This is a recipe for disaster.
Last Friday, after business hours, City Hall released a new, 1,382-page revision of its controversial rezoning plan. It includes hundreds of amendments to the plan’s previous draft and a reworked map showing the changes proposed for neighborhoods across Austin.
Unfortunately, none of the edits are marked or highlighted in any way. If you want to see how the city’s rezoning plan has been changed, you’ll have to compare it to old versions line-by-line—and you’d better hurry.
That’s because the Austin City Council is giving our community only six business days to review the plan before they begin voting on the latest changes.
You read that right: On February 11, the city council will start approving alterations to the plan that weren’t made public until last Friday. A final vote on the overall rezoning plan is currently set for early April.
The City of Austin likes to promote itself as a model of transparency and accountability, but the process surrounding its rezoning plan draft was clearly designed to minimize public input. That’s bad for lots of reasons, but two of them stand out.
First, rewriting a city’s entire land development code is a complex task. Ramming through code changes like these may make land developers and other special interests happy, but it breeds distrust among everyday Austinites. Their input is crucial if local officials want to avoid error, misinterpretation, and other bad outcomes.
Second, this is a project that will have an enormous impact on the homes and neighborhoods of local residents. They have a right to be involved. They need time to review new proposals and an opportunity to be heard on each of them. They deserve a real seat at the table.
If you agree, contact Mayor Adler and your city council member and tell them so. (Check this map if you aren’t sure which council member represents you.) Tell them to put the brakes on the rezoning plan until Austin residents have had a chance to fully vet it!