Tuesday, June 19, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns

Board of Adjustment wants in on CodeNEXT

The Board of Adjustment thinks that it was not given enough say in the code rewrites that are going to make up CodeNEXT, considering that it is the board that rules on variances to the city’s zoning regulations.

At its June 11 meeting, even though the board had posted a request for a presentation on sign regulation on the agenda, city staff arrived empty-handed. Several of the board members vocally expressed their continued disappointment at the lack of information.

“I think it’s absurd that we’re in this position that a total rewrite of the city code has happened in areas that directly affect what we do as a board and not once … were we asked for input,” said Board Member Don Leighton-Burwell.

Although Chair William Burkhardt did correct Leighton-Burwell to say that the board did have a few presentations and limited participation, he agreed that “we’ve been not as involved in the process as a sovereign board should be.”

Board Member Michael Von Ohlen suggested that “Staff knows they can wait out (City) Council and wait us out” in hopes of creating a Land Development Code with minimal input from parties who are responsible for upholding the regulations.

Von Ohlen pointed out that beside the slight that the board members felt at their lack of inclusion in the discussions, the issue came down to more than just a matter of principle that they participate in the CodeNEXT rewrite. “I can see our interpretation cases shooting through the roof,” he said. “For us to have to go through every piece of CodeNEXT (after it is finished) to do our job up here is daunting.”

In an effort to avoid that fate, Von Ohlen requested that staff absolutely bring a presentation and not a “dog and pony show” to the board next month. He cautioned that ignoring the board’s request would not make the need disappear.

Despite the lack of the presentation and the fact that Council is currently in the midst of CodeNEXT discussions, the Board of Adjustment will discuss proposed zoning regulatory changes and give a recommendation to Council at its next meeting. Nevertheless, Burkhardt lamented the situation they’ve found themselves in. “We’re working blind at this point. I’m game to do it, but we’re working blind,” he said.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

City of Austin Board of Adjustment: The city's Board of Adjustment is a quasi-judicial body that decides on variances, special exceptions and can issue interpretations of code.

CodeNEXT: CodeNEXT is the name given to the land development code rewrite process undertaken in the early 2010s by the City of Austin.

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