AUSTIN (KXAN) — Over the next few years, Austin could see fewer and smaller parks as the city continues to grow.
“Up to 97% less park acreage,” Robynne Heymans, with the City of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department, said.
HB 1526 recently passed which requires Austin to make changes to the current parkland dedication ordinance.
City rules used to require 9.4 acres of parkland in a development for every 1,000 residents.
“This new bill reduces that,” Heymanns said.
Now depending on where a development goes, it could be three acres or as low as 0.075 acres for every 1,000 people.
The bill’s language pointed to how some developers had a harder time moving forward with projects because of those limitations. The new law only impacts multifamily and hotel and motel developments.
“It is also likely that we will see our level of service decline,” Heymanns said.
That’s because the fees Austin can impose on developers to fund parks will be limited and it prohibits the city from imposing fees on commercial development.
“We are estimating between 40 to 70% less fees per unit,” said Heymanns.
Kennon Lydick runs Monday Movement she relies on parks to teach her yoga classes. She doesn’t like the idea of having fewer and smaller parks as the city grows.
“I would be so sad to lose the really strong nature aspect that Austin has,” Lydick said. “So many park spaces, so many outdoor activities.”
The new law applies to cities with populations of more than 800,000 people, like Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth.
“This new PDL law will have negative effects on our city for generations to come. Under the new PDL law, the amount of parkland per resident will significantly decrease ( from over 9 acres per 1,000 residents to as little as less than 1 acre per 1,000 residents), increasing the demand of our current parks and leading to poorer quality across our parks system. Quality of our parks will decrease unless we can make up the funding in some other way.
We’re dedicated to the City of Austin and leveraging our ability to continue to support our parks. We worked hard to advocate against this and to let our legislators know this is not what Texans wanted. Despite our efforts, this law will affect all of us. Less green space is the opposite direction that we should be moving towards. We would love for more community members to advocate on behalf of parks. We encourage those who are interested to sign up for our advocacy newsletter on our website www.austinparks.org.”-Kayla Reese, Advocacy Manager at Austin Parks Foundation