How To Testify At A CodeNEXT Hearing (And Some News Updates)

CodeNEXT Maps
CodeNEXT Maps

It’s getting closer and closer to decision-making time over Austin’s news-making, controversial city policy (aka CodeNEXT). And there’s still time for you to participate in the process.

City Council is hosting two public hearings on the topic next week on Tuesday, May 29th and on Saturday, June 2nd (both starting at 10am at City Hall). For tips on how to testify at these meetings, check out our explainer blog post here>>

CodeNEXT Postcard

What’s the timeline for CodeNEXT?

The city’s two land use commissions have both already held public hearings. The Zoning and Platting Commission has since recommended that City Council terminate CodeNEXT immediately. The Planning Commission on the other hand is still working on developing an official recommendation, which will likely be released in the next few days.

After City Council goes through its public hearing process, it will consider the recommendations of both commissions, as well as the official staff CodeNEXT recommendations, and of course, general public opinion and feedback.

As of now, the plan is for Council to have a few days of deliberation in early June and to potentially take an initial vote on CodeNEXT as early as mid-month. (However the CodeNEXT voting and deliberation process will likely drag on into August, when City Council returns from its summer recess).

What’s going on with that petition?

You’ve probably heard some buzz about a petition drive to get CodeNEXT put on the ballot. In April, the City Clerk certified the petition (validating that it did receive the necessary 20,000 signatures).

What’s exactly on the petition?

The petition calls for the creation of new ordinance in the city that would require all large-scale changes to the city’s land development and zoning code (including CodeNEXT) to be put to a public vote. In essence, that means that if the petition does make it to the ballot in November, we’ll be voting on whether or not to vote on CodeNEXT. An actual vote on CodeNEXT would happen after that. 

So what happens now?

On Thursday, Austin City Council voted against putting the petition question on the ballot, claiming that state law forbids it. In February, the city attorney sent a letter to the mayor and City Council , explaining that state law does not allow for referendums/petitions on zoning issues.

Community Not Commodity (one of the organizations who has supported the petition) has said that they’ll sue the city in order to get the petition put on the ballot. The Save Our Springs Alliance has also been vocal in its support for the petition, explaining on its website that voters should have the final say on CodeNEXT because, “It’s only the future of our city, and includes rules on drainage, signs, transportation, water quality, heritage trees, and all of the rules that apply to development.”

On the other hand, concerns have also been raised about the merits of putting an issue as complicated as CodeNEXT on the ballot, especially in a city with notoriously low voter turnout rates in local elections.

Technically, the city has until August 20th to put the petition on the ballot, so if a judge ends up ruling in favor of the petition supporters, we could still end up voting on it in November.

Additional resources/ Things To Read

  • CodeNEXT Policy Tables – recently released by city staff, these policy tables summarize some of the biggest code revisions/changes included in the latest CodeNEXT draft, as well as the rationale for why they’re included. This is a good document to read to give you a better idea of some of the specific policy changes being proposed in CodeNEXT (without reading the entire 1,000 + page document).
  • CodeNEXT Community Conversations Report – a summary of a collection of feedback about CodeNEXT from traditionally underrepresented communities
  • CodeNEXT Equity Assessment Report – created in collaboration with the city’s Equity Office, the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), and the Center for Social Inclusion/Race Forward, and Mesu Strategies LLC (Mesu), this report recommends five key actions to improve the results of CodeNEXT as it relates to equity
  • Planning Commission passes amendments to CodeNEXT to discourage small homes from being knocked down and replaced with very large (and expensive ones) – KXAN Story
  • Zoning and Platting commission recommends that City Council terminate CodeNEXT – Austin Chronicle Story
  • CodeNEXT Hub – a collaborative effort amongst our city’s biggest new outlets, this website contains pretty much every article ever written about CodeNEXT

 

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