Austin city staffers and Opticos Design Inc. consultants are in the process of drafting a new land development code. A final draft is expected to be ready for City Council approval by fall 2017. Austin city staffers and Opticos Design Inc. consultants are in the process of drafting a new land development code. A final draft is expected to be ready for City Council approval by fall 2017.[/caption]

Austin city officials are planning to release a draft of the revised land development code, known as CodeNEXT, in January.

The city has been releasing “prescription papers,” which Project Manger Jim Robertson said summarize staff members’ and consultants’ recommendations on how the new code should address key issues facing the Austin community.

On July 12, the city released a prescription paper on mobility and will release one in September on the city’s fiscal health, Robertson said.

Prescription papers on affordability and on the city’s natural and built environment, which includes environmental concerns such as tree preservation and city parks, are available at

“These papers are somewhat of a preview for the code,” he said.

Alina Carnahan, public information specialist for the Austin Planning and Zoning Department, said the city is collecting public input on each prescription paper through CodeNEXT Advisory Group meetings, community walks and online forums, such as

“A lot of the people who comment on [Reddit] are people who wouldn’t necessarily have engaged any other way,” she said.

Carnahan said staffers are using public input to help craft a draft of the new code.

Robertson said when the draft is released, he would like to give the public four months to review it to ensure the city has provided multiple ways for residents to access, understand and question the draft.

“We’re not going to rush that,” Robertson said.

At the same time, Robertson said he does not want CodeNEXT “to be a project that never ends.”

He said he hopes to have draft revisions finished and a final draft prepared for Austin City Council adoption by fall 2017.

Budget, delays

In June a coalition of local housing organizations—grassroots advocacy group AURA, the Austin Apartment Association, the Austin Board of Realtors, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Austin Alliance, Evolve Austin, the Home Builders Association of Austin and the Real Estate Council of Austin—noted delays in the CodeNEXT process and called on the city to follow through on its latest January deadline for a draft code.

“We’ve been patient with these delays,” RECA President Ward Tisdale said. “We expect City Council and staff to meet their most recent deadline.”

In addition to the delays, Assistant Planning Director Matt Lewis resigned June 16 after being the subject of an investigation involving accusations that he mistreated CodeNEXT staffers.

Carnahan said she did not know if the city would replace Lewis, but Robertson has helmed CodeNEXT for more than a year, and he will continue to do so, Carnahan said.

Carnahan said delays occurred because the scope of CodeNEXT widened, and the revision now includes a strategic mobility plan for improving traffic congestion, which was not part of the initial project.

Robertson said it is normal for a years-long project to start small to ensure the city’s arrangements with consultants are successful. CodeNEXT began modestly with $100,000 worth of work, and the scope and cost have increased over time, he said.

City Council has allocated funds for CodeNEXT incrementally since the start of the project, including $1 million in 2013 and $1.6 million in 2014, he said. Funds from the transportation budget were also used for the strategic mobility plan, he said.

Robertson denied CodeNEXT was over budget. He said City Council asked for a substantial revision of the land development code, and the city made no promises on the cost of the project.

Residents can provide input on CodeNEXT prescription papers at

The code revision is a result of Imagine Austin, the city’s comprehensive plan, which was adopted in 2012.