Environmental groups join battle over CodeNext


Advocates from environmental groups will release a report that calls for dense building in Austin.

Dense development encourages less traffic and energy use, the report says.

Two environmental groups are stepping into the growing political ruckus surrounding CodeNext to promote a code that would increase density along major road corridors and in the city center.

The recommendations come from the advocacy groups Environment Texas and Texas Public Interest Research Group, which will release a report Monday detailing environmental pitfalls of city sprawl and how CodeNext might help improve the environment by fitting more housing units into the core of the city.

“We can’t keep the status quo,” said Luke Metzger, the director of Environment Texas and one of the authors of the report. “The impacts on the environment are too great. We need to see this code rewrite as an opportunity to develop a new community that promotes walkable, bikable communities and avoids expansion out into the Hill Country and other areas around Austin.”

CodeNext: Is Austin doing enough to reach non-English speakers?

CodeNext is the city’s attempt to rewrite the entire land-use code for the first time since the 1980s. Staffers and consultants hope to tackle many of Austin’s most vexing problems, including affordability, traffic and gentrification.

While neighborhood advocates, professional groups and urbanists have weighed in heavily on CodeNext, Monday’s report adds a new voice that had remained relatively quiet on the effort: environmentalists.

Environment Texas is a partner of the generally pro-CodeNext Austin coalition Evolve Austin, a common target of the anti-CodeNext group Community Not Commodity, which has ties to an ongoing effort to have CodeNext put on the ballot in March.

Creating denser residential development in the commercial centers of Austin has been a goal for CodeNext since the city completed the 2012 comprehensive Imagine Austin plan. Many in neighborhoods closer to downtown have since become opponents of CodeNext after draft zoning codes and maps have shown what they consider a broad upzoning for established neighborhoods in the city’s central core.

The report shows that units in denser developments such as duplexes and low-rise apartments use less energy than single-family homes and that those living in compact neighborhoods are less likely to drive, leading to reductions in air pollution.

This doesn’t mean all environmentalists are embracing CodeNext, however.

Bill Bunch, the executive director of the Save Our Springs Alliance, said Austin environmentalists are broadly in favor of denser development. He believes the tracts that best lend themselves to such development are undeveloped parcels on the outskirts of town. However, the market tends to encourage sprawling subdivisions of single-family homes in those areas, he said.

Bunch said encouraging density in established neighborhoods would force thousands out of their homes — an outcome he doesn’t want to see.

“The Evolve coalition, which includes Environment Texas, wants to scrape the central city neighborhoods and put density there while allowing sprawl to continue at the suburban fringe,” Bunch said. “In our view it is upside down.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Texas given 45 days to fix motor-voter violation; Paxton appeals
Texas given 45 days to fix motor-voter violation; Paxton appeals

A federal judge has given Texas officials 45 days to correct an online voter registration system that was found to violate federal law, rejecting state arguments that the ordered changes cannot be accomplished before Dec. 1. U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia said the tight deadline was justified because the November election is looming, state officials...
JUST IN: School bus, truck crash in Williamson County, sheriff says
JUST IN: School bus, truck crash in Williamson County, sheriff says

Williamson County sheriff’s deputies responded to a crash involving a school bus on RM 620 at Pearson Ranch Road on Monday afternoon. The crash happened around 2:28 p.m., officials said Authorities shut down northbound lanes of the road while they worked to clear the area of wreckage. No children were on the bus at the time of the crash, the...
UPDATE: Monkey gets loose at San Antonio airport, according to reports
UPDATE: Monkey gets loose at San Antonio airport, according to reports

Update, 4:49 p.m.: A San Antonio airport spokesperson says the monkey that escaped its crate at the San Antonio International Airport on Monday has been shot with a tranquilizer “and the incident is over,” according to WOAI reporter Matthew Seedorff. According to KSAT, the tranquilized primate, which some reports identified...
2 arrested in poker house robbery that left man injured, police say
2 arrested in poker house robbery that left man injured, police say

Two men were arrested for an armed robbery at a poker house in April that left a man wounded, Austin police said Monday. Jermaine Patrick Spirlark, 41, and Charles Clines-Martinez 24, were arrested for aggravated robbery, police said. Police said Spirlark demanded and took property from a man at Texas Card House, located in far Northwest Austin, on...
Officers in Southwest Austin shooting won’t face charges, DA says

SOUTHWEST AUSTIN DA: Officers in shooting won’t face charges Two Austin police officers who were involved in a shootout in March that left a man wounded in Southwest Austin were cleared of any wrongdoing by the Travis County District Attorney’s office on Monday. Officers Kevin Bittner and Dustin Turner were among several officers who responded...
More Stories