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We'll Have To Wait A Little Longer For New Rules On Building In Austin

Martin do Nascimento for KUT
District 10 residents examine the CodeNEXT maps at an open house held by the city to address resident questions about CodeNEXT at Anderson High School in April 2017.

Austin’s yearslong effort to rewrite the city’s rules for what can be built where is going to take a bit more time.

This week, City Manager Spencer Cronk told Mayor Steve Adler he's pushing back the timeline on the rewrite, which succeeds CodeNEXT, the previous failed effort to overhaul the city's land development code, and that he expects it to be before the Austin City Council by early December.

Council directed the city manager's office to draft a plan to revamp land development rules across the city, as well as a map of proposed zoning changes, in May, with a goal of getting them to Council by October.

In an email to Adler, Cronk said he decided to extend the deadline "after careful review of the scope of work and considering the scheduling requirements for actions to occur this year."

Credit City of Austin

In a statement to KUT, Adler said the delay reflects the city's need to take its time on the rewrite.

"The [code] rewrite process needs to move forward only as quickly as allows the process to be done well," Adler said. "The city manager is delivering on that schedule."

The city has been trying to rewrite its development code for the better part of a decade, starting with the Austin City Council's approval in 2012 of Imagine Austin, a plan to guide Austin's growth over the next 30 years. Austin last rewrote its land development code in 1984 and Imagine Austin called for the city to revisit the code to meet Austin's needs in the face of historic growth.

That rewrite, dubbed CodeNEXT, took roughly six years and about $8.5 million dollars to draft. But the plan brought about bitter divides between Austinites who supported more urban density and those who favored neighborhood preservation.

In August 2018, the city council voted to scrap CodeNEXT and start over because the process had "gone horribly wrong."

A petition last year attempted to put all future rewrites of a land development code to a public vote, but that proposition was shot down by Austin voters.

Nadia Hamdan is a local news anchor and host for NPR's "Morning Edition" on KUT.
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