Opticos’s Dan Parolek traveled to Austin to speak at the Central Texas Commercial Association of Realtors’s event “Catalysts for Change” in mid-October. He was there to introduce the process and various approaches to CodeNext, the project to update Austin’s land development code.
Invited to speak as an expert in New Urbanism, Smart Growth, and Land Development Codes, Parolek said that the last time Austin’s LDC was updated was about the same time that the first Macintosh computer was released—some 30 years ago. Form-Based Codes, which are designed to directly respond to the physical structure of a community to create more walkable and adaptable environments, will likely be one tool used to update Austin’s LDC.
From suburban environments to compact walkable environments, there are generally around 39 base zone districts in Austin and each of those zones has unique needs. LDCs can become complex as communities add regulations in an attempt to address different situations, leading to an overly complex code. Parolek said that the objective is to use the rich pallet of base zone districts, which address the characteristics of the various parts of the city, to create a clear and easy to use land development code, rather than building up layer upon layer of regulations.
Additionally, Austin has an existing tradition of what Parolek calls Missing Middle housing. This often encompasses a combination of duplexes, cottage courts, townhouses, live/work units, and mansion apartments, built in medium-density locations close to desirable urban amenities, which can help meet the growing demand for walkable urban living.
Click here to watch the YouTube video of Parolek’s presentation, which starts at 55:16. Also in the video, John Alschuler, associate professor of real estate development at Columbia University, discusses the various paths that growth has taken.