Idle construction projects could catch break if city mandate repealed
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The battle between developers and environmentalists in Austin dates back decades, but now seems to be coming to a turning point.
The city council is poised to repeal the Project Duration Ordinance. Right now, if a construction project sits idle too long, developers have to start the approval process over and meet new city code.
Community leaders say throwing out the ordinance compromises some of Austin's most notable laws, including the Heritage Tree Ordinance, McMansion Ordinance and the Save Our Springs Ordinance.
"That will take decades of citizen work and throw it out the window,” Ron Waley with Austin Sierra Club said. “It will have been meaningless. It will take any future involvement and make it be meaningless."
Development attorney Nikelle Meade says the city's Project Duration Ordinance breaks state law.
"Any time a municipal body is doing something that for all intents and purposes is illegal--is inconsistent with state law--it is an emergency to get that corrected," she said. "The state law sets forth the requirements for when a project can continue to exist.”
Several recent legal opinions say the state law does not apply to Austin because it was passed after 1997.
Roy Waley says the ordinance just needs to be modified.
"If it's too hard to develop here, why do we have the phenomenal growth that we do?” Waley said. “We can have both."
Attorney General Greg Abbott issued an opinion in December which stated the ordinance would likely be shot down if challenged in court.
Attorney Brad Rockwell issued his own assessment this week, calling Abbott's opinion "poorly reasoned" and a misunderstanding of state law.