Austin will appeal court ruling that halted the city’s land development code rewrite

Austin City Hall (Christopher Neely/Community impact Newspaper)
Austin City Hall (Christopher Neely/Community impact Newspaper)

Austin City Hall (Christopher Neely/Community impact Newspaper)

Austin City Council voted 7-4 to appeal a March court ruling that effectively stymied the city’s eight-year effort to rewrite its rules around what can be built in the city and where. The city’s attorney said an appeal could take up to 12 months.

A group of Austin property owners sued the city late last year, arguing against the government’s position that property owners are not afforded protest rights during the process of a comprehensive overhaul of the land development code. On March 18, as the coronavirus began inflicting significant harm on the community, Judge Jan Soifer ruled in favor of the property owners.

In the weeks leading up to the ruling, City Council had the necessary votes in place and was preparing to make its third and final affirmative vote on the latest draft of the land development code rewrite, capping off what had been the political pressure point in the community for eight years. As concern over the coronavirus grew, the city indefinitely postponed the third vote to focus on the pandemic. Then, two days later, Soifer issued her ruling, invalidating council’s first two votes and sent the rewrite back to square one.

Giving property owners the right to protest means City Council would have to pass the land development code with a three-fourths majority, or nine votes. Throughout the voting process, the prevailing voting block was 7-4, with Council Members Leslie Pool, Kathie Tovo, Alison Alter and Ann Kitchen in the minority.

On April 9, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic thus far, City Council voted to appeal Soifer’s ruling. The same four council members voted against the move to appeal, saying they supported the judge’s ruling.


Kitchen said it was “not the right time” to pursue an appeal, as it would divert city resources. Alter agreed, calling this the wrong time to “fight our residents in court.” By law, the city has until April 17 to appeal the ruling.

Mayor Steve Adler voted in favor of the appeal but said he wants the council’s energy and focus to be centered on crafting a land development code rewrite that finds the needed nine supporting votes.
By Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following two years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Su


MOST RECENT

Protesters march toward the Texas Capitol. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
City Council will seek answers from Austin Police Department over response to the weekend's violent protests

Austin City Council will bring Austin Police Chief Brian Manley in for questioning on June 4 at 3 p.m.

A view of Downtown Austin from Lady Bird Lake (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Experts: Coronavirus has magnified long-held inequities of Austin’s health care system

Black and Hispanic communities outside of nursing homes have suffered the worst from the coronavirus, according to new data from Austin Public Health.

Travis County had an estimated 2,044 active coronavirus cases June 2. (Nicholas Cicale/Community impact Newspaper)
Austin metro COVID-19 hospitalizations at 97 as Travis County cases increase by 73

Travis County had an estimated 2,044 active coronavirus cases June 2.

Superintendent Paul Cruz said June 1 that Austin ISD has formed a task force to develop options to educate using a blended approach with virtual and in-person classes. (Courtesy Austin ISD)
Austin ISD seeking community feedback on district reopening plan next week

Eight meetings have been scheduled to discuss options with teachers, staff and the community.

(Designed by Rachal Russell/Community Impact Newspaper)
Here is how to file a civil rights complaint in the Austin area

Citizens who feel they need to file a civil rights case against law enforcement have several avenues to make a complaint.

The Paramount Theatre put up a message reading "Black Lives Matter" on its awning as protestors marched in the streets the weekend of May 30-31. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin Justice Coalition executive director: City’s racism is ’unique because it is so subtle’

In a June 1 conversation with Mayor Steve Adler, Chas Moore said Austin's racial issues extend from the police department to everyday microagressions.

COVID-19 hospitalizations also increased to 97 in the Austin metro. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
88 new coronavirus cases in Travis County on June 1 set single-day high

COVID-19 hospitalizations also increased to 97 in the Austin metro.

Director of Elementary Schools Monica Gonzalez said June 1 that the district is looking into training teachers this summer to prepare for partial or full-time virtual learning. (Courtesy Austin ISD)
Austin ISD planning for blended teaching approach for school year beginning Aug. 18

A blended approach would allow the district to switch from in-person learning to virtual learning when needed.

Protesters and Texas Rangers stood face to face during demonstrations at the Texas Capitol on May 31. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
National, state, local officials continue to blame outside agitators for turning protests violent over the weekend

As violence erupted in Austin and cities across the country over the weekend, leaders from all ranks said outside groups usurped the demonstrations and turned them chaotic.

Richard Rhodes, the president and CEO of Austin Community College, said June 1 that the district is prioritizing the hiring of a new chief equity, diversity and inclusion officer. (Courtesy Austin Community College)
Austin Community College prioritizing hiring equity officer despite ongoing hiring freeze

The district brought up the hiring during a discussion about protests and demonstrations that have taken place over the past weekend.

Businesses shuttering their doors due to coronavirus restrictions lowered the sales tax revenue collected by cities in May compared to May 2019. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)
Texas comptroller reports 13.2% year-over-year state sales tax revenue drop in May

Tax collection revenue fell significantly in several sectors from May 2019 to May 2020, according to the comptroller's office.

Bull Creek
UT study finds water runoff in Austin responsible for more than half of stream flow into Bull Creek

A recent study found municipal water sources, such as irrigation runoff or wastewater leakage, account for at least half of Bull Creek’s stream flow in some urban areas.