Though their reasons may differ, people on all sides of the debate are expressing frustration with the current draft of CodeNEXT, the city’s rewrite of the land development code. The rules, which are still being drafted, will govern what can be built in Austin and where it can go.
About 50 residents came to the Asian American Resource Center to share their thoughts on the proposed rules during a two-hour “listening session” Saturday hosted by the city’s Zoning and Platting Commission. Various speakers referred to CodeNEXT as a "train wreck,” “a mess” and a “delicate item that should not be rushed.”
Bill Spiesman, president of the Brentwood Neighborhood Association in Central Austin, was one of several attendees who called for a delay of CodeNEXT.
“We need to keep the existing code, which is workable, until the city makes an honest effort to develop a new code that is in the interest of our current residents and citizens,” he said. “Put the brakes on CodeNEXT.”
The audience was largely made up of longer-time residents, mostly in their 50s, 60s and older. Many speakers identified themselves as property owners and spoke about the need to retain zoning tools that allow for neighborhood preservation.
Austin City Council voted last week to spend about $2 million more on CodeNEXT, bringing the project’s total cost to just under $8.5 million. Before the vote, Council Member Leslie Pool floated the idea of pushing back the adoption date for CodeNEXT – which is set to be up for a vote in April – to later in 2018 or even spring 2019.
The idea was quickly met with pushback from other council members and the timeline was unchanged. That hasn’t stopped residents from continuing to push for a delay.
In addition to a delay, Bobby Levinsky with Community Not Commodity said his group wants to put CodeNEXT to a vote by Austin residents.
“We don’t have a professional product right now,” he said. “Draft 2 is still incomplete, inadequate and very poorly drafted. There are entire sections of the code that are still missing. The terminology is muddled throughout.”
Outside the meeting, someone with a political action committee called IndyAustin circulated a petition calling for a delay and a public vote on CodeNEXT.
According to Census data, more than half of Austin residents are renters, and the city’s median age is about 31. At the meeting, only one speaker identified herself as a renter. She spoke about the challenges of finding an affordable apartment and said she wants CodeNEXT to allow for more, denser housing in Central Austin neighborhoods.