The Life, Death, and Rebirth of CodeNEXT
Frequently Asked Questions About City Hall's Rezoning Plan
Backed by the local real estate industry, Mayor Steve Adler and his allies on the Austin City Council have spent several years trying to overhaul our community’s zoning regulations and land development code.
These laws govern the use, type, size, and spacing of buildings in Austin’s residential neighborhoods, commercial districts, and other areas. Changing them can have a dramatic impact on our community.
The plan to revise Austin’s land development code and rezone the city’s neighborhoods was known as “CodeNEXT” until 2018, when local officials withdrew it due to overwhelming opposition from the public.
A new, more extreme version of the plan was released in October 2019. It received preliminary approval from a majority of the Austin City Council before it was successfully challenged in court by group of local residents. The City of Austin is now attempting to overturn that court ruling and deny Austinites their state-mandated property rights.
Here are answers to a few of the most frequently asked questions about “the next CodeNEXT” and the legal battle it ignited:
- How does Austin’s land development code affect me?
Austin’s zoning regulations and land development code govern the use, type, size, and spacing of buildings throughout our community. Local officials use these rules to regulate the use of land in different areas of the city, to keep public infrastructure from being overburdened by incoming residents, to protect the natural environment, and to manage growth and redevelopment. Properly applied, they can help accommodate a growing population while maintaining the stability of Austin’s neighborhoods and protecting the investments community members have made in them.
- How is City Hall proposing to change Austin’s land development code?
If the next CodeNEXT is approved, virtually every residential property in Austin will be rezoned to accommodate more structures, larger structures, and an increased density of inhabitants. On some residential lots, the plan would allow for as many as 10 dwelling units, with structures as tall as 40 feet. Land developers would also be allowed to add a pair of large residences to any lot in the city that is 5,000 square feet or larger and has a home 15 years or older already on it. This map shows the plan’s proposed zoning changes, and these renderings show the types of buildings it would allow. According to The Austin Chronicle, the plan could make local housing less affordable and worsen our community’s displacement crisis.
- What is the status of City Hall’s rezoning plan?
City Hall’s latest rezoning plan was made public in October 2019, and it was amended by the Austin City Council in a series of 7-4 votes taken in the months that followed. In March 2020, the city council temporarily suspended all action on the plan due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Council members may resume work on the plan at any time, but they are bound by a recent court ruling issued by Travis County District Judge Jan Soifer.
- How did the recent court ruling affect City Hall’s rezoning plan?
In her order, Travis County District Judge Jan Soifer upheld property owners’ right to file official protests in response to City Hall’s rezoning plan. Under state law, local officials are not allowed to rezone any property that is the subject of a protest without the support of three-fourths of the Austin City Council (9 of 11 votes). Judge Soifer also ruled that the City of Austin had failed to provide local residents with legally adequate notice of the rezoning plan, and she voided the preliminary votes taken by the city council. If the City of Austin wishes to proceed with the plan, it will need to provide the public with legally adequate notice of the plan, and the city council must hold its votes again.
- Has the court ruling been appealed?
Yes, the City of Austin has asked the Court of Appeals to overturn Travis County District Judge Jan Soifer’s decision. The appellate court is not likely to issue a ruling until late 2020 at the earliest. Judge Soifer’s ruling against the city remains in effect while the case is on appeal.
- Can City Hall move forward with its rezoning plan anytime soon?
Yes. To restart the rezoning plan, the City of Austin must provide local residents with legally adequate notice of the plan as mandated by Travis County District Judge Jan Soifer. The Austin City Council can then reschedule the votes that were voided by Judge Soifer and hold new public hearings.
- How can I protect my property from City Hall’s rezoning plan?
Austinites who wish to protect their homes and neighborhoods from City Hall’s rezoning plan should file official rezoning protests at FileYourProtest.com, a website operated by Community Not Commodity. The process is fast, easy, and was recently upheld by Travis County District Judge Jan Soifer. Local officials are not allowed to rezone any property that is the subject of a protest without the support of three-fourths of the Austin City Council (9 of 11 votes). Since the city council could restart its plan anytime, those protests should be filed as soon as possible.
- Can I protect nearby properties that I do not own?
Yes. When the owners of at least 20 percent of the properties within 200 feet of another property all file official rezoning protests, then the entire area is protected. The same holds true for homeowners who choose not to file protests: If the owners of at least 20 percent of the properties within 200 feet file protests, then City Hall cannot rezone any of the properties without the support of three-fourths of the Austin City Council (9 of 11 votes). Visit FileYourProtest.com to learn more.