Austin seeks public input before rewriting land-use rules


City of Austin planners want to hear from the public before they begin overhauling the land development code, an 800-page document that shapes what gets built and where in Austin.

This is the first time in nearly 30 years that the city has done a full-scale revision of the code, said George Zapalac, a division manager in the Planning and Development Review Department. The department will hold meetings on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to gather public input.

The City Council last year adopted a long-term plan called Imagine Austin that will guide growth in Austin for the next 30 years. The plan took two years to craft and touches on issues ranging from housing to transportation to jobs.

For example, Imagine Austin calls for a relatively dense mix of homes and businesses along corridors serviced by robust bus and rail lines, including along Airport and North Lamar boulevards. It also encourages growth in the north and south parts of town to happen in clusters of housing and commerce, rather than separating residences from retail.

Now the city needs to revise its land-use rules to carry out the vision in Imagine Austin, Zapalac said.

The code “covers what can be built, where it can be built, how much can be built and how land can be used,” Zapalac said. “It covers the different development processes that people have to go through to get approval (from the city) and spells out some of the technical requirements that people have to address related to land use, transportation, the environment and drainage and building standards.”

The rewrite is expected to take three years and cost as much as $2 million.

The current code was written in 1984 and pieces of it have been revised, but there has been no comprehensive rewrite until now, Zapalac said.

Neighborhood activists have expressed concern that the rewrite will unravel compromises over development rules that took years to craft. Zapalac said the intent is not to start from scratch, but to take a fresh look at the whole document and consider “the stories behind” the compromises.

“There are parts of it that we will keep intact and others that we might want to significantly revise and repeal,” he said. “We’re not throwing the whole thing out, by any means.”



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