City of Austin Issues Guidance for the Construction Industry
Austin — March 24, 2020 The City of Austin inexplicably followed-up their initial Stay Home – Work Safe Order with an extremely restrictive “Guidance for the Construction Industry” memorandum. While the original order allowed for a broad definition of “Critical Infrastructure” as an activity that should remain in operation, and “Construction” was specifically listed as being included, the memorandum issued this evening narrows that definition to include only six project types as being permitted to proceed:
- Public works projects
- Affordable housing projects
- Facilities for the homeless
- Facilities that provide social services
- Facilities defined in the Order as Essential Businesses, Essential Government Functions or Critical Infrastructure*
- Facilities specifically required by City in response to the COVID-19 Emergency
According to the memorandum, many—if not most—commercial and residential construction activities are now prohibited in Austin “except in the very limited situations.” Anyone with projects in Austin should carefully review the order and the memorandum to determine if current projects can be categorized as “Critical Infrastructure” (including whether construction involves facilities that are defined in the order as “Essential Businesses,” “Essential Government Functions,” or “Critical Infrastructure”) or must be closed down. While the order remains in effect starting at 11:59 p.m. on March 24, 2020, there is a 72-hour grace period as to enforcement “if the business or operator can demonstrate that all activities after the effective date of the Order were undertaken to close down the construction project or activity as safely and quickly as possible.” The interpretation of the order continues to evolve, and the memorandum may unfortunately create more questions than it actually answers. At the time of this update, Harris County has issued no similar interpretations.
* Section 6.f. of the order defines “Essential Businesses” as those covered by 25 different and broad categories, including but not limited to healthcare facilities, certain retail stores, hardware and supply stores, residential facilities and shelters, hospitality and lodging, and educational institutions.
For a link to the Austin order click here.
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