Parkland is an essential city service that affords economic, recreational, physical, and mental health benefits to its users. Parks provide recreational opportunities, create community, preserve the city’s character and natural resources, contribute to economic growth and tourism, increase transportation opportunities, and keep Austin beautiful.
A Core Principle of the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan is to integrate nature into the city, which has an increased need for parks as we grow into a more compact community. With the addition of commercial parkland dedication, the City will better be able to provide parks and open space close to where people live, work, and play. With this overall purpose, the Austin Parks and Recreation Department will begin Parkland Dedication Conversations with interested stakeholders to explore possibilities and create recommendations for fine-tuning the Parkland Dedication ordinances.
Delores Duffie Recreation Center at Rosewood Neighborhood Park: Residential PLD funds supported its renovation
Parkland dedication is one process cities in Texas and across the country use to acquire public parkland as populations grow. Commercial and residential developers provide either a piece of property to be dedicated as a public park or donate funds in lieu of land to support other nearby parks or programs. The City of Austin Parkland Dedication program began with residential developments with an ordinance passed in 1985. Since then, Austin has had more than 1,800 acres (9% of all parkland) deeded or purchased through the PLD program with an additional 84 acres of park easements, affecting more than 121 parks (37% of all parks).
On September 22, 2022, the Austin City Council approved Ordinance no. 20220915-05 for parkland dedication requirements for commercial developments and updated the Parkland Dedication Ordinance on October 12, 2022.
In Resolution 20220915-053, the City Council directed PARD to
. . . conduct a multi-department stakeholder process to explore potential changes to the parkland dedication ordinance, including but not limited to exploring and making recommendations on new methodologies for calculating parkland dedication fees for both residential and commercial properties, alternative timing for the City to collect any required fee-in-lieu, potential exemptions for commercial development that produce less than one functional population, revisiting parkland dedication requirements for mixed use developments, and consider any Planning Commission recommendations not already adopted by Council. At minimum, stakeholders from the following communities should be included in any input process: parks advocates, housing affordability advocates, and development representatives. Since the Department recently went through a stakeholder process for the commercial parkland dedication requirements, this process will supplement the previous engagement from 2022, with an additional emphasis on comprehensive and residential parkland dedication requirements.
With this direction, the Parks and Recreation Department is beginning the Parkland Dedication Conversations.
Learn more about Parkland Dedication
In accordance with the City Council Resolution, the Austin Parks and Recreation Department will evaluate parkland dedication with community stakeholders and explore opportunities for fine tuning the commercial and residential parkland dedication ordinances.
Community Engagement and Proposed Timeline
- Community Conversations Kickoff: January 23, 2023, 12:30 p.m.
- Community Conversations with Stakeholders: January 24 through February 22, 2023
- Community Conversations Update Meeting: What We Heard: March 3, 2023 (new date)
- Memorandum and Report to City Council: March 2023
To schedule a conversation between January 24 and February 22, please email PLD.Commercial@austintexas.gov.
Additional Resources and Contact Information
- Recent Updates to the Parkland Dedication Ordinance (PDF) (October 12, 2022)
- Parks and Recreation Board Recommendation 20200225-B3
- Parks and Recreation Board Recommendation 20220328-B5
- City Council Resolution 20220407-042
- Commercial Parkland Dedication Nexus Study
- Parks and Recreation Board Recommendation 20220725-8
- Planning Commission Recommendation 20220809-10
- SpeakUp Austin! Summary Report & Survey Response
- Ordinance No. 20220915-053
For additional information or questions, please email PLD.Commercial@austintexas.gov.
Parkland Development Ordinance for Commercial Developments
- Commercial PLD Background
Beginning January 1, 2023, office, retail, and industrial developments are subject to parkland dedication requirements. Enacting a new parkland dedication ordinance to include commercial developments will have the dual benefits of of addressing the impact of the commercial occupants on the parks system and expanding park service in accordance with Council Resolutions.
On February 25, 2020, the Parks and Recreation Board (Parks Board) passed Recommendation 20200225-B3, which included the provision that commercial developments be subject to parkland dedication requirements. On March 28, 2022, The Parks Board reaffirmed its support to require parkland dedication for office, industrial, and commercial developments in Recommendation 20220328-B5.
Beginning in March 2020, Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) staff began researching and developing a nexus study for commercial parkland dedication. The study establishes a legally required nexus, which is the relationship between new commercial developments and their impact on the parkland level of service in Austin. The study also proposes a formula to capture this impact in order to administer parkland dedication requirements for commercial developments.
PARD staff conducted stakeholder and park advocate engagement to gather feedback through the city’s website, blog posts, social media posts, DSD newsletters, public hearings, a SpeakUP Austin survey and focused stakeholder meetings held both in person and virtually. Feedback was incorporated into the ordinance and formula.
PARD staff conducted multiple briefings and requests for action at Parks and Recreation Board and Planning Commission, including attending Planning Commission working groups. The Parks and Recreation Board recommended the commercial parkland dedication ordinance as proposed by staff on July 25th, 2022. Planning commission recommended the commercial parkland dedication ordinance with amendments on August 9th, 2022 (Recommendation 2022-0809-10).
On September 15, 2022, Austin City Council made amendments to City Code Chapter 25-1 to initiate parkland dedication requirements for commercial development.
The commercial parkland dedication ordinance enables PARD to keep up with the demand of growth on the park level of service. The goal of parkland dedication is to bring all Austinites within a five- or ten-minute walk of parkland by reducing park deficient areas.
- Commercial PLD Requirements
On September 15, 2022, City Council approved Ordinance no. 20220915-05 to initiate parkland dedication requirements for commercial developments. As of January 1, 2023, new commercial developments within the Austin Full Purpose jurisdiction, including office, retail, industrial, and hotel uses, are required to dedicate parkland or pay fee-in-lieu of dedication in proportion to their impact on the park level of service. This will be applied to any subdivision, site plan, or building permit filed on or after January 1 which proposes additional applicable commercial square footage. This measure will advance the City’s park system as we attempt to keep pace with the rapid growth in its workforce - maintaining a high-quality of life for residents and workers alike.
A new development’s impact is based on the number of workers expected to occupy the space, with several discount variables applied, resulting in a smaller number referred to as the “Functional Population.” The variables used to determine the functional population vary by the use category of the new development and may be subject to annual update similar to the variables used in the residential parkland dedication requirements.
Dedication of Parkland: 9.4 acres per every 1,000 functional residents as determined by the following formula: 9.4 X (Proposed Square Feet / Employee Density for Use Class) X Occupancy of Use Class X Operation Hours of Use Class X Commuter Workforce Rate
Fee in Lieu of Parkland Dedication: Step 1: Land Cost Per Functional Population = Parkland Cost Factor/Parkland Level of Service Step 2: Fee in Lieu = Land Cost Per Functional Population X (Proposed Square Feet / Employee Density for Use Class) X Occupancy of Use Class X Operation Hours of Use Class X Commuter Workforce Rate
Park Development Fee: Step 1: Development Cost Per Functional Population = Park Development Cost Factor/Facilities Level of Service Step 2: Park Development Fee = Development Cost Per Functional Population X (Proposed Square Feet / Employee Density for Use Class) X Occupancy of Use Class X Operation Hours of Use Class X Commuter Workforce Rate
FY23 Worksheet for Fee Estimation based on Proposed Square Feet: Parkland Fee Calculation Methodology