A petition to put rewrites of Austin’s land development code, including CodeNEXT, to a public vote was deemed valid by the City Clerk on Monday.
Two political action committees, both critical of CodeNEXT, submitted the petition with 31,062 signatures late last month. (A valid petition requires 20,000 signatures.) Austin City Clerk Jannette Goodall then set about verifying the signatures – for example, checking for duplicates and confirming that the signatures were from local, registered voters. She was able to verify 25 percent of the signatures, a large enough sample to stamp the entire petition as valid.
City Council members now have two options: either accept the changes the petition asks for or put it to a public vote, likely in November. Council members will vote on whether to accept the changes at their meeting on Thursday.
Earlier this year, city staff asked an outside attorney to review whether it was legally required to put CodeNEXT or similar policies to a public vote. That attorney found that Texas courts have ruled that cities aren't "required or authorized to call an election" on zoning issues, according to a February memo.
The petition asks that all large-scale changes to the city’s land development code, which dictates what can be built and where, be put to a public vote. If the petition is put on a ballot and voters agree, residents would then be asked to weigh-in on CodeNEXT, the city’s effort to overall its 30-year-old development code.
The last successful ballot petition was over the regulations for ride-hailing companies, including Uber and Lyft. Voters rejected looser regulations put forth by the companies, and Uber and Lyft shut down Austin operations. The companies returned to the city after the state Legislature passed ride-hailing rules that did not require fingerprint-based background checks, as city regulations did.