Scope and Schedule for 1st Reading Action on draft Land Development Code revision

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Steve Adler
Posts: 393
Joined: Fri Jan 16, 2015 2:12 pm

Scope and Schedule for 1st Reading Action on draft Land Development Code revision

Post by Steve Adler » Thu Oct 17, 2019 1:12 pm


I wish to thank staff for their hard work in identifying a schedule for Council deliberations on the draft land development code revision that works with the Planning Commission timing and all our busy schedules. The draft schedule circulated by staff last week seems to work well for the task we have in front of us. I remain committed to moving forward in a manner that ensures we get this right, while recognizing the many years of work by the community, our staff and consultants, and this Council that have already gone into the development of this draft code, and the urgency to make progress in addressing affordability, mobility, flood risk, and climate change.

Looking forward to the Council action on 1st reading, I think it would be valuable to see if a majority of the Council could agree to a process and scope for Council’s action on 1st reading that would make the most efficient use of our time.

Similar to our normal practice on significant code amendments, I suggest Council try to limit the scope of its actions at 1st reading to:

- approving relatively minor or technical code text and map changes identified in the supplemental staff report, or similar minor changes recommended by the Planning Commission that may be necessary for the new code to achieve the intent of our May 2nd Policy Direction to the Manager and on which our staff are in agreement

- providing clarification on items from the May 2nd Council Policy Direction where staff or the Planning Commission have indicated further clarity from Council is needed

- providing additional or new policy direction in areas where the Council determines additional direction is needed

Any such changes or additional direction, if approved at 1st reading, would be reflected in the revised code text and zoning map to be brought back to us by staff for 2nd reading.

I believe it may be best at 1st reading for Council to refrain from line by line amendments to the code text or parcel by parcel changes to the zoning map, as even minor changes to a particular section of the code text would likely impact other sections of the code, and minor map changes may impact housing capacity and other goals we have set for this process. If there are code text changes or map changes the Council wishes to make, I suggest we try to translate those into higher level policy direction so that we do not get bogged down on code language and on-the-fly housing capacity analysis. Waiting until later readings for specific mapping changes would also allow the community more time to work on their own proposals for how to achieve the goals of Council’s policy direction within their own neighborhoods.

I would further suggest that our Planning Commission consider prioritizing its review of the draft land development code revision on any minor or technical changes necessary for the new code to achieve the intent of Council’s May 2nd policy direction to the Manager, and on identifying topics that may require further clarity or additional policy direction from Council.

Regarding our schedule…

The schedule as laid out by staff last week has us holding Monday, November 18th for a Council work session on the draft land development code revision. I suggest at that time, staff could present the Planning Commission’s report to the Council and advise us of staff’s concurrence or not with those recommendations. This meeting could also be staff’s deadline for flagging topics that need further policy direction from Council. If Council has not yet agreed on a procedure or scope for 1st reading action by that time, it could also be discussed at this work session, along with time for questions of staff by Council.

We would then take up the code discussion again in work sessions December 3rd and 4th. During these work sessions, if Councilmembers have proposed policy direction for code text and map changes for us to consider on 1st reading, they could be laid out and discussed at that time (if not laid out on the message board earlier). In any case, I suggest we all agree to post any proposed amendments and policy direction to the bulletin board by noon on December 6th. This deadline will allow Council and the public enough time to read and understand proposed new policy direction and other amendments prior to the Public hearing on December the 7th. If Councilmembers want to offer amendments and policy direction after the 6th, I suggest those be only be taken up after the items posted by the deadline.

We will conduct our public hearing on Saturday, December 7th, where our community will have an opportunity to address the full Council.
Finally, Council will be posted for action on 1st reading December 9th. Our expectation is to also allow the public to speak to Council on the 9th, however I suggest that those who previously spoke to Council at the December 7th public hearing be limited to 1 minute of testimony on the 9th.

I appreciate hearing your thoughts on these suggestions on the bulletin board, or perhaps at a future work session.


Julie Montgomery
Posts: 25
Joined: Tue Feb 12, 2019 1:26 pm

Re: Scope and Schedule for 1st Reading Action on draft Land Development Code revision

Post by Julie Montgomery » Sun Oct 20, 2019 11:20 pm

Posted on behalf of Council Member Ellis:

Thank you, Mayor, for your suggestions regarding the scope and schedule for Council’s first reading of the draft LDC revisions. I concur with this plan, especially with regards to keeping our discussion high-level and policy-focused for this initial action.

I also support your recommendation to the Planning Commission that they direct their efforts towards identifying any fixes needed as well as remaining points of policy ambiguity.

Since it’s relevant to the scope of first reading, I’d also like to thank staff for their responsiveness to our discussion at work session regarding the proposed amendments to the Save Our Springs Ordinance. The latest staff LDC blog post ( ... ious-cover) reflects the sentiments that many of us, including myself, expressed at work session: that the SOS Ordinance is important enough to merit a separate public process to fully weigh the proposed amendments with more time for a robust community conversation. I do believe the proposed amendments from our Watershed Department hold a great deal of promise for improving water quality, reducing flood risk, and facilitating the creation of missing middle housing. Therefore, I would like to ask my colleagues for their support in directing the Manager at first reading, either via additional policy direction or through a stand-alone resolution, to initiate a separate public process for the proposed SOS Ordinance amendments.

If a majority of my colleagues agree, and could respond to that effect here on the bulletin board, we could possibly save the Planning Commission, staff, and community time regarding this issue, as they will already be aware of Council’s intent.

Policy Director
Office of Council Member Paige Ellis, District 8

Steve Adler
Posts: 393
Joined: Fri Jan 16, 2015 2:12 pm

Re: Scope and Schedule for 1st Reading Action on draft Land Development Code revision

Post by Steve Adler » Tue Oct 22, 2019 10:03 am

Councilmember Ellis,

Thanks for your response on the scope and process for 1st reading of the new LDC. I would also support your proposed direction to the Manager at 1st reading to initiate a separate public process for the proposed SOS Ordinance amendments. I look forward to hearing from others on the message board or in future work sessions.


Greg Casar
Posts: 167
Joined: Tue Jan 20, 2015 3:20 pm

Re: Scope and Schedule for 1st Reading Action on draft Land Development Code revision

Post by Greg Casar » Wed Oct 23, 2019 3:42 pm

Thank you, Mayor, for laying out the next few months. I agree with the goals you’ve described for our first reading. In particular, I do not believe we should draft technical code and map amendments until we are closer to our final product.

I also agree with CM Ellis that we should address the SOS ordinance separate from the LDC rewrite process.

I’d also like to address an issue where I believe there has been confusion and misinformation: what can and cannot be built in transition zones (for lots with R4 or RM1 zoning). To bring clarity for the public and our commissions, I am hoping we can all be on the same page before commission and council deliberations. Here is how I believe redevelopments in transition area zones/missing middle zones should be treated in order to reach our housing goals. I hope there is majority support on the Council for this proposed approach and policy direction:

- If an existing single family house located in an area mapped with a transition zone is unintentionally destroyed (for example, by a fire or flood), the new code should allow for a single family home to be rebuilt under R2 standards (as clarified by staff, this is in the current draft and has been what the code has allowed all along).
- To ensure that the number of current housing units is not reduced, redevelopments in transition areas must result in the same or greater number of units as originally on the lot (as clarified by staff, this is in the current draft code).
- To disincentivize large new single family houses replacing smaller, more affordable existing homes, if an original single family house is intentionally demolished, the new code should allow for a new single family home to be built, but at a smaller size than the maximum entitlements under R2. The result should be a disincentive to tearing down a small single family house to be replaced by a McMansion, which is what we see far too much of under our current code.
- To incentivize smaller, missing middle housing types, Transition Zones should allow for increased allowable size of structures only as the number of units increases. This would mean a fourplex would be allowed to be a bigger size than a triplex, a triplex would be allowed to be a bigger size than a duplex, and a duplex would be allowed to be a bigger size than a single family house.

Gregorio "Greg" Casar
Council Member District 4

Jimmy Flannigan
Posts: 85
Joined: Thu Jan 12, 2017 8:44 am

Re: Scope and Schedule for 1st Reading Action on draft Land Development Code revision

Post by Jimmy Flannigan » Tue Nov 12, 2019 6:03 pm

I also agree with the scope and goals as outlined above – that discussion at the Council’s first reading should focus on high level policy and that line-by-line amendments and map revisions should be discussed once the major issues with the code have been addressed. I agree that the Planning Commission should consider prioritizing in its review technical sections beyond zoning, such as administrative procedures, subdivision, transportation, water/wastewater, etc.

I also agree with CM Ellis that SOS amendments should not be considered during this LDC revision process and with CM Casar’s policy direction regarding housing redevelopment in the transition corridors.

Among the items I've been thinking about, some thoughts on the Utilities chapter which I hope are fairly straightforward:
- Explore options for dedication of shared “public utility easement” rather than specifying one for Austin Energy and/or Austin Water and standardization across utilities.
- Explore options for easements to be adjusted at a later stages in the development process or through other means in order to be better coordinated with the actual land uses under construction.
- Overall, the process should be simplified with clear time frames and without unnecessary or duplicative legal review.

In addition to above direction by the Mayor and CMs Ellis and Casar, I hope we can quickly establish some common understanding on the process so that we can focus our discussion leading up to first reading on substantive policy outcomes.
Jimmy Flannigan
Council Member, District 6

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