The last time the City of Austin overhauled its land development code, Prince was at the top of the charts, Ronald Reagan was president, and Apple had released the first Macintosh PC. It was 1984.
Needless to say, much has changed.
“Obviously, Austin looks a little different now than it did in the '80s,” says Alina Carnahan, public information officer with the city’s Planning and Zoning Department.
In 2012, the city decided it would initiate a comprehensive rewrite of the code. After several delays, staff and consultants are prepared to release a draft of that code at the end of the month. Though, an earlier draft was made public last week by an anonymous Twitter user who tagged several journalists.
The city responded Tuesday, saying it appeared to be a legitimate, but out-of-date, draft copy.
"While on its surface, it appears to be a genuine draft, we cannot confirm the validity of all of the content," the city wrote. "This early draft does not include over six months’ worth of work and revisions by the CodeNEXT staff."
While an official draft becomes public Jan. 30, plenty of work awaits city staff and the public after that.
Throughout February and March, the city will host open houses for residents to learn about the code and comment on it. Residents won’t learn how the new code could affect their homes or their neighborhoods until April. That’s when zoning maps will be released that detail which building and environment regulations apply where.
Carnahan says homeowners shouldn’t worry.
“While we’re technically – by name, at least – rezoning the entire city, for most people they’re really not going to see a difference, or at least a very big difference, in what their home is going to be zoned as.”
City staff will work to incorporate the public’s comments into the first draft and aim to release a second draft in August. A final version of the new code is expected to go before city council by April 2018.