The Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, adopted by the City Council in 2012, lays out a vision for a city of complete communities that can respond to growth pressures and take advantage of opportunities. To realize this vision, the City needs to update its Land Development Code – the rules and processes that regulate where and what type of development may occur.
Why does Austin need a new code?
Austin’s existing Land Development Code was written nearly 30 years ago and has been amended hundreds of times since then. The current patchwork code needs to be updated to help us create the kinds of places we want, as identified in Imagine Austin, and to address such critical issues as diminishing natural resources, household affordability, and access to healthy lifestyles.
Consider, for instance, these issues with the current Land Development Code:
● Ineffective base zone districts – Austin’s base zoning districts are ineffective, because they apply the same development regulations to vastly different types of places. Because these base zones aren’t sensitive to the form and context of an area, they don’t respond effectively to growth pressures and the desires of neighborhoods for harmonious development.
● Competing layers of regulations - Rather than address the ineffectiveness of the base zoning districts, additional layers of regulation have been added to the code to force generic use-based zoning districts to address Austin-specific issues and provide a compatible form in the built environment. The result is an incredibly complex maze of regulations that even professionals who work with the code struggle to navigate.
● Complicated opt-in/opt-out system – The approach of applying regulations on a “pick-and-choose” basis during neighborhood planning processes has led to a system that is overly complex and difficult to use. This is another symptom of ineffective base zones that has led to unpredictable development and has complicated the process of understanding what can be built.
● Lack of household affordability options and housing choice – Austin’s current efforts at meeting the demands of household affordability are not keeping pace with the growing need. Current zoning districts do not have the right combination of regulations to incentivize or even allow a more diverse range of housing types. Also, inefficient approval and permitting processes drive up development costs.
● Auto-centric code – Current land development regulations have made Austin highly dependent on private automobiles to get from where we live to where we work and shop. This runs counter to Imagine Austin's goals of investing in a compact and connected Austin, creating healthier communities, supporting multiple transportation options, and promoting household affordability.
● Lack of clarity and usability – The current code is poorly organized, with inconsistent structure across its multiple levels and little to no use of graphics to illustrate key points.
● Incomplete and complicated administrative procedures – A lack of clarity and consistency in decision-making, interpretation, and review of the code, as well as missing or incomplete code administration information, make for a lengthy and unpredictable review process.
● Out of line with Imagine Austin – The current Land Development Code does not proactively implement Imagine Austin and, in some cases, hinders realization of the plan.
How will CodeNEXT help?
CodeNEXT aims to improve our quality of life by focusing on five community priorities.
Communities: Vibrant and prosperous. Austin is the home of many vibrant communities. We want to support existing neighborhoods and businesses, preserve the character of our diverse areas, and manage future growth. Learn more >>
Mobility: Walkable and connected. Today, it’s difficult for many people to accomplish their daily tasks, including work and recreation, without access to a vehicle. CodeNEXT provides tools that enhance the connections between neighborhoods and offer more walkable communities. Learn more >>
Environment: Natural and resilient. Our growing city has to address many environmental issues: Not just preserving open spaces and natural habitats, but also providing water stewardship and flood mitigation. The new regulations can help us be smarter and more resilient as we protect our natural resources. Learn more >>
Housing: Inclusive and affordable. Inclusive and affordable housing is a challenge for any city. The code revisions offer more diverse housing choices and building types, along with a citywide framework for affordable housing. Learn more >>
Permitting & Process: Streamlined and user-friendly. Today’s patchwork Land Development Code is an obstacle to enabling both growth and preservation. CodeNEXT streamlines the site planning and permitting processes, and its use of graphics and labeling make navigating the code easier for both officials and property owners.
Learn more >>
Where are we in the process?
The first draft of CodeNEXT was released in January 2017. Through public meetings and community engagement tools, the City solicited input on the language and maps. That input is being taken into account, and a major revision is underway. On September 15, we will release the second draft of CodeNEXT, including highlights of updates to the code text and zoning maps. The Planning Commission and the Zoning and Platting Commission will hold work sessions starting in September to get input from the community and help develop the commissions’ recommendations. Input from these meetings will be factored into a third draft, which is expected to be released at the end of November. The City Council is scheduled to begin consideration of CodeNEXT in February 2018, with a final vote in April 2018. Throughout the process, members of the public can attend public hearings and make their voices heard.
Key steps along the way
Imagine Austin – The City Council-adopted Comprehensive Plan, which provides the vision, goals, and core principles for action that guide the CodeNEXT effort.
Research leading up to CodeNEXT – This page is full of prescription papers and other research documents that helped shape the code we are developing today.
Envision Tomorrow – A modeling tool used to build scenarios and evaluate the capacity of potential development patterns as proposed under the CodeNEXT draft code.
Draft 1 Content – The initial Land Development Code draft text released on Jan. 31, 2017, and initial draft zoning map released on April 18, 2017, were reviewed by the public, whose revision suggestions informed Draft 2.
CodeNEXT Advisory Committee Final Report – The 120-page document outlines public feedback and recommendations on how staff should move forward with the creation of a new land development code.
Draft 2 Content – The second draft of the Land Development Code was released Sept. 15, 2017. Public input on this draft will be taken through Oct. 31, 2017, after which the CodeNEXT team will be working to release a staff recommendation by Nov. 28.
Overview of the CodeNEXT process and what’s ahead.
Review the Draft Code
Review and provide feedback on the draft code and map.
Frequently Asked Questions
Get answers to common questions about CodeNEXT.