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Oct 24: District 7 Town Hall on Land Development Code

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/

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

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

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.

Easter Egg Hunt April 7

Northwood will be holding this year’s Easter egg hunt at Balcones District Park (corner of Amherst and Duval) on Sunday, April 7 at 1:30. The rain date is Sunday April 14, same time. Check NextDoor or Facebook for updates if the skies look (or are) rainy.

April 6 update: due to the weather, we’ve rescheduled the egg hunt for April 14 at 1:30 at Balcones District Park.

There’s no charge if Northwood Association dues for 2018 are paid, $3 per child if dues have not been paid.  Pay dues

Zoning change requested for cell phone tower by Parmer

Update August 2019

On August 22nd, the Austin City Council approved the zoning change for the United Christian Church to allow for the construction of a wireless tower. The neighborhood worked with UCC, Verizon and their representatives to negotiate several items to help minimize the visual impact.

The transmission tower will be a stealth monopole, limited to 100 feet in height. Unlike a typical wireless tower, the stealth pole looks similar to a flagpole, hiding the antenna within the pole. The agreement also limits the site to a single pole and requires UCC or their representative to notify the neighborhood of any future changes to the design of the tower.

We appreciate UCC’s willingness to reach a compromise solution with the neighborhood.

Original information

At the end of January 2019 neighbors with property adjoining the United Christian Church  that at 3500 W Parmer received a mailed notice the UCC had requested a zoning change to allow a Verizon cell phone tower — a 100 ft tall monopole  and supporting equipment within 840 square feet — since the current zoning doesn’t allow sufficient height.

The Permit/Case number is 2019-009809ZC; the case details are available at the City’s zoning public search site (the home page for the public search is https://abc.austintexas.gov/web/permit/public-search-other?reset=true). The  zoning case document (PDF) shows that the planned site is on the church property close to Parmer.

A number of nearby neighbors expressed concerns on both our Facebook group and on NextDoor. Our Zoning Chair emailed the church to asked the church for a meeting but never heard back from them. He also discussed the project with some of the concerned neighbors, but no formal action has been taken regarding the zoning change.

A public Zoning & Platting meeting will be scheduled; as of this writing (3/16/19) the date has not been set.

Neighborhood meeting with UCC

United Christian Church and representatives from Vincent Gerard & Associates have agreed to meet with the Northwood and Preston Oaks neighborhood to hear our concerns. The meeting will take place at United Christian Church on Thursday, May 16th at 6:30pm.

update: Hearings scheduled

Per a mailed notice received March 26 (hearing notice), the Zoning and Platting meeting has been rescheduled for April 2 May 21 June 4.  The case is scheduled for the May 21 ZAP meeting per a letter requesting delay in ZAP meeting. NextDoor will have the latest updates.

ZAP meetings begin at 6 PM, there is no way to know when this case will be heard. ZAP meetings are at City Hall, Council Chamber unless otherwise listed. 2019 meeting schedule with agendas.  If you wish to share your opinion with the ZAP Commission, print and fill out the comment page and mail it ASAP as indicated on that form.

We will update this post once we learn the date of the City Council’s first reading – the only reading where the public can speak. The Council will meet at City Hall Council Chambers, the reading will be at or after 2 PM. If you wish to speak on this (or any other) topic, you must register ahead of time.

Vote for holiday yard of the month through 12/26

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 26.

How to vote? There are 3 ways – just include the voter’s name and the address of the house that gets their vote:

  • complete the voting form on this site OR
  • email northwoodna@gmail.com OR
  • write your name and the address that gets your vote on paper and drop it in the Association mailbox at 4507 Tamarack. The Association mailbox is on the post of the regular US mailbox (do not put it in the regular mailbox).

Questions? email northwoodna@gmail.com