SBCA asks Council to take Flooding and Water Quality seriously in Land Code Changes

In case you missed it, the land development code process (formerly called CodeNEXT) which was formerly placed on hold by the Mayor has begun again. To begin this process, City Manager Spencer Cronk asked for the City Council to weigh in on five key issues that were contentious in the last code process. What resulted was two very long City Council meetings and many pages of direction from the Council to Cronk, on issues far beyond the original questions asked. While discussions of increased housing capacity were at the top of Council’s agenda, several important directions were given on water. SBCA and other water advocates had an important role in making this happen.

Council directed that, “upon adoption of any revision to the Land Development Code, the regulatory requirements adopted as part of Water Forward, Austin’s 100-year integrated water resource plan, that are related to the Land Development Code and are able to be accelerated and implemented this year should be codified and implemented as part of this comprehensive land development code revision process.” This is important to ensure that we are maximizing the water conservation potential in new developments.

They also gave several directives on “shaping the City’s sustainable water future by preventing flooding, protecting water quality, and promoting water conservation” including that “Developments should retain more water on-site and encourage beneficial reuse” and that developments with “impervious cover 5,000 sq. ft. and greater be required to treat water quality.” The current requirement is 8,000 sq ft.

Finally, they directed that “the revised Code text and map should result in reduced allowable city-wide impervious cover, improved city-wide water quality, and reduced overall flood risk,” with several specific sub-bullets including that the code “should not weaken current City of Austin floodplain regulations, drainage criteria, and water quality regulations and criteria.” and that “The Atlas 14 floodplain regulations should be approved and incorporated with the most current rainfall data as soon as possible.”

They state in the document that “the goal of the council is to preserve, or increase, our current level of environmental protections and sustainability with respect to flooding, water quality and usage, air quality, and greenhouse gas emissions.”

This is all simply direction from Council on what they would like to see in a code, not official code language. SBCA will continue to track this process as it develops to ensure the sustainability, safety, and livability of our City’s future.