The City of Austin is having another go at revising the city’s 30-year old land development code. Revising the draft remains a fluid effort. It’s already endured suggested edits in an October 25th supplemental report, followed by another supplemental report stemming from community feedback and the Planning Commission.
The Austin Land Development Code dictates what can be built in the city and where. What comes out of the revisions has the potential to impact land developers and homeowners across the city. But what is the city trying to change? And how could these changes impact you?
Transition Zones and Housing
One of the most notable revisions is the addition of a new zoning category called transition zones. These zones act as a buffer between single-family neighborhoods and high-density developments. Though they only account for about two percent of the zoning map, city officials believe transition zones can impact affordability because of their potential to be developed into missing middle housing such as duplexes and bungalows.
The Austin City Council provided four criteria to identify where transition zones should be implemented. These criteria include being located near public transit or an Imagine Austin Center/Corridor, located within the McMansion Ordinance, having a well-connected street grid and be in a high opportunity area.
City council instructed city planners to implement a rule allowing for more than 100,000 new homes over the next decade and 400,000 more in the long run. By implementing transitions zones, the City of Austin will offer diverse housing options for a range of income levels.
To further access to affordable housing, the code proposes a new Affordable Housing Bonus Program. The program will provide additional opportunities to promote income-restricted, affordable housing in more areas throughout the city. The current bonus program applies to less than three percent of housing in the area. However, under the proposed revisions, bonus opportunities will be tied to zones rather than geographical areas. If passed, the program is expected to bring six times more affordable housing to the city.
Water and Drainage
The City of Austin is taking major steps to improve stormwater runoff across the city. Most notably; requiring most developers to build green infrastructure to capture and treat “entire water quality volumes.”
Under current code, water quality requirements are typically met with sand filter controls. The city acknowledged this method is effective at filtering polluted runoff and controlling stream-channel erosion but does not address the city’s other goals like reducing potable water consumption.
The code includes several provisions that encourage the use of green infrastructure. For one, the infrastructure can be integrated into landscaping to simultaneously meet water quality and open space requirements. Second, the proposed code includes an administrative modification that allows voluntary green infrastructure retrofits inside the inner half of the Critical Water Quality Zone. And lastly, the code removes the requirement of rainwater harvesting in conjunction with sand filters.
Some properties may be exempt from the green infrastructure requirement including those with more than 90 percent impervious cover, sites with a nearby pond and sites with highly contaminated run-off such as auto repair facilities.
The revised code takes steps to reduce the amount of land devoted to parking by limiting parking minimums and imposing maximums. Everything from apartment complexes to mixed-used developments will be impacted by parking minimums. It’s worth noting reduced parking requirements are a step towards the city’s 50/50 transportation plan (50 percent drive-alone, 50 percent walking, public transit, etc).
If the revised code was implemented today, most developments over 10,000 square feet or more than 25 residential units could not exceed 1.75 times the minimum number of parking spaces required, which varies based on development.
Hotels, for instance, must provide a minimum of one parking spot for every two bedrooms, plus 1 spot for every 500 square feet of meeting space. Duplexes, on the other hand, will only be required to provide one spot per unit.
What Happens Next?
The Austin Land Development Code began taking shape on Monday during City Council’s first of three crucial readings. A vote was originally planned for Monday, but city officials decided to reconvene on Tuesday after more than eight hours of discussion. However, the vote could be postponed until as late as Wednesday.
The final two readings are slated for early to mid-January, according to the city’s timeline.
Our team is up to date on land development codes and regulations for cities across Texas. Consult with our Land Development Team to find out how Austin’s proposed changes could impact your development.