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Fast-Track Or Slow-Walk? City Commissioners Diverge On CodeNEXT's Path Forward

Martin do Nascimento for KUT

The current draft of CodeNEXT continues to face scrutiny at City Hall. Last night, members of Austin’s Planning Commission and the Zoning and Platting Commission met to drill into the details of the proposed land development code.

The Zoning and Platting Commission, or ZAP, is asking the city to slow down the process of adopting CodeNEXT. The group drafted a letter to City Council last night, saying there needs to be more opportunity for public input and more time to incorporate that feedback. ZAP members also wrote that they find the current CodeNEXT maps to be imprecise and unevenly applied across the city. Commissioner Jim Duncan said the pressure is on for city staff as they work to do outreach and respond to the public’s concerns.

“They need to be able to do what is most important and not what is politically expedient right now,” Duncan said.

The group was later joined by Austin’s Planning Commission for a joint meeting focused on CodeNEXT. Planning Commission Chairman Stephen Oliver said, unlike ZAP, his group is not ready to send a letter to council just yet. He said there is a lot of information coming in, and he’s not always sure what to believe. 

For example, Oliver noted that commissioners have yet to see proposed changes to Austin’s density bonus program – a city program that gives developers incentives in exchange for building affordable units. Oliver stressed that he hopes to stay on schedule with the process of adopting the new code.

“People in this room, I think, collectively feel like at this moment, we’re not where we thought we would be, or staff or the consultant hoped we would be, by the end of May,” Oliver said. “And I just say, we will get there, but let's identify the process that gets us there as close to the date as we can make it.”

The first draft of CodeNEXT was released in January. Then came the CodeNEXT maps in April, which show how the new code would be implemented across the city. The Zoning and Platting Commission unsuccessfully sought to delay publication of the maps, and it’s clear questions remain. But Planning Commissioner James Shieh says the city needs to take action sooner rather than later.

“We need to start doing something about it because there are corridors building up and evolving right now,” Shieh said. “Why didn’t we do something along there? If that’s identified and there are opportunities there, we need to be looking at that.”

Austin City Council is set to vote on adopting CodeNEXT in April 2018.

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