Austin Considers Zoning for a More Transit-Friendly Downtown

City rolls out new land code draft.

Austin, Texas (Photo by Stuart Seeger on Flickr) 

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Austin moved another step closer to a zoning code that allows for the more dense, transit-friendly neighborhoods laid out in its long-term growth plan called Imagine Austin. A draft of new zoning rules, called CodeNEXT, was released this week after three years of effort, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

In an attempt to unite the city’s zoning regulations with Imagine Austin goals — and simplify the city’s 400-plus possible zoning layers — the draft proposes two separate zoning schemes. One of those layers barely differs from the city’s current system and would likely be implemented in more suburban areas. The second zoning scheme is aimed at promoting density along major transit corridors and the urban core.

The draft, which cost $4 million to put together, already has plenty of supporters and detractors, but most who have taken a look agree on one thing: It’s way, way too long. At more than 1,100 pages, the draft doesn’t exactly meet its goal of making the zoning rulebook simpler to navigate and use, and some city leaders are holding off on making a public statement until they have more time to dig in.

Austinites attached to their single-family homes, however, are already expressing concern over the new, more prescriptive zones. One local activist, Mary Ingle, said the “transect” zones are an attempt by city planners to sneakily bring apartments, row houses and commercial development into Central Austin neighborhoods. “This is upzoning,” Ingle told the American-Statesman. “They want our land, and they want it cheap.”

Other council members, including Greg Casar, say they support more transit-oriented development, but want to make sure the new zones create enough affordable housing.

Mayor Steve Adler has said he hopes the rewritten land code will be approved by early next year.

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Kelsey E. Thomas is a writer and editor based in the most upper-left corner of the country. She writes about urban policy, equitable development and the outdoors (but also about nearly everything else) with a focus on solutions-oriented journalism. She is a former associate editor and current contributing editor at Next City.

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Tags: inclusionary zoningaustin

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