New Turn in Fight Over Zoning's Future in Austin

A group of residents in Austin, Texas recently succeeded in their petition to put proposed changes to the city's zoning code to a popular vote. Though there is some question as to whether such changes can be subjected to a ballot initiative under the Texas State Constitution, the efforts of the petitioners thus far do not run afoul of state law according to a ruling from a District Judge in Travis County Texas. Marron's Director, Professor Clayton Gillette, offers insights on the legal issues involved in the challenge to the city's proposed rewrite of its land development code.

Clayton Gillette, an expert on local government law and director of the Marron Institute of Urban Management at New York University, said he found Naranjo’s reasoning puzzling. On one hand, Naranjo said that she could not determine whether or not CodeNEXT should be subject to the initiative process, but on the other hand she sided against the defendant, the city of Austin.

The judge appeared to have shifted the burden of proof to the defendant, said Gillette.

“It’s not clear to me that the city, rather than the plaintiffs, has the burden of proof,” he added.

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