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Hearing set for Austin's land development code lawsuit

The City has been attempting to rewrite the land development code for nearly a decade.

AUSTIN, Texas — A hearing has been scheduled for the City of Austin's appeal to a 2020 court ruling over the long-delayed land development code rewrite, according to a report from Community Impact.

The City has been attempting to rewrite the code for nearly a decade. CodeNEXT, a years-long rewrite process, hit a dead-end in 2018 but was followed by a new version in 2019. That version was one vote away from becoming a reality in March 2020, but a Travis County district judge voided the Austin City Council's two previous votes. The judge ruled the City had violated the local government code by not notifying citizens of potential zoning changes.

In April 2020, the council voted to appeal that decision – something some council members weren't happy about, with a few saying it was an "ill-timed expenditure of resources amid our current [COVID-19] crisis." 

Now, a year and a half later, Community Impact reports that oral arguments in the City's appeal are set to be held virtually on Nov. 17 before a panel of justices of the Fourteenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Houston.

The ongoing effort to rewrite the land development code has been met with controversy over its potential effects on development, traffic, displacement and more. But those who support the endeavor, including Austin Mayor Steve Adler, say that a code rewrite could help increase the housing supply in the city.

WATCH: Mayor Steve Adler discusses land development code, Austin's homeless (Feb. 2020)

The lawsuit filed by 19 local property owners in December 2019 focused on the question of whether Austin residents could object to the proposed code change before its final approval. The City argued they could not, but the plaintiffs said the City's claim had no legal foundation and that a code revision carries the same requirements as an individual zoning case.

According to the lawsuit, Texas law requires the City to notify property owners who will be affected by the changes and also requires the City to honor the protest rights of property owners. The City said those state zoning rules don't apply to a sweeping code update and that notifying everyone affected would be a pricey process. Judge Jan Soifer ruled against the City's arguments, prompting the appeal that will move forward in November.

Read Community Impact's full report here. You can find more of KVUE's coverage of the land development code rewrite process below: