How Austin neighborhoods could change with new zoning maps

Bouldin Creek Neighborhood in Austin. (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Home and business construction is happening all over Austin, but how and where buildings are built over the next decade will be determined by the city’s zoning maps.

On Tuesday, Austinites got their first look at the CodeNext maps, which are zoning changes the city is proposing. Currently, Austin is filled with either single-family homes or large apartment complexes and condos. Now the city is looking to offer up some affordable options in between.

The Bouldin Creek neighborhood is in the middle of the city but there are still a lot of single family lots. That’s why these new maps have the neighborhood talking.

“That basically encourages a developer to come and bulldoze this house and build two in its place,” said Cory Walton, president of Bouldin Creek Neighorhood Association, standing in front of his house. He moved to Bouldin Creek 20 years ago but worries his neighborhood will soon look like the house down the street.

Some developers say having large yards actually hike up the price of property for the rest of the city.

“This is a good tool for us to manage growth. To start on the process to make Austin more affordable and it only happens if we work together,” said Mayor Steve Adler at a press conference, saying that the plan emphasized what he calls “the Austin bargain.”

“We are going to focus on supply along the corridors and in the centers. We are going to work to preserve the character of the neighborhoods. There are going to be some transition areas that we are going to need to work our way through,” explained Adler.

Walton says the character of the neighborhood is at stake and that growth should happen organically.

“Taking this walk up the block to my neighborhood restaurant, cafe, or grocery store. That is the model that CodeNext is supposed to encourage. The problem is we already have that,” he says.

But in Tuesday’s news conference, Adler said, “We know what happens if we didn’t do anything. We know the path that we’re on right now with gentrification. We know the path we’re on right now with transportation in this city. If we don’t do anything, if we don’t change how we approach where we are then there can’t be an expectation that we would end up in a different place.”

Over in the Crestview neighborhood, also set to experience more density if the proposed zoning change sticks, Mike Lavigne, with the Austin Neighborhoods Council responded to Adler’s comments that today, everyone needs to “chill out” because the map is still just in a draft form and there’s a year’s worth of work to be done.

“Today we can ‘chill out’ and that’s fine, but I want to make sure that the city is not just talking at us, that they’re taking our issues with the code and actually making changes to the code as a result,” Lavigne told KXAN.

Lavigne explained his neighborhood already has housing like granny flats and duplexes, but they could be seeing triplexes.

“This would essentially increase that by 50 percent, the number of units allowed on a lot, and then decrease the parking by about 50 percent,” he said.

Adler says CodeNEXT creates an opportunity for the city to come together.

Lavigne says the first question he plans to ask, is this:

“Why was my neighborhood plan thrown out the window? That’s something we worked very hard on as a neighborhood and is not respected in the new code,” Lavigne said. “Once you start eliminating your single family zoning and making it so all of a sudden my lot should have three houses on it, I’m going to be taxed at that rate as well. So you’re pushing me out of my home eventually.”

Concerns remain about how the process will play out and how different the final maps will look.

“We have a lot to say. So I hope there is an avenue not just to say it, but for it to be acted upon,” Lavigne said.

The proposed changes show Tarrytown would get more duplexes and multi-family lots. Travis Heights would mostly stay the same except in the corridor area near Lamar Boulevard, which would see a mixed use of residential and non-residential buildings. Bouldin Creek would see major redevelopment between Lamar and Congress from the Colorado River to Oltorf. Barton Hills would not see much change and Hyde Park would also stay relatively the same.

There will be many community meetings and tweaks to the plan over the next 12 months. The final vote is expected by April 2018.

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