My assessment on the Central Austin Neighborhood Planning Advisory Committee in particular, is that it does not uphold the directives put forth in the City’s LDC and are instead used as a de facto waiting period for zoning changes.
Before any plan change can even be heard in front of the City, they have to meet with a Contact Team, whether or not the City takes the vote of the team into consideration. CANPAC in particular says on it’s website that it can take up to 6 weeks to even get a meeting with them. And prior to that, it’s stated that no proposed plan amendment can be heard (or voted on) at CANPAC without first having a review and recommendation from the affected NA. So in the case of Heritage NA, and many others, where we only have meetings once a quarter, this can add 20+ weeks to that time cycle - that’s almost half a year.
And when a builder does finally get that CANPAC meeting, there is no record of the events or opinions presented (minutes haven’t been published in over 5 years), and the members have significant leeway over how that meeting is conducted. The bylaws literally give them authority over everything in a meeting:
“CANPAC members may establish rules, processes, and procedures for certain matters including, but not limited to, the administration, governance, hearings, and proceedings of CANPAC, including but not limited to: (a) imposition of time limits upon speakers, presentations, and testimony, (b) sequence and recognition of such presentations, © scheduling of meetings, votes, and postponements of matters, (d) notification, and modifications to these bylaws and other rules of CANPAC within six (6) months of the original implementation of these bylaws.”
The only item in the Bylaws about Meeting Notification is literally one line and states nothing about notifying the public:
“A. All meetings shall be scheduled during a meeting or via other reasonable means”
I’ve never seen a public notice of issues (or even general meetings) that will be brought before CANPAC in my 5 years of living in that area.
There are a lot of procedural issues I take around membership in CANPAC in particular - it’s members are selected from “7 established neighborhood groups” without qualifying what established means, but goes on to specifically name those 7 groups.
There are a maximum of 2 members from each of those 7 pre-approved groups, which ends up an even number - an issue in the case of needing a tie breaker vote. Although, It’s a moot subject in a landscape where we never hear or see any record of how membership has voted. And I’m not exactly sure I want 14 people alone determining the planning future of Central Austin and holding any changes to Neighborhood Plans that have been found to disproportionally underrepresent renters and business owners in numerous city studies.
There are no term limits to members or CANPAC’s 14 officers, who are also the ones creating the By-Laws - You’ll notice if you peek at the CANPAC site that all current members have served since 2011 at the latest.
There’s also a technical glitch in the CANPAC membership bylaws that states NAs must show that they have “Open membership (without regard to dues requirements) to residents and/or commercial property owners within the neighborhood boundaries” - but I don’t think many NAs offer membership to business owners in their bounds. In my research to find which do I found that:
- Heritage in particular doesn’t state that it allows commercial property owners or business owners to join, and solely refers to “Households” in its bylaws.
- Eastwoods specifically invites business owners.
- Original West University Neigh Assoc is virtually clandestine - which makes it hard to know who to approach when a change is being requested
- NUNA specifically states in it’s bylaws “Only individuals who are over the age of eighteen years, reside within the defined boundaries, and agree to pay the required dues and comply with the policies and procedures of the Association may become Members.”
- Shoal Crest’s only online presence is the existence of a yahoo-group.
- University Area Partners’ by-laws and conduct is lost in a sea of bureaucracy at UT, and their website has just said “Something Cool Is Coming” for ages.
I think the reforms presented in the stakeholder meetings and summarized by Stevie Greathouse in the post above by brwittstruck are only a first step to creating a fair playing field that the LDC initially intended to create.