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Council set to endorse framework for comprehensive plan this week

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 by Elizabeth Pagano

With the massive project prepared to move into its next phase this week, City Council heard more about the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan.


On Thursday, Council is set to vote to endorse the plan framework and preferred scenario to begin the process of refining them into the comprehensive plan. If all goes according to schedule, the city will begin adopting the comprehensive plan in early 2012.


Dave Sullivan, chairman of the Planning Commission explained the two components to Council. “The growth scenario is the map that shows the density for the city in the future,” said Sullivan. “The framework is the aspiration that has all of the things we are asking for.”


Eventually, these will both become part of the overall comprehensive plan.


“A comprehensive plan is general and it needs to stay general, but it needs to be an appropriate balance between the community’s aspirations and reality. We can’t go overboard in either direction,” Garner Stoll, assistant director of the City’s Planning and Development Review Department. “If we go down into the details and lose sight of the forest for the trees, this plan won’t be worth the paper that it’s written on.”


“We also heard a lot of complaints that there are a lot of ideal ideas that come out on this, so we are asking for reality to be programmed into it,” said Sullivan.


The Comprehensive Plan has heard many complaints in the year since this process began. Council Member Laura Morrison expressed concerns over the direction and clarity of the plan in January, although this did not seem to be as much of an issue at this meeting.


“It’s been a rocky road, to some degree, and I think it seems like we’re at a pretty good place now,” said Morrison. “There are still some people that wish that we would not move forward at all, other people probably wish that we had gone forward a lot more quickly.”


“I do agree with Council Member Morrison, it has been a rocky road, but I think that it is time for the pouring of the concrete to begin,” said Council Member Sheryl Cole.


At this point, “pouring the concrete” amounts to the completion of phase two, which was the development of the vision and plan framework.


“Where we are in the process, we are now poised to move on to implementation,” explained David Rouse, who is with consultant Wallace Roberts and Todd. The next phase, he explained, will “start moving from policy to action.”


“Our focus has really been to allow the citizens of the planning area a way in first,” said Stoll, who explained that phase three will entail seeking input from different sources as well.


“At what point does it make sense for us to start having a formal conversation with Buda, Pflugerville, Round Rock, our original partners, to make sure that the matching up makes sense?” asked Council Member Bill Spelman.


“Right now,” said Stoll “we want to reach out to the other cities and both invite them to review our work, and make sure that they can comment on it and see whether it coordinates with their plans.”


The task force also hopes that working groups will focus on partnering with inter-city interests as they develop the plan which, as explained, is about much more than just physical development of the city.


“The input that we’re getting is not just land-use,” said Rouse. “They want to talk about affordable housing and health care and public health and equity and other issues. Those definitely need to be addressed and developed and the way that they are going to be addressed is through partnerships and bringing together a lot of organizations that are working on those issues and bringing everyone together, focusing, and working on those priorities.”

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