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Council Members to Weigh In on Land Development Code Rewrite

Charlotte Carpenter for KUT News
The Austin City Council is set to discuss the city's CodeNEXT plan, a long-discussed revision of the city's building codes today.

You may or may not be familiar with Austin’s land development code, but the document has a huge impact on how the city looks. It governs everything from transportation to how tall buildings can be. Austin is in the middle of revising that code, a process known as CodeNEXT. And, today, the Austin City Council will get a chance to weigh in on that plan before it goes public. 

The last time Austin revised its land development code was in 1984 – and it’s safe to say the city has changed just a bit since then. In 2012, the city adopted the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, a 30-year vision for the city’s growth. The recommendations of that plan suggested revising the complex regulations surrounding land use –a notion that spawned the Land Development Code Advisory Group, an 18-member board helping to shape the new code.

"They are appointed by the council and they represent a wide range of interests in the community,” explained Jorge Rousselin, project manager for CodeNEXT . “You have developers. You have educators. You have renters. You have property owners.”

He said the current code tends to take a one-size-fits-all approach to development, and CodeNEXT aims to be more contextual, taking specific neighborhood needs into consideration.

So far, most of what we know about the potential revisions comes from a series of prescription papers released by the team. They’ve often called for increased density along major transit corridors, envisioning Austin as more compact and connected. Austin Mayor Steve Adler said revising the current code is the most important issue facing the city over the next year.

“It’s kind of all over the place, and as the city grows up, we need to make sure that our policies and procedures are growing with it,” Adler said.

Adler wants to get a clear picture of timeline for implementation before the draft code is released in January. Today, the mayor and council members will dig even deeper into the proposed revisions. They’re set to hold a special joint meeting with the Code Advisory Group. Rousselin said the goal is to create a shared understanding.

“When you ask several folks what CodeNEXT is to them, you’re going to get a wide variety of answers,” Rousselin said. “I think we just want to get on the same page in terms of the expectations of what you’re going to see in January, that it’s really a toolbox. It’s the initial draft that we’re going to be able to share with the community.”

There will be six months of public comment and review after that release. Rousselin said he welcomes community feedback to help identify any gaps in the draft code.

“We’re trying to make this personal in terms of how can it affect every Austinite and why should Austinites care and be involved because it will affect everyone eventually at some point,” he said. 

Syeda Hasan is a senior editor at KUT. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @syedareports.
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