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  • Writer's pictureTalia Hill

Austin escalates legal fight in effort to overhaul land development code

Austin will keep fighting a lawsuit that's threatening the effort to overhaul the land development code.

The city's legal department filed April 16 a notice that it will appeal a March ruling by a Travis County judge that voided Austin City Council votes to revise the land development code, which determines what can be built where across the city.

The appeal will head to the state's Third Court of Appeals, which has weighed in on legal debates over city policies like short-term rental regulations and mandatory paid sick leave in the past.

On March 18, District Court Judge Jan Soifer ruled that the city failed to formally notify property owners of potential zoning changes that are part of the rewrite. City officials believe zoning protest rights aren't required as part of a comprehensive revision of zoning citywide.

For now, the ruling means that Council's votes in December and February to approve the new land development code are void.

The code revision effort has taken a backseat after the city indefinitely postponed hearings and meetings on the rewrite during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a majority of Council members encouraged city staff to file the appeal during their last meeting on April 9.

"I think it's important to have the appeal just to have some legal questions decided about how comprehensive [rezoning] is done," Mayor Steve Adler said.

Council members opposed to the rewrite believe an appeal is an "ill-timed expenditure of resources amid our current crisis."

"This should not be our focus right now," Council members Ann Kitchen, Alison Alter, Kathie Tovo and Leslie Pool said in a joint statement. "It will be several months before the community is able to focus on the LDC revision. When the effort is re-initiated, we strongly urge that the Council respond collaboratively."

City Attorney Anne Morgan told Council on April 9 that an appeal could last up to 12 months.

By Daniel Salazar

Austin Business Journal

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