What’s the Zoning and Platting Commission for again?

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Apparently, it’s not there to help with CodeNEXT. From the Chronicle:

The Zoning & Platting Commission on Wednesday night approved its recommendation that City Council “immediately terminate” Austin’s proposed land use code rewrite.

As one of two land use commissions responsible for advising Council on CodeNEXT, the recommendation offered by Chair Jolene Kiolbassa and Vice Chair Jim Duncan came as a shock to dissenting commissioners who fear the resolution will remove ZAP from what’s left of the lengthy process.

I can’t say that I’m stunned. Just the other week a member of the Planning Commission was complaining to me that ZAP, which is in supposed to be working with PC to analyze and propose changes to CodeNEXT, had been an utterly useless partner in the process.

But let’s back up…what’s the difference between ZAP and the Planning Commission?

The Planning Commission is the body that is actually mandated by state law. ZAP was created in Austin around the turn of the millennium as a way to take some of the load off PC. The only difference is that ZAP focuses on zoning cases in areas that lack neighborhood plans, a progressively shrinking portion of the city (but still perhaps the majority of the land…I’m not sure).

The current ZAP is also far more conservative and anti-development than either the Planning Commission or City Council.

Why? Pretty simple. Because Delia Garza, Pio Renteria and Ann Kitchen have not appointed ZAP commissioners who reflect their views on planning. Let me explain.

Garza: Her first appointee to ZAP, former CM Jackie Goodman, made sense politically. Although Goodman’s old-school neighborhood preservationist views clashed with Garza’s pro-density perspective, Goodman is a political notable in her district who was nice enough to not try to run for the Council seat herself. After a year on ZAP, Goodman resigned to work as a community liaison for Garza. Taking Goodman’s spot on ZAP was Ana Aguirre, the current commissioner, who is the head of a neighborhood contact team and is much more favorable to the “neighborhood” perspective than Garza.

Pio: His appointee to ZAP, Dustin Breithaupt, is generally pretty quiet. But suffice it to say, his vote in favor of killing CodeNEXT was definitely not in line with Pio’s views.

Kitchen: Her first appointee to ZAP, Tom Webber, was considered a moderate, similar to Kitchen’s appointee to the Planning Commission, Tom Nuckols. When Webber stepped away, however, Kitchen appointed David King, a longtime official with the Austin Neighborhood Council. King is far more conciliatory than some of his ANC peers, but he is no less hostile to density. The appointment does make sense politically; King lives in Kitchen’s district and is her only constituent who is at every single City Council meeting (although he seems to have lost interest in Citizen Communication lately).

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