This week the Austin City Council dedicated three special meetings to trying to make some sense out of the 1500 page CodeNEXT draft 3 plus hundreds of proposed amendments. The working draft still fails the two primary purposes of the entire $8 million and counting effort: rather than simplify the current code, it makes it longer and more confusing; and, second, it fails to implement the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan by forcing higher density on existing neighborhoods while leaving suburban green-fields home builders and developers free to continue building standard form, sprawling subdivisions.

In other words, where its easy and important to implement more “compact and connected” water, energy, and transportation efficient development, up front, in new development, the proposal would do nothing. Where its most costly, painful and wasteful—where people are already living-- and in many instances where it would conflict with neighborhood plans, more “compact” would be required, speeding displacement and dislocation. Why would it be so upside down? Guess who benefits in both cases.

Meanwhile, next Monday morning at 9:00 a.m. the Honorable Judge Orlinda Naranjo, Travis County District Court Judge, will hear arguments in the lawsuit to force the Austin City Council to place the CodeNEXT petitioned initiative ordinance on the November 2018 ballot. A narrow 6-4 majority of City Council has refused to place the petitioned ordinance on the ballot, claiming it is a “zoning ordinance” that cannot be the subject of citizen initiative. If ordered by the court to be placed on the ballot, and then approved by voters, the initiative would require a waiting period and voter approval before any Council adopted CodeNEXT or other comprehensive revision to the City’s land development code would take effect.

SOS Alliance has actively supported the right of Austin voters to check the work of City Council on CodeNEXT. If we get to vote on it, it’s a lot more likely to reflect community (not commodity) values. Stay tuned!!