What is the valid petition?

An explanation of the valid petition.

The "valid petition" is a tool often used by homeowners in Austin to block zoning changes in their neighborhoods.

Whenever a property is proposed to be rezoned, the city must notify every property owner within 200 feet. If those who own 20% or more of the land within 200 feet of the property sign a petition opposing the rezoning, then the rezoning needs a 3/4 majority of City Council to be approved. In Austin, that means nine of 11 Council members must vote in support.

This protest provision is enshrined in state law.

Until recently, the valid petition was only seen as a tool to oppose a rezoning of a single property. However, when City Council sought to overhaul the Land Development Code in 2019, a group of anti-development activists claimed that even comprehensive rewrites of the zoning code are subject to the protest provision. A Travis County District Court and a state appeals court agreed, essentially killing the LDC overhaul because there were not nine votes on Council in support.

The same group is currently arguing that a wide variety of land development code changes that Council has made in recent years must be thrown out because they did not offer property owners the opportunity to protest. If courts agree with their reasoning, that would essentially require nine votes for any change to the LDC.