AUSTIN, Texas - CodeNext was the city's latest effort to rewrite a land development code, decades overdue. The land development code is the foundation of the city’s building practices, and determines what can be built where.
Back in 2019, the plans to rewrite the code were moving along at Austin City Hall. That's until 19 homeowners sued the city, saying their protest rights were being ignored.
Their attorney Douglas Becker argued that the city ignored an important state law.
"It says when the city changes its zoning they have to give individual notice to the landowners, and they have to accept protests. The city did not give individual notice to landowners in this case, and they told citizens on their website they were not going to recognize protests so don't send them in," said Becker.
Ultimately to pass a new code, 9 out 11 council members had to vote yes. The city, on a typical zoning case, would always listen to protests, but for CodeNext, it said the statute didn't apply.
"They said that was too burdensome here where the whole city was involved," said Becker.
After hearing the case, the Texas 14th Court of Appeals sided with those property owners, affectively killing CodeNext.
It's no argument that the City of Austin is growing more and more, and the LDC may need to be updated, but what Becker hopes is that they make the process seamless, transparent and legal.
"If the city wants to change its zoning comprehensively, which I’m sure they still do, they have to follow the procedures that are laid out in court opinions. Transparency is what helps citizens trust their government. The more open they are, the more notice they give and listen to the citizens, the more it convinces people they are being heard," said Becker.