Austin, Texas, is one of the fastest growing cities in the country and the eleventh largest, but there's only so much land to go around: 325.94 square miles to be exact. That's why Code Next is so important.
"Code Next is the City of Austin's initiative to rewrite the land development code," explained Alina Carnahan, public information specialist for Code Next. "And the land development code tells us what we can build where and how much."
That means the re-write will impact things like density, affordability, impervious cover and traffic management -- plus personal matters, such as making the cumbersome permitting process easier.
"You shouldn't need an attorney to build a deck on your property," said Carnahan.
The City is paying the consulting firm Opticos Design nearly $8.5 million to do the re-write and while most agree Code Next is needed, some aren't happy with the current draft.
"The code has a lot of, there [are] issues with it, in terms of places where it conflicts and so that's what we thought these consultants were going to be working on," said Mike Lavigne, board member of the grassroots organization Community Not Commodity, which is looking into the re-write. "But instead they seem to have just come up with a whole brand-new -- not only just a brand-new -- code but new levels of code."
The members of Community Not Commodity say the draft is incomplete and up-zones the entire city by adding density to areas like Crestview without the infrastructure to support it.
"Where you can usually build two houses on a lot, it will allow three or even six and also eliminates the parking requirements, which moves the parking to the streets. And we don't even have sidewalks here," said Lavigne, who also serves as president of the Crestview Neighborhood Association.
"So it pushes people into the street if they want to walk their kids or their pets or ride their bikes," he added.
It's these concerns city staff say they want to hear from residents.
The City of Austin will hold three more community open houses before the public engagement period is over:
- Monday, October 16 at Austin High School from 6 to 8 p.m.
- Monday, October 23 at Anderson High School from 6 to 8 p.m.
- Saturday, October 28 at Dove Springs Recreation Center from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.