AUSTIN — The Austin City Council on Thursday unanimously voted to kill the rewriting process of the city's land development code known as CodeNEXT.
In a City Council message board on Aug. 1, Austin Mayor Steve Adler suggested ceasing the CodeNEXT process and instead asking City Manager Spencer Cronk to create a new process that will help city leaders move forward together.
"Colleagues, I believe we should consider if the best way ultimately to find the right path to fix our land development code is to cease our current process and ask the City Manager to create a new process," Mayor Adler wrote. "While we have learned much and made gains as a council in our June work sessions, it seems evident that we’re not going to get to a place of sufficient consensus. Do we believe that continuing to chop at the same wood is going to change the outcome?"
Adler calls for the recommendation of a new process that builds on work made from the council and city leaders this far while working on the controversial code.
"I remain committed as I have throughout my term as Mayor to finding ways to slow or mitigate gentrification, to stop displacement of long-time residents, to preserve existing housing stock, to support our music and arts community and low and moderate income residents through affordability measures, to find ways to help Austinites who live here and to plan for those we know are coming, all without losing what has always made our city special and continuing to lead on sustainability measures that keep us healthy and safe," Adler wrote.
James Duncan with Austin's Zoning and Platting Commission has worked on CodeNext since the beginning. Duncan told KVUE he warned city council about the problems with the land development code rewrite years ago.
"It was commission versus commission. It was north side versus south side, east side, west side, and when you get to that point, it's not worth it," said Duncan. "I was very proud of the mayor for finally coming to his senses."
Duncan has helped cities much bigger than Austin rewrite their land development codes in less time and with less money than Austin. He believes it can be done in Austin moving forward without the fear and greed that he says poisoned the CodeNext process.
"It's more important to bring this city back together than it is to adopt this document right now, period," Duncan said.
To see Adler's full message, click here.
The City of Austin released the following statement after learning of Mayor Adler's proposal:
“We are aware of a potential proposal to develop a new process for an Austin land development code rewrite. Staff is prepared to follow any Council direction.”
Environment Texas Executive Director Luke Metzger also released a statement:
"It's clear we badly need a new land development code. Our current code exacerbates sprawl, climate change, flooding, and water pollution. Expanding the areas within Austin where compact and walkable neighborhoods can be built would reduce the pressure for further sprawl, protect our environment, and enhance our quality of life. The City should get to work right away in creating a new development code that increases neighborhood walkability, provides 'missing middle' housing, and reduces the considerable environmental damage caused by sprawl."
Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo and Council Members Alison Alter, Ora Houston, and Leslie Pool released this joint statement:
For more than a year we have joined the community in sounding the alarm that CodeNEXT was broken. Those efforts included our proposed plan for a more equitable, sustainable, accessible, vibrant, and community-driven process.
We appreciate that our colleagues have joined us in recognizing that CodeNEXT is flawed and that the public has lost all confidence in the process. The community has been sending warning signals for a long time that the process is off track, culminating in a citizen-led referendum with more than 32,000 signatures to put this issue to a public vote.
We see this as a full stop and support departing from the flawed process that CodeNEXT has become.
We look forward to the opportunity to adopt a new community-driven path.
We thank the community groups and individuals as well as our city board and commission members who put in thousands of volunteer hours throughout this process.
Additionally, we look forward to the community voting on any future land development code revision and trust that regardless of where the City Council lands on this rewrite effort, the public will have their voices heard at City Hall.