Trial for lawsuit over Austin’s land development code set for February

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The trial for a lawsuit over Austin’s land development code and property owners’ right to protest it has been set for Feb. 18, 2020.

The trial at the Travis County courthouse is expected to last two days, according to the legal notice setting the trial date.

Austin’s land development code shapes what kind of building can be done in the city and where it can happen. The code has not had a major overhaul in three decades, and those who support an overhaul argue it’s necessary for the city to be able to respond to growth. Austin’s mayor Steve Adler scrapped the previous attempt at changing the land development code, called CodeNEXT, last year after more than five years of work, citing the divisive nature of the process.

On Dec. 12, 2019, one day after the Austin City Council approved the first of three required votes to re-write the city’s land development code, 19 property owners sued. The lawsuit says the city needs to recognize Austin residents’ rights to protest, which are allowed under state law. It also claimed the city did not give proper notice about hearings related to the new code.

On Monday, the city shared the same statement it had released in December, which disputes those rights: “The City of Austin’s position is that the weight of the authorities on this issue supports the position that individual landowners do not have protest rights when a municipality seeks to enact a comprehensive revision of its zoning classifications and associated regulations.”

Doug Becker, of Gray & Becker which is representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement Monday “We believe that a quick answer to the legal issues raised in our lawsuit is in everyone’s best interest. The outcome of the case depends upon the Court’s legal interpretation of a few provisions of the Texas Local Government Code. The current uncertainty benefits no one. We both hope and expect that the City will agree.”

Becker told KXAN in December that if the plaintiffs’ lawsuit is successful, they will ask the city to start over with the land code rewrite.

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