“It would involve a lot of work [by] the consultants,” said Jerry Rusthoven, assistant director of the planning and zoning department. “The map would have to change, all of the names of the zones would change. It’s an awful lot of work, [but] it’s not starting over.”
Transect zones, one of the hallmarks in the first draft of CodeNEXT, are form-based zones—a tool created to allow leniency in what structures in a zone are used for and strictness on the “form” or physical character of those structures.
These zones aimed to create neighborhoods mixed with commercial development and a wider variety of residential uses while maintaining a standard neighborhood look. They contrasted with the more standard “use-based” zones in the code, which had opposite priorities.
However, transect zones, which were concentrated in the city’s urban core, turned out to be controversial. Many people voiced concerns that CodeNEXT, while it was supposed to simplify the land development code, only created more confusion by essentially laying out two separate codes— a transect code and a use-based code.
“It would involve a lot of work [by] the consultants. The map would have to change, all of the names of the zones would change. It’s an awful lot of work, [but] it’s not starting over.”
—Jerry Rusthoven, assistant director of the Austin Planning and Zoning Department
“We’ve heard a lot of criticism that people feel we have two codes,” Rusthoven said. “We are looking at combining them into a single spectrum of zones that would still maintain some zones having more form-based controls and others having less.”
The second draft, due out in August, will still have zones reflective of transect zones and use-based zones, but the names will be unified and easier to discern, as the change would deal primarily with nomenclature.
During a June 28 CodeNEXT meeting with the City Council, the staff proposed a rough draft of the new naming system.
Lower intensity residential zones will be called “R-zones” and will range from RR—rural residential—to R4. The number will reflect the number of units a parcel of land is allowed to have “by right”, or without having to seek a zoning change approval through the land-use commissions. Each numbered zone will have subzones categorized by lot size and form-based restrictions.
“We still have a lot of work ahead of us,” Rusthoven said. Coming up with a new system for the residential zones was more complicated, he said, adding he expected the reorganization of the commercial zones to be less tedious.
According to staff, the P&Z commission and the zoning and platting commission liked the idea. Although the reorganization is in its early stages, Austin Mayor Steve Adler expressed confidence it was a step in the right direction.
“This seems to answer some of the questions I was hearing out in the community,” Adler said.