Project duration ordinance repealed by Austin City Council

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A portion of the Austin City Code regarding how long a project remains valid after filing an initial application was repealed by Austin City Council by a vote of 5-2 on March 28.

Councilman Bill Spelman said he felt repealing the part of the code, known as project duration, was the best option for the city when taking state law into consideration.

“I was convinced after hearing all the lawyers talk about it that they were right,” Spelman said. “That in fact [project duration]had been voided, that that was the intent of the Legislature in 1999 when they passed Senate Bill 1704.”

A legal opinion from Attorney General Greg Abbott in December that concluded that “a court would likely conclude that the Ordinance is void” because it was more stringent than the state’s Local Government Code.

Project duration required that a project expires if a building permit for a building on a site plan or a notice of construction expires before construction begins and if all building permits are not obtained by within three years for projects filed after September 1997 and five years for projects before September 1997.

The state’s Local Government Code does not allow for an expiration date sooner than five years, and filing all building permits is not a requirement under the code.

Having a project expire and having to refile projects would require those projects to meet current city regulations and restrictions, rather than the ones that were in effect when the project was first filed with the city.

Concerns about repealing the ordinance included renewing projects that had expired under the project duration requirements that are bound by older regulations and that projects would remain valid under older restrictions indefinitely if they meet minimum requirements.

Roy Waley, chairman of the conservation committee with Austin Group of the Sierra Club said at a public hearing on the topic March 21 that he wanted to find out what the real implications of repealing the ordinance would be and what kind of projects could potential be viable.

“We don’t know what the consequences of this will be,” Waley said. “We can say it will be this and we can say it will be that. We think it’s going to be much worse that what’s been presented. Once you’ve made this decision, we can’t go back on this.”

They city is working to craft new language about permit and project expiration that fits with state law, and is expected to have an ordinance to the City Council in May.

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