CodeNEXT Eliminates Grandfathering for Your Business (mostly*)

This is the second in a continuing series on how CodeNEXT might affect your business. Te see how your property is zoned, please see the first article: CodeNEXT will affect local businesses. Here’s what you can do. Austin’s current code includes “safe harbor” provisions that allow structures and uses to be grandfathered even if the new code disallows them. This allows older buildings developed before setback and other requirements to be legal. These “safe harbor” provisions are not included in CodeNEXT.
Instead, CodeNEXT includes:
  • Language that explains how and why structures and uses will become nonconforming.
  • Minimums and sometimes maximums in setbacks, height, parking placement etc.
  • New commercial zones that do not match uses currently on the ground, such as many existing auto-related businesses not allowed in the proposed Main Street (MS) zones.
Below is an example of prescriptive setbacks in Main Street 2B (MS2B) (mapped for parts of South Congress, Lamar and Burnet, among other places)
For instance, if your MS2B zoned property is less than 5’ or more than 10’ from the front property line, it will be nonconforming under CodeNEXT.
In order to figure out if your property will be nonconforming:
1. Look up on the map what the proposed zoning will be under CodeNEXT
2. Examine the corresponding section of the code to find the requirements for setbacks, height, impervious cover, uses, etc.
3. Look at another section of CodeNEXT, 23-4D-5050*, that applies to “narrow interior lots less than 65’ wide” to see if your property is exempt from the setback requirements (so therefore would be grandfathered in setbacks)
4. Measure your property to see if it meets the requirements of the new zoning
The impact of being nonconforming 
  • CodeNEXT itself states that the intent is to “discourage the long-term continuation of nonconformities by limiting investments in them and restricting expansions and alterations”
  • Cannot do additions unless bring entire building into compliance
  • May be more difficult to get loans
We all know local business is, by nature, nonconforming and it’s a good thing. But this nonconforming is not a good thing. Shaping how our city looks and functions is an important and crucial endeavor. Getting rid of local business properties because they don’t conform to new ideas is an unfolding tragedy. Added to the alreay in full swing unaffordable Austin and we’re making it harder and harder for local business to just survive.
Please take the time to see how this affects your business and communicate your concerns with the City Council directly by email (