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Lengthy delay predicted for some environmental rules

Wednesday, November 30, 2022 by Jo Clifton

Environmentalists looking forward to changes in city regulations requiring new developments to include more green infrastructure may be disappointed to hear that the final piece in that project may be delayed until mid-2024.

City Council adopted some of the rules needed to make developments more environmentally friendly on Oct. 27, but the final phase may not be complete until May 2024, according to a memo from city Environmental Officer Katie Coyne. These have been in process for some time.

Coyne said in a Nov. 10 memo that regulations related to urban slope protections, greenfield detention requirements, expanded protections for the Colorado River downstream of Longhorn Dam, Functional Green landscape requirements for highly urbanized sites, and efforts to protect “missing middle” housing must go through a stakeholder process.

David Foster, former executive director of Clean Water Action, has worked to ensure that these regulations become part of city code. He told the Austin Monitor via email, “It is sad to see such a long delay on these items. You may recall that I asked that Functional Green go into effect no later than December 2023, like the Water Forward piece on projects of more than 250,000 square feet and dual plumbing. It is critical that the enviro community engage in this stakeholder process.”

However, he added that it was important not to overlook the changes that went into effect immediately, which are detailed on the city website.

As the website notes, “Green stormwater infrastructure is now required as the primary method of stormwater pollution prevention for most site plans and subdivisions.” There are also enhanced regulations for stormwater in parking lots. All wetlands on Lady Bird Lake are protected, to match the rules in most other areas of the city.

As longtime city watchers will remember, most of the proposed environmental code updates were included in the previous Land Development Code rewrite process. That effort contained substantial changes to zoning code that would have helped offset costs associated with the updated environmental code. The current code proposals do not include any changes to zoning code.

As staff members note, proposed changes do include “provisions to help with missing middle housing, from duplexes to small multifamily projects.” Those ideas will go through the stakeholder process.

Photo by LoneStarMike, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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