After releasing Draft 1 of CodeNEXT, the City of Austin initiative to rewrite the land development code, we heard from thousands of Austinites about what they liked and what they wanted to see improved. Three suggestions in particular stood out, and will be among the changes in Draft 2, slated for release on September 15.
A Standardized Spectrum of Zones
One of the messages we received from the community is that the separation of transect and non-transect zones initially envisioned for the new code did not solve the clarity and consistency problems with the current code. When the CodeNEXT process began, the Austin City Council asked the CodeNEXT team to create a code that combined zones based on how the property is used, like residential or commercial (aka use-based zones), with zones based on the structures’ size and shape, like height restrictions and McMansion requirements (aka form-based zones).
For Draft 1, the CodeNEXT team split these two zone types into two different sections of the code and called them non-transect zones (for use-based) and transect zones (for form-based). This approach did not allow for transect and non-transect zones to be easily compared, and some code standards were inconsistent across different sections of the code. Making the two types of zoning separate and distinct did not do enough to clarify and simplify the land development code.
Draft 2 will set out a standardized spectrum of zones. The zoning framework will be simpler, easier to understand, and more intuitive. Some of the zones in the spectrum will have more form standards, and others will focus more on uses, but they will be more consistent and intuitive for users.
Austinites also expressed concerns that compatibility standards and the McMansion ordinance were difficult to identify or needed adjustment in Draft 1. For Draft 2, we’re evaluating the building types that should be allowed in certain zones, so when they’re mapped, they’re more consistent with current development patterns, future land use maps (FLUMs), neighborhood plans and Imagine Austin. In addition, we’re re-evaluating some of the setback and height provisions in Draft 1 based on public input that they seem to be inconsistent.
Land Use Pattern Consistency
Another concern the CodeNEXT team heard was that the application of land use patterns was inconsistent. For example, zones applied in some areas seemed to be allowing more intensive uses than the uses allowed today, while not allowing less intensive uses in other areas. We also heard that site development standards and restrictions such as setbacks were not consistently applied. In some cases, for instance, lot-size requirements might differ drastically from those specified under the current code. The inconsistency created an appearance that we were limiting certain types of development and that there was a conflict between what is allowed today and what you might be able to do under CodeNEXT.
In Draft 2, we’re working to make land uses consistent across different zones. We will be releasing a new zoning map consistent with the new standardized spectrum of zones. We’re also figuring out where we need additional levels of regulations and making those consistent, so the pattern of development is the same across like types of zoning.
Draft 2 is expected on September 15. During September and October, we will be reaching out to the community to update residents on the changes in Draft 2 and seek public input. Public input is essential to designing a code that reflects the community’s values as espoused in Imagine Austin, the Council adopted comprehensive plan.
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