Coalition supports full rewrite of Austin's land development code

The city's land development code is broken and needs a "complete makeover," says a coalition of professional organizations led by the Real Estate Council of Austin.

RECA and the rest of the coalition spoke out Oct. 22 against a city proposal to deeply revise existing city code, the guiding document that regulates development in Austin. The coalition, made up mostly of development organizations and pro-urban advocacy groups, instead urged comprehensive reform to both the city code and the process through which development is approved in Austin.

For more than two years, city staff and private consultant Opticos have worked on revising the code, which is more than 30 years old, as part of the CodeNEXT process. Austin City Council could potentially approve any of three methods for revising the code during its Oct. 23 meeting.

While the coalition prefers a top-down rewrite of city code, Opticos and city staff are instead recommending City Council vote for a "deep-clean" approach that would significantly edit the existing code. That is not enough to fix Austin's development problems, RECA President Ward Tisdale said during an Oct. 22 media event.

"Our environment today is evolving too quickly to view bringing the current code up to date as a suitable alternative," Tisdale said.

In addition to RECA, the code makeover approach also has support from the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, Austin Board of Realtors, Downtown Austin Alliance, HousingWorks Austin, the Central Texas chapter of the Congress for New Urbanism and AURA as well as Councilman Chris Riley, who also made the call Oct. 22 to rewrite the city code from scratch.

"The existing code is cumbersome, confusing, unwieldy and leads to unpredictable results," Riley said. "We should aim higher and should be aspiring to a code that does everything we need it to do."

Any change to the code will take at least one year, Riley reminded those in attendance Oct. 22, mostly media and other coalition supporters. He recommended the city increase its relationship with Opticos to develop code improvements that can be incrementally put into law before the rewrite process is complete.

GACC President Mike Rollins urged City Council to not delay action at its Oct. 23 meeting, which takes place at 700 Lavaca St. beginning at 10 a.m.



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