AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin City Council postponed its vote Thursday on the resolution to implement changes to parkland dedication ordinances which are need in order to comply with a new state law that passed last session and will go into effect in January.
Citing “complex calculations” in the new map, District 4 Council Member Jose “Chito” Vela asked to postpone the vote to the next City Council Meeting on Nov. 9 so that council members had more time to look over the changes before voting. No city council members objected to Vela’s motion.
Previously, Austin’s ordinance required developers to provide nearly 10 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents or face a fee. The new state law requires local officials to reduce that amount down to 3,000 square feet in Austin’s downtown and to three acres in suburban neighborhoods.
“The bill requires Austin to make substantial changes to the current parkland ordinance to comply with state law, and there is very little room for the city’s discretion in the new ordinance language,” said Robynne Heymans, a principal planner at the Austin Parks and Recreation Department.
The bill, House Bill 1526, also caps the total amount of parkland dedication for projects in Austin’s city limits at 10%. The former ordinance capped parkland dedication at 15% in the urban core and had no cap rules for properties in Austin’s suburban areas.
The bill affects cities with populations of more than 800,000 residents, which include Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio.
“Unlike the existing ordinance, which is based on a nexus between new development and its impact on the parkland system, the state bill is written with the assumption that residents expect [fewer] acres of parkland per person as the density of their neighborhood increases,” Heymans said at an Oct. 23 Parks Board meeting.
“This creates an inverse relationship between the density of the city and the amount of parkland available to use,” she continued.
At the meeting on Thursday, City Council members will vote to establish the new terms defined by the Austin Parks Department so that the city is in compliance with the rules in HB 1526. Even if city officials disagree with the law, the city must observe it. .
“What choice does the city have?” asked Parks Board member Holly Reed at the Oct. 23 meeting. “I would be the first board member to make a statement that I am very much opposed to this bill and what it’s doing to parkland dedication.”