The City of Austin on Thursday appealed a Travis County judge’s order voiding votes taken in an ongoing process to adopt a new land development code.
Last month, Judge Jan Soifer of the 345th District Court ruled the city had violated state law when it failed to inform individual property owners of potential changes to their land under the proposed new land code. A code would determine what can be built in the city and where.
Soifer also ordered the city to recognize property owners’ rights to protest any changes to the zoning of their land under a citywide land code rewrite. The city had argued the right to legally protest changes to the zoning of your land or a neighbor’s land were not applicable in a comprehensive revision of rules.
Soifer’s ruling was in response to a December lawsuit brought by 19 homeowners.
In a largely symbolic move, a majority of City Council members voted last week in support of the appeal. The vote, which was split 7-4, mirrored many of the votes taken in the land code adoption process so far, with Council Members Alison Alter, Ann Kitchen, Leslie Pool and Kathie Tovo against the appeal.
These members said they didn’t think the city should be spending money on a legal battle when it faced significant revenue losses as an effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I do not believe this is a time to be fighting our residents in court over their rights after a judge has ruled in their favor,” Alter, who represents Northwest Austin, said. “I believe Judge Soifer was right.”
Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza, who represents Southeast Austin, countered.
“We are not choosing to do this during this crisis,” she said. “There are legal timelines that require us to make a decision.”
City Attorney Anne Morgan told City Council members at their meeting last week that the appeal process could take up to a year.
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