San Antonio’s Planning Commission forwarded a vast majority of proposed development code changes to a subcommittee on Wednesday. That panel will be taking a closer look at how the changes could impact development costs and how the city grows.
It’s the latest step in a year-long process to update the city’s unified development code, which establishes rules, policies, and procedures for land development.
Proposed changes touch on a wide range of topics, including flood prevention, urban farms, light pollution, transitional housing, short-term rentals, tree preservation, public engagement, building height limits and transitional housing.
Of the 40 amendments that were proposed by groups and individuals outside the city organization and considered on Wednesday: 35 were supported; three were rejected; and two were held for discussion at the commission’s March 9 meeting. Those approved will join about 190 other changes — many of which are simple edits and clarifications — that could ultimately be approved by City Council in October.
In the meantime, the more substantial changes — submitted by the community and internal city departments — will be reviewed by the Planning Commission’s technical advisory committee for in-depth review.
All nine of the amendments proposed by the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance (GEAA), — aimed at limiting development in floodplains, improving drainage and increasing parkland — were supported by the commission.
“I am pleased that the Planning Commissioners respected the need for further consideration and acted to pass GEAA’s and other community-sponsored amendments on to the [advisory committee],” said GEAA Executive Director Annalisa Peace.
Several commissioners agreed with members of the Real Estate Council of San Antonio, who said the requirements could stifle development and ultimately make housing more expensive.
“These proposals are not supported by science,” Stephanie Reyes, CEO of the Real Estate Council, said of the GEAA’s amendments. “They will increase costs, they’re inconsistent with the city’s floodplain management plan and are contrary to aquifer protection. Most importantly, they conflict with the city’s efforts to promote affordable housing, a priority shared by most of us here in the room.”
Still, most of the commission at least wanted the technical committee to explore the ideas.
The same was true for most of the 13 amendments submitted by the Tier One Neighborhood Coalition; some commissioners expressed reservations and a desire to at least have in-depth conversations.
“It appears to me that what we’re hearing from this organization — which is really a group of a lot of different neighborhoods — [is] that they’re looking for help on trying to protect the character and the quality of life in their neighborhoods,” said Councilman John Courage (D9), who serves as an ex-officio member of the commission.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, and I think that it’s incumbent upon the city to be involved in that assistance by hearing and offering an opportunity for them to make those presentations,” Courage said.
The coalition’s amendments that touched on increased neighborhood engagement, limiting short-term rentals and new height limits for certain residential areas were approved, but two others regarding the placement of gas stations were delayed.
Once reviewed by the committee, changes could be reviewed by other relevant boards or commissions such as the Zoning Commission or the Board of Adjustment.
City Council will ultimately have the final say on all code changes in October. If approved, the changes would take effect in November.