Rusthoven also clarified that staff would be annotating all considerations (as to whether they were included or not) voted on by the commissions before the third draft in the code text, and after the third draft it would be marking commission suggestions for changing the language in specific lines.

The Zoning and Platting Commission will be holding one more CodeNEXT session with the Planning Commission on Oct. 24 before comments are due on Oct. 31, the public will be invited to participate in break-out groups dissecting different sections and issues within the second draft.

This story has been changed since publication to correct the CodeNEXT timeline.

Curious about how we got here? Check out the Austin Monitor’s CodeNEXT Timeline.

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