This email pertains to a section of city code that may sound arcane. But after reading this, you'll see why "Project Duration" matters.
Right now, if you want to build something, you have to get it done in 3 years if you are in the Barton Springs Aquifer zone and in 5 years elsewhere in the city.
This time limit to build is called Project Duration. If nothing is being built
and no effort is being made to develop a project, your permits expire.This
provision forces developers to comply with the latest building codes and
ordinances, which naturally improve over time. Exceptions to these time limits
are made when project delays cannot be avoided. The current process
The League of Women Voters of the Austin Area has long supported a
standardized, streamlined, and understandable development process. Removing the Project Duration provision in city code would create a wide variation in how projects are developed (since they would be complying with the code from the year they were proposed), and would permit projects to proceed that are wildly out of compliance with current city code that was developed with public input.
How might this matter? Since the wildfires of two years ago, new
fire safety provisions have been implemented to minimize the chance of another wildfire taking out a neighborhood. Code revisions protect the environment and offer other protections to residents. Removing the Project Duration provision is simply a ploy to avoid compliance with city code that was created by panels of citizens, developers, city staffers and council members.
Why the sudden impetus to make such a drastic change? Three months ago, the Texas Attorney General issued a hasty, non-binding opinion that questions this particular provision. This opinion has no legal standing -- there have been no court challenges to Austin's Project Duration provision -- but it incited a state
representative to threaten to file a bill to override our city's code. It
appears our City Council sees a threat from the State Legislature as an
"emergency" that must be acted upon now.
But there is no emergency. If existing code needs to be changed, there is already a plan for an advisory task force to modernize Austin's Land Development Code. A change of this magnitude should come from a group of Austinites working within city structures, not from some outsider with no loyalty to Austin.
If this provision is repealed in haste, old development projects that are out of compliance with existing code could be built as they were proposed decades ago. No one knows how many of these old, dead projects are lying around, but it could be hundreds.
What to do? Call City Council members and urge a "NO" vote on Item 22 for the March 21 agenda. And while you're at it, please call your state representative and tell them you oppose the State Legislature meddling in city politics.
Our concern about this matter is shared by neighborhood and environmental groups throughout Austin.
One other issue of importance: when you're speaking to City Council members, please also ask to pass Item 41, which directs "the City
Manager to prepare a comparative report evaluating the performance of both Texas and national public utilities that are governed in whole or in part by an
independent board, both individually and with respect to Austin Energy's
performance and policy goals." In case you weren't aware, Council is seriously
considering turning over AE's governance to an independent, unelected board.
They should at least look at other utilities before making such a sweeping
change to the utility that WE own.