Council Approves Ordinance to Reduce Occupancy Limites
At its meeting March 20th, the City Council passed on final reading an ordinance to reduce occupancy limits in single-family neighborhoods within the McMansion area for new structures or remodels adding more than 69 square feet of gross floor area or sleeping rooms. The Austin American Statesman story, below, is a good summary. The ordinance will expire in two years unless extended by Council in a process that will start 18 months from now.
This is a very significant victory for our neighborhoods, and it resulted from the collective, persistent efforts of all of us. So, give yourself a big pat on the back!
Council aides were amazed at the volume of contacts that we generated, and they said that they definitely had a big impact.
We didn’t get all that we sought, the biggest loss being that our neighborhoods are still exposed to existing houses being converted to dorm-style use where no building permit is required. This creates a very large exposure in some of our neighborhoods, and we need to continue to work on the issue.
Council’s action was just the first step in a two-step process. The second part continues in the Planning Commission process, which is currently ongoing in a stakeholder group called the Stealth Dorm Working Group. It is very important that we all participate and follow its work. The Working Group is charged with the task of addressing the problem of nuisances from existing stealth dorms. It will make a recommendation to the Codes and Ordinances Subcommittee of the Planning Commission. Final recommendations will be made by the full Planning Commission to the City Council. Please stay tuned!
Our neighborhoods are at great risk of harm that can come out of the City’s CodeNEXT project, which is the marketing name for the ongoing total rewrite of the Land Development Code. Real estate industry stakeholders have too large a voice, and some of them are urging the City to abolish zoning protections for single-family neighborhoods in the urban core. For example, the powerful Real Estate Council of Austin, after assuring us for months that it was neutral on reduction of occupancy limits, three days before the final Council vote, wrote to Council in opposition to the proposed ordinance. Its letter said, “Redrawing zoning maps will be an essential part of the land development code rewrite.” Please start educating yourself about this process. It is moving too fast for our interests.
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