All posts by Northwood webmaster

Vote for holiday yard of the month through 12/28

It’s that time of year to vote for your – and your children’s –  favorite holidays yard decorations. Enjoy the lights and choose your favorite Holiday Lights and Children’s Choice through December 28.

How to vote? There are 2 ways – just include the voter’s name and the address of the house that gets their vote:

Questions? email northwoodna@gmail.com

Land Development Code update from Council Member Pool

The following is an update of the LDC process copied from an email received Nov. 25, 2019 from Council Member Pool’s office

We are nearing the dates for the public hearing and the first vote at council on the Land Development Code (LDC) revision. My staff and I have been visiting with many of you at your neighborhood meetings and in small gatherings, reading your emails, and taking your phone calls. I am listening to your important concerns, and focusing my efforts on making improvements to the proposed code and maps.

I know many of you are worried about the new “transition zones” that have been mapped in your neighborhoods that are designed to increase the number of dwelling units allowed on lots that are currently single family. Many of you are asking about the potential of increased property valuations on your homes. I’m hearing your concerns that the new code may relax current and hard-won environmental and tree regulations, and your worries that the rewrite could add more impervious cover in neighborhoods with existing local area flooding. I share these concerns and my staff and I continue diligently to surface these legitimate worries with city staff so they recognize the impacts and we can work together to mitigate them.

My staff and I have been collecting the many questions you’ve asked, whether in person at our town hall or by phone or email. We have posted many of the questions that you have asked and the code rewrite team have now answered many of them. Please visit the Council Q&A portal to the questions and the answers that city planning staff have posted. Not all of the questions have been answered yet, but staff are working diligently to get those responses posted.

Right after the Thanksgiving holiday, you’ll have a number of opportunities to watch council discussion on the code revision. Two key dates for your calendar are the public hearing on Saturday, Dec 7, and the council meeting on Dec 9 when the council is scheduled to take its first reading vote. The LDC is an ordinance, which requires three readings at council before approval.

LDC Timeline and Events
Austin City Council LDC Work Session: Tuesday, December 3, 1pm
Austin City Council LDC Work Session: Wednesday, December 4, 12-4pm
Austin City Council Public Hearing: Saturday, December 7, 10 am
Austin City Council LDC First Reading Vote: Monday, December 9, 10am

The December 7 public hearing , is the opportunity for the community to voice their opinion on the draft code and maps to council. Sign up ahead of time to ensure your name will be on the list of speakers. You can find more information on how to sign up here.

The December 9 council meeting will be the final LDC discussion of the year. At this time I expect the item will be brought back to council in late January or early February. You can watch meetings live on ATXN or from the city’s archive.

LDC Resource Link
Here is our LDC Resources table listing important planning, transportation, housing, and environmental documents that helped to inform city planning staff on the LDC revision draft.

My staff has been reaching out to District 7 neighborhood leaders for several months now to engage in discussions on the LDC revision, and we will continue to do so through this process. Please email my policy advisor Louisa.Brinsmade@AustinTexas.gov with your questions, or with invitations to join your neighborhood group for discussion.

Protest your home’s rezoning under the Land Development code by Dec 5

The currently proposed Land Development Code  (austintexas.gov/ldc) will rezone all single family homes to allow for multiple residences. If you disagree with this and want to keep your single family zoning, protest the rezoning at

fileyourprotest.com/  

This site and project was created by Community Not Commodity, here’s information from that site: YOU HAVE THE POWER TO FIGHT BACK!

Texas law gives you the right to protest zoning changes affecting your property and properties near your residence. When you file a rezoning protest in connection with your property, the City of Austin cannot rezone your property without approval by three-fourths of the city council.

The same is true when neighbors band together to protest the rezoning of property they do not own. When the owners of at least 20 percent of the area within 200 feet of a property protest the rezoning of that property jointly, the City of Austin cannot move forward without approval by three-fourths of the city council.

Filing a rezoning protest is fast and easy! Just fill out the form at fileyourprotest.com, and Community Not Commodity will send your rezoning protest to the City of Austin. Click here if you prefer to file a protest by mail. Once you protest the rezoning of a piece of property, our legal team believes local officials will be unable to rezone it without a vote of three-fourths of the city council. To protect your property from this year’s rezoning, make sure to file your rezoning protest as soon as possible, but no later than December 5, 2019.

More information from a related NextDoor post

Upon researching, along with legal advisers, avenues to protect your rights to have a voice in and some control over a rezoning of your property when that was not requested by you, it appears state law MAY be on your side (and mine). State law provides a citizen the right to protest an unwanted zoning change when there is a lack of direct notification of the intended change (the City of Austin has no plans to notify the tens of thousands of homeowners targeted for rezoning). In addition, once filed the protest would require a 2/3rds majority of the Council to vote to approve the zoning over an objection (protest) properly filed. Let me be clear here – there is no case law setting a precedent in a situation like the one Austinites are facing with the manner in which the Land Development Code rewrite is being pursued by city staff and Council. Legal research continues on just how to ensure the protections provided by State law would be available to homeowners in Austin. HAVING SAID ALL OF THE ABOVE – The link will provide you a very simple and quick means by which to file your protest. Will filing a protest ultimately offer you the protections of State law, I don’t know. BUT, you have nothing to lose by filing the protest form and MAY forfeit the right to protest if you don’t. Get on record with the protest form and as a secondary objective (if only to let City Hall know you’re serious) send Council and city staff “a message.”

Oct 24: District 7 Town Hall on Land Development Code: results

District 7 Town Hall Meeting Results

Here are notes from a neighbor who attended Council Member Pool’s town hall on the new Land Development Code. There were two handouts (PDFs):

flyer for people living in or near a transition zone  – flyer from Allendale resident about concerns and causes of flooding

  • All people there were against the code!
  • Preserve our neighborhoods!
  • A woman from RiverPlace (by 2222 near FM 620) talked – she asked that the process be slowed down.  That area is getting hit HARD with the code changes.  They are in a MAJOR wild fire hazard area, and the code does not provide an infrastructure to quickly evacuate the proposed amount of density.
  • People asked for transparency & accountability.
  • A builder spoke – stated that there was no way that a single family home lot in his neighborhood (Rosedale) could be converted to a multiplex & make a profit.  The lots just  will not accommodate such.
  • He stated that the zoning does not take into consideration the differences in Austin neighborhoods & that one plan will NOT accommodate all of Austin!
  • The city planning representative stated that they were following the mandate given by the council.  That was the default response to a lot of questions.
  • Heritage trees will continued to be preserved – but we all know how builders get around that.
  • Affordable housing -They admitted that have no way of tracking if builders actually offer the number of affordable units promised & no enforcement. They are working on that.
  • People stated that Single Family homes and multi-unit dwellings do not need to mix.  Build areas with SF homes and areas with multi-unit homes, just not in the same place.
  • Several people pointed out there there were empty business/abandoned dwellings in a transition area, that were not considered.  Why not?
  • District 6 has NO upzoning!
  • I asked if this has been done in other city/what was the outcome.  It has been done in Denver and Minneapolis is considering.  Did not address outcome. (webmaster note: during the Oct. 10 meeting for neighborhoods, former Austin Planning Department head and planning expert Jim Duncan noted that Minneapolis has a much lower percentage of single family zoning than does Austin; it doesn’t make sense to compare the two cities.)
  • Apparently there is a map available on Pool’s website where you can comment on and offer suggestions.  Must be submitted by Nov 6
  • Someone asked if it was worth our time to attend Saturday’s Planning Commission meeting.  The planner on Leslie Pool’s team stated “most definitely – they need to hear your voice”.
  • Several handout were given – One on Watershed Protection.  The author – Caroline Reynolds, an Allandale resident – stated that Matt Hollon, the acting head of City of Austin’s Watershed Protection Dept, made it clear that he does not understand the causes & mitigation of flood. It is 2 page document.
  • Constant changes to the code are being made.
  • A 4 page report card on the code will be posted on Leslie Pool’s website, shortly.
  • Probably missed a lot.  More people need to get involved and understand what will happen to their property without their consent!
  • A gentleman from Northwood spoke about  flooding.  While he was speaking cell phones went off with flood warnings!  It seem to amuse the acting Head of City of Austin’s Watershed Protection Dept.

Call/email the Mayor and City Council:
https://www.austintexas.gov/email/all-council-members

www.austintexas.gov/contact-us has phone numbers, individual email addresses and the mailing address (consider sending postcards)

additional information

Map of proposed changes https://communitynotcommodity.com/do-you-live-in-a-transition-zone/

Original information

District 7 is hosting a town hall meeting on the new Land Development Code. City Planning staff will present the draft code text and maps and answer audience questions. Council Member Leslie Pool and her staff will be on hand to assist constituents.

City Planning staff will be available to meet with one on one during the meeting. For information about this town hall email kayla.simon@austintexas.gov or call Council Member Pool’s office at 512.978.2107.

When: Thursday Oct. 24 from 6-8 PM
Where: Lamar Middle School, 6201 Wynona Avenue (map)

Can’t attend the October 24 meeting? There will be two other open houses.

Saturday, October 19, 2019
10AM to 2PM
Conley-Guerrero Senior Activity Center
808 Nile Street, Austin, TX  78702

Wednesday, October 23, 2019
6PM to 9PM
Austin Central Library
710 West Cesar Chavez Street, Austin, TX  78701

For additional information about the Oct. 4 version of the LDC, including a recording of a meeting for neighborhoods around Parmer/MoPac and the slides with details on the residential zoning categories, parking and more, see the post Oct 10 meeting for Parmer/MoPac neighborhoods

 

 

 

Oct 10: meeting re Land Development Code – mtg video and more

Meeting results / take action!

Watch a recording of the meeting, which included viewing the Zoned Out documentary. Review the slides shown in the meeting (and some not shown, including on parking adjustments).

Ed English hosted the meeting. Speakers included

  • Michael Curry, Attorney and Barbara McArthur, scientist; both of whom have studied CodeNext and the current LDC in detail
  • Jim Duncan, has 60 years of planning experience including as former directory of Austin’s Planning Department, as director and consultant in other cities, and the former head of the American Planning Group
  • Fred Lewis, attorney and activist, member of Community Not Commodity

The meeting raised some very concerning issues, including some – such as the insights on the effect on property taxes – which are not common knowledge. This rewrite affects all of Austin; this meeting focused on the impact of neighborhoods around Parmer Lane.

Mr. Duncan stated that “what’s in the 1366 page document is scary…if this document is adopted, Austin will be the only major city in the US that does not have a zoning district that specifically allows detached single family homes… Not one neighborhood – it’s not in the code, so it’s not permitted.” Another speaker noted even outside the transition zones which are close to corridors such as Parmer Lane, current single family lots will allow duplexes to be built. And if a house is at least 30 years old, 3 residential units can be built. (Parking was not discussed; it is mentioned in Zoned Out).

Other speakers noted that several years ago property taxes began to value the land more than the structure (house) on the land. If this version of the LDC passes, the speakers expect property taxes to increase – the value of the land will increase because additional structures can be built.

Planning Commission member Carmen Llanes Pulido was unable to attend the meeting but emailed Ed English; he read this part of her email:

“Your voice does make a difference. Right now, we have some numbers, some projections, some plans. We have numbers of units allowed and places on a map. We don’t have people’s stories, your lived experience, the real life happenings, insight and knowledge that make true community planning. The planning commission does not have the history of your neighborhoods, and doesn’t often know who is living there, who stands to be displaced, how transit works, how urban heat islands are affecting people, where localized flooding is getting worse, etc. This qualitative data is CRITICAL to good community planning.

“To make this code the least destructive to our communities, possible, we will need to hear from everyone. New faces have to come out. It’s okay if you don’t have the jargon in your back pocket. Speak from your lived experience and tell them what you want to see and what you don’t want to see.

“This hasn’t happened, yet! It’s not over, and your honest voices, your true concerns, and your open, authentic questions to council and commissioners ARE making a difference.” (end).

Take action

Attend the Oct. 26 Planning Commission meeting at City Hall

Tell the Planning Commission, City Council and Mayor what you think about this proposed LDC. Home page for the LDC, austintexas.gov/ldc

www.austintexas.gov/contact-us has phone numbers, individual email addresses and the mailing address (consider sending postcards)

www.austintexas.gov/email/all-council-members email all CC members and the Mayor at once

contact the Planning Commission www.austintexas.gov/planningcommission (links to member roster page)

sign up for email updates at communitynotcommodity.com/

Additional information

The Oct. 18 letter from Council Member Leslie Pool’s office included “an LDC Resources table  (PDF) listing important planning, transportation, housing, and environmental documents that helped to inform city planning staff on the Oct. 4 LDC revision draft; it includes includes an LDC Timeline (PDF) for important public engagement opportunities through this process.”

Ask questions, get answers: http://www.austintexas.gov/department/learn-ask

More information is available at an earlier post, https://northwoodna.com/2019/09/02/northwood-and-the-city-wide-new-land-development-code/

Oct 10 Meeting time/date

What/When: meeting Thursday Oct 10 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM
Where: United Christian Church, 3500 West Parmer Lane, Austin, TX 78727

Topic: The City of Austin is on the verge of rewriting the Land Development Code. This Code will shape how Austin grows in so many ways over the next 30 – 50 years. This rewrite will have a profound impact on virtually every neighborhood citywide. There have been many questions asked, concerns raised and a general sense of confusion over just how this affects our area. We hope to shed some light on the specifics as we know them, screen the video Zoned Out http://www.zonedoutfilm.com/watch-the-film.html and take as many questions from area residents as time allows.

Please RSVP on the NextDoor event if possible; this helps the organizers plan

To learn more about this rewrite, see this blog post

 

Northwood area fall garage sale Oct 12

The Spring garage sale for Northwood and other neighborhoods at the northwest corner of Parmer and MoPac starts at 8 AM on October 12, rain or shine!

For neighbors:

We’ll advertise the sale on NextDoor, Facebook and Craig’s’ List. All of those listings will include a link to this post; we’ll add a map with addresses and item categories for sale (ex: children’s clothing, furniture, books).
There is no cost for this, though please consider paying your dues if you haven’t yet done so ($20 for the year). Pay online https://northwoodna.com/about-nna/pay-dues/

Register here (link removed) by Oct. 11 to have your address included on our map.

General meeting, solar energy systems speaker rescheduled in January

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the Oct. 1 general meeting is being rescheduled for sometime in January. We’ll have officer elections, briefly cover other topics and then turn the meeting over to a speaker from Austin Energy’s renewable solutions group who will talk about solar energy systems and
answer questions. After completing the course, customers are eligible for a $2,500 rebate to apply toward a qualified solar energy system installation.

Their topics include:

Module I: Introduction

  1. Renewable Energy Subscription Options
  2. Key Vocabulary Terms
  3. Energy Efficiency
  4. Understanding the Value of Solar Rate

Module II: System Design

  1. Site Selection
  2. Sizing
  3. Equipment

Module III: Shopping for Solar

  1. Comparing Proposals
  2. Federal Tax Credit
  3. Austin Energy Rebate
  4. Choosing a Solar Company
  5. Important Documentation
  6. Additional Resources

Northwood and the City wide new land development code / updates

Watch Zoned Out, a 30 minute documentary on the results of CodeNext  that explores both the practical consequences of upzoning (changing single family zoning to denser multifamily zoning) and the underlying economic and political forces driving the process. It is told through the lives of current residents. If implemented, this new building code will drastically reshape Austin.

The only way citizens can influence this is by contacting their City Council Member and the Mayor to very clearly express their concerns.
Email the Mayor and City Council  https://www.austintexas.gov/email/all-council-members

websites:

Community Not Commodity / their Facebook page

City of Austin’s home page on the Land Development Code austintexas.gov/ldc

Oct. 25, 2019 code update (11 page PDF)

Fact Check ATX factcheckatx.com/

 

Background

The rules and regulations – the Land Development Code – that Austin developers must follow have not changed in decades. A couple of years ago the City spent millions to create CodeNext, which was to replace the current LDC; it was eventually rejected by the voters. However, a new – and per the citizens opposition group Community Not Commodity –  a much worse plan is in the works. Their May 15, 2019 blog post CodeNext Replacement Arrives, worse than the original gives the background and their  5/28/19 blog post includes photos of what transition zones could look like eventually.

The majority of the current City Council want more residential density along major roads such as Parmer Lane. If passed, the LDC will completely change residential zoning near these roads to allow multifamily units to be built next to existing single family homes, and additional units on single family lots that are large enough (which includes most of the Northwood lots).

10/4/19

an updated map and more information is available at the City’s website
Proposed Land Development Code (long PDF; use the table of contents)

9/1/19 status

On August 29 the Northwood Neighborhood Association Officers and Zoning committee met with Louisa Brinsmade, Zoning and Land Use Policy Advisor for District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool. Ms. Brinsmade shared the latest updates on this plan and she also stated that Council Member Pool opposes this version of the Land Development Code (LDC) but that the majority of Council members prefer this “density” approach. She is meeting with many District 7 neighborhoods to provide information and answer questions.

She shared two documents: the May 2, 2019 Direction in Response to City Manager’s March 15, 2019 Memo re: Land Development Code Revision Policy Guidance (18 page PDF) and an August 28, 2019 set of examples of transition zones (large PDF) from that day’s City Council Special Called Work Session.

Impact on Northwood

This 8 page PDF from Community Not Commodity has questions and answers on the transition zones, mostly from the May 2, 2019 Direction document. Parmer Lane is a transition zone; the MoPac frontage road by Northwood is not a transition zone. Homes that are between 2-5 lots from Parmer may be part of the Parmer Lane transition zone.

Parmer Lane meets the criteria for transition zones (see Transition Zones – what are they? below). Northwood definitely meets one criterion (“high opportunity area”) and maybe two of the four criteria to have part of Northwood designated as transitions zones.  Our streets are definitely not a “well connected grid” and we are not in the urban core.

To be determined: how far in will the transition zone reach? It could be between 2-5 lots, or could be up to 880 ft (1/6 of a mile). This has not yet been finalized.

Transition zone map (per Community Not Commodity)

Affect of transition zone in Northwood

Ms. Brinsmade brought a large map of the NW corner of MoPac to the meeting. We identified the Northwood boundaries and areas of interest for neighbors, such as the green space near St. Francis Anglican Church and at the bend on Silver Creek just north of Oak Creek (the starred areas on the map). Ms. Brinsmade added a dotted line of her possible worst case scenario for which  homes may be in the transition zone.
Robinson Ranch owners are not willing to sell so that is not being considered.

Map of most of Northwood with possible worst case transition zone marked

Map of the entire northwest MoPac corner with Northwood worst-case transition zones marked

Her thoughts on changes:

  • Although the zoning has changed, as long as a house in the transition zone is not razed to the foundation to be rebuilt (excluding due to damage from fire or weather), nothing changes for that house
  • Up to 50% of the house can be remodeled, and it can be sold as a single family home
  • 1-2 additional units can be built on the lot along with the current house
    All lots can have 2 units; if the original structure is kept,  if the impervious cover limit is not exceeded a third unit can be added. Apparently there are no restrictions on parking, which may mean a lot of street parking
  • If the house is demolished, a new single family home cannot be built on that lot; it would require at least 4 multifamily units to be constructed
  • The current 500 year flood plain, which will become the 100 year flood plain when Atlas 14  http://www.austintexas.gov/atlas14 is adopted, will definitely affect (reduce) the possible transition zones. The Council doesn’t want additional homes built in the flood plain
  • At least in the short term, no change in property taxes. However, per a discussion on this in NextDoor (linked below) in the long term the property taxes can be expected to increase: The county has now shifted a higher percentage of home appraisal to land value versus improvements (the house). They actually did this a few years ago. If nearby properties are converted to multi-family, the likelihood of the dirt underneath your home becoming much more valuable is high – higher appraisals, higher taxes.

We discussed the possibility of a developer buying several homes next to Parmer to build a multifamily unit. There’s another restriction which may prevent that: due to the speed limit on Parmer, TxDOT requires the distance between new driveways on Parmer to be about 800-1,000 ft apart. That can definitely affect possible future development.

There will be a District 7 Town Hall meeting (date TBD); we may be able to arrange a general neighborhood meeting with Council Member Pool and/or her staff.

Timeline

These dates are from the 8/28/19 City Council Special Called work session  document

Oct 4, 2019 – revised transition zone maps to be released
Sept 11 – Council Work session
Sept 17 – Council Work session
Oct 26 – Planning Commission Public Hearing
Early Nov – Planning Commission consideration
Mid Nov – Council Public Hearing
Early Dec – City Council First reading

If Council passes this in early 2020, it will most likely take a couple of years to implement; zoning staff will have a huge task ahead of them to identify the details and implement it.

Transition zones – what are they?

Transition zones are areas where (per Community Not Commodity’s July 2, 2019 blog post), the Council wants to end single-family zoning near major roadways – in transition zones – and encourage the demolition of single-family homes to be replaced with multifamily homes. PDF explanation of transition zones including questions and answers

There are 4 criteria that determine transition zones. “Entitlements and length of transition areas should be relatively more or less intense for areas that meet more or fewer of the criteria” (page 11 of the May 2 Direction… to City Manager document):

  1. Located on Transit Priority Network, or Imagine Austin Centers or Corridors
  2. Located within the Urban Core as defined by the Residential Design and Compatibility Standards Area (McMansion Ordinance)
  3. Has a well‐connected street grid
  4. Located in a high opportunity area as defined in the Enterprise Opportunity360 Index

NextDoor discussion topic

Milwood neighbor and long-time Austin activist Ed English posted information about this topic to NextDoor which generated many replies (NextDoor account required). This is worthwhile reading. Some people agree with the plan and explain their reasons why, others oppose it and discuss their reasons.

Resources / what to do

Visit and subscribe to Community not Commodity, the group that opposes this land development code.  visit and follow their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/communitynotcommodity/

Email the Mayor and City Council  https://www.austintexas.gov/email/all-council-members

Attend Planning Commission and City Council meetings

Watch NextDoor and this post for updates

Resources – effects of zoning / parking changes

Effects of minimum parking requirements

Land value tax, the least bad tax

The problems with setbacks

Why Form and Scale Matter in the Missing Middle Housing Conversation

July 4 parade for all neighbors

Attention all neighbors at the northwest corner of Parmer/MoPac (Northwood, The Reserve at Northwood, Preston Oaks, McNeil Estates)

Join Northwood neighbors to celebrate July 4: decorate bikes or wagons, bring flags and meet at Oak Creek Cove (just west of Timberside) at 10:00 AM. We will parade – walk/bike to Manhasset (side street past Silver Creek) where refreshments will be available, courtesy of the Northwood Neighborhood Association.

If you wish to help with this, email northwoodna@gmail.com

Northwood/NW Corner Spring Garage Sale May 4

The Spring garage sale for Northwood and other neighborhoods at the northwest corner of Parmer and MoPac starts at 8 AM on May 4, rain or shine! We’ll have a map of garage sale addresses here  (address link removed).

 

For neighbors:

We’ll advertise the sale on NextDoor, Facebook and Craig’s’ List. All of those listings will include a link to this post; we’ll add a map with addresses and item categories for sale (ex: children’s clothing, furniture, books).
There is no cost for this, though please consider paying your dues if you haven’t yet done so ($20 for the year). Pay online https://northwoodna.com/about-nna/pay-dues/

Register here by May 3 to have your address included on our map.