The CodeNEXT Draft Map is Here – And Not Everyone Loves It

April 24, 2017 by Kate Harrington

A long-awaited first draft of the City’s CodeNEXT zoning map is now available to the public, and reactions have been mixed.

The new map will dictate what gets built and where development takes shape in Austin. While its proponents say the new zoning plan will help encourage dense housing supply along city corridors, some urban groups are saying the plan doesn’t do enough to address housing, affordability, and mobility – widely seen as the biggest challenges to Austin.

A blog post by urbanism group AURA lays out what the group says are six major flaws in the CodeNEXT maps: not enough increased housing capacity in Central and West Austin; decreased allowable density in some parts of the central city; a dearth of middle housing like row houses in central neighborhoods; not enough residential zoning along major corridors; a lack of transition zones between major corridors and single family areas; and a still-complicated zoning code.

“There are a few bright spots that AURA applauds,” the blog post states. “The map of downtown comes a lot closer to implementing the Downtown Neighborhood Plan than the current code. Some areas along major corridors that are currently zoned “commercial” have been replaced with zones that permit mixed and residential uses, allowing more housing to be built in those areas. However, limited improvements in only a few areas will ensure the continuation of Austin’s current development patterns leading to even more sprawl, congestion, gentrification and segregation.”

CodeNEXT is meant to move the city away from the current use-based code and instead create a form-based code that focuses on varied uses in neighborhoods.

“We know the path we’re on right now with gentrification. We know the path we’re on right now with congestion in this city,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said at an April 18 event announcing the release of the map. “If we don’t do anything, if we don’t change how we approach where we are, then there can’t be an expectation that we would end up in a different place.”

City council could approve the new code by later this year – a vote is anticipated in December.

Compare current and proposed zoning on the CodeNEXT website.

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Written by Kate Harrington

Kate is a former reporter, most recently for the Austin Business Journal, where she covered real estate, economic development and transportation. Since 2010 she has been running Thumbtack Communications. Thumbtack provides writing, editing and marketing services. Before moving to Austin in 2002 Kate lived in her native New England, which she still visits often to escape the Texas heat.