Planning commission backs changes to vested rights

Posted by Southwest Corporation on 3/18/2013 3:44pm

Source: Austin Business Journal. Full article »

Austin's Planning Commission has backed a staff recommendation that encourages the City Council to modify its controversial rules on expiring development projects in the city's watershed protection zone.

A new ordinance would repeal one that established how long development project have to be executed and extend the time that developers have before the city can deem dormant projects within the drinking water protection zone to be expired. Development projects whose permits expire are required to reapply and meet regulations that have been adopted since those permits were granted. The proposed ordinance would effectively lengthen the time during which projects with permits are exempted from regulations adopted after those permits are obtained.

Several developers attended the Planning Commission's recent meeting to speak in favor of repealing the city's ordinance regarding project duration. Most notably, the Real Estate Council of Austin argued that the ordinance hurt developers and is likely illegal.

Scott Felder, the owner of homebuilder Scott Felder Homes, said the current rules led to the expiration of permits for one of his projects and thousands of dollars in new application fees. That cost was inevitably passed to homebuyers, he said.

Opponents of the changes argued that extending the amount of time developers can freeze regulations on new projects will erode years of environmental gains. Others argued that an Attorney General's opinion that prompted the city to review its rules doesn't mean the city's laws conflict with state laws.

The planning commission backed the recommendation 5-3 after a motion to delay a vote on the issue failed.

The City Council is expected to consider the matter during its March 22 meeting.