CodeNEXT Draft 3 Is Nearly Here (And Why That Matters)

CodeNEXT Maps
CodeNEXT Maps

The moment many have been waiting for has finally arrived… the newest draft of CodeNEXT will be revealed to the public next week.

Recap time! What’s been going on with CodeNEXT?

As a reminder, CodeNEXT is the city’s effort to rewrite its land development code, which is basically a rule book for the city, explaining what can be built where. CodeNEXT will determine how Austin looks 10, 15, and even 50 years from now. And it will have an impact on everything from affordability, to transportation, to the environment.

The first draft of CodeNEXT was released early last year. Since then, the debate over this controversial city policy has been raging, as people have spent countless hours pouring over CodeNEXT and sharing their input with city staffers.

Much of this input was used in shaping Draft 2 of CodeNEXT, which was released in September. After that, the process repeated itself. The public looked it over, gave input, and then staff got to work writing Draft 3. However, because of the overwhelming amount of feedback they received, the release of Draft 3 was delayed by several months. It was originally intended to be finished in November.

On Monday, February 12th from 5pm to 7pm at City Hall Draft 3 of CodeNEXT will officially be unveiled to the public. Updated maps will be on display and code experts will be on hand to answer questions.

Draft 3 Open House

 

What are people saying about Draft 3?

Recognizing the large amount of fear and anger that has been expressed from some in the community about CodeNEXT, Council Member Delia Garza wrote on her Facebook page this week, “There has unfortunately been very divisive dialogue surrounding this important change to our land development code. It’s important to understand that we all seem to want the same things, but just have different ideas on how to get there.”

Garza joined together with Council members Jimmy Flannigan, Sabino “Pio” Renteria, and Greg Casar to publish a joint blog on the subject, encouraging Austinites to stay involved in the CodeNEXT process.

In the blog, they also expressed the need for a major rewrite of our current land development code (as opposed to just small tweaks) and a desire to create an equitable land development code that serves all of Austin, as opposed to just a privileged few.

“If we don’t make room for people centrally, we inevitably sprawl,” wrote the Council members.  “And as we sprawl, we are pushing working class and middle class families out of the city.”

So what’s next for CodeNEXT?

If all goes according to plan, Draft 3 is supposed to be the last major staff rewrite of CodeNEXT before it goes to our city’s boards and commissions (volunteer, resident advisory councils) and to City Council for approval.

Here’s how it’s going to work. Once Draft 3 is released on Monday, you’ll still be able to make comments about CodeNEXT online. However, this time around, those comments will be sent straight to members of our city’s boards and commissions and Council, as opposed to CodeNEXT staff.

The two commissions that have the biggest say over CodeNEXT are the Planning Commission and the Zoning and Platting Commission. Both deal with zoning. Over the next month or so, they’ll be pouring over Draft 3 and hosting public hearings, all with the goal of making official recommendations about CodeNEXT to City Council.

(Other boards and commissions will also be able to make recommendations about CodeNEXT to Council during this time, but they aren’t required to.)

After the Planning Commission and the Zoning and Platting Commission have made their recommendations, the work transfers to City Council. They’ll be reviewing all the board and commission recommendations, deciding which ones to accept, and taking in additional comments from the public.

In other words, now is when CodeNEXT gets really interesting. So stay tuned for exact dates on upcoming public hearings and more opportunities for input because there will be plenty of ways to get involved.

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