Austin City Council to discuss land development code at special meeting Thursday

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — After half a day of debate last week, the Austin City Council postponed the land development code rewrite vote to today. 

One thing everyone can agree on is there needs to be something done to the current land rules.

“We don’t like the code that we have now, we have problems now and we need to rewrite this code to make it better we need to build more housing, we need to address drainage and flooding, we need to address our traffic issues,” District 6 Councilmember Jimmy Flannigan said. “This is all stuff we can do in this code.”

In March, City Manager Spencer Cronk sent the council a memo outlining five policy questions he wanted feedback on in order to direct staff.

Questions such as how much additional housing should be provided while keeping affordability in mind. 

As well as taking a look at how much “missing-middle” housing types should be provided in the city. This would take a look into duplexes, multiplexes, townhomes, cottage courts, and accessory dwelling units.

The memo also asked what are some of the minimum parking requirements that should be looked into as the city moves forward and faces new development.

Zoning was also a big topic of conversation, with a closer look being taken into both zoning categories and districts. 

Flannigan and others said affordable housing needs to be front and center and said in order to do that there need to be big solutions brought to the table. 

Mayor Steve Adler agreed and stated, “I know that it makes people nervous when you start talking about doing big things but if we don’t do big things then we’re not going to be able to do something about gentrification, about the homes that are being torn down and replaced by big homes, losing people in communities and not having the supply of housing that we need. We need to act in big ways.”

For Greg Anderson at Habitat for Humanity affordable housing is always top of mind.

“Austin is in a housing crisis and much of it is self-inflicted, we simply don’t allow for housing unless you’re in the top 20 percent income earners you can’t afford to live in the central city and that’s a problem,” Anderson said. 

One of the concerns being discussed Thursday at the special meeting is flood protection. City council members disagree whether the current recommendations go far enough to protect the city from flooding caused by development.

Last week, District 7 Councilmember Leslie Pool said in a newsletter that some of her colleagues’ proposals were concerning because she worried it would weaken flood protections.

Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza responded saying that’s not the case and said they’re working to do the opposite. She called Pool’s letter “irresponsible.”

Right now, the city council’s guidance specifically states they don’t want the land development code to mean more impervious cover. Impervious cover is any type of surface that does not absorb water, like pavement.

Today, Pool plans to present the council with three amendments she believes will guarantee those protections.

Councilmember Flannigan said they all agree it’s important to get this right. 

“We don’t like the code that we have now,” he said. “We have problems now and we need to rewrite this code to make it better. We need to build more housing. We need to address drainage and flooding. We need to address our traffic issues. This is all stuff we can do in this code.”

The land development code discussion is scheduled for this afternoon and the council expects a vote. If they approve new code guidelines, City Manager Spencer Cronk will begin working on a proposal that will go before council in October.

There will be public hearings in the future where the community will be able to provide feedback. 

Atlas 14 in Travis County

A recent federal study called Atlas 14 shows Central Texas is likely to receive more rain than previously thought. On Tuesday, Travis County commissioners approved a 500-year floodplain for new development. This would affect developers looking to build in the unincorporated parts of the county.

It is a temporary move until federal flood insurance rate maps are updated to reflect the new Atlas 14 data.

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