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Council votes to move forward with Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan

Friday, March 11, 2011 by Josh Rosenblatt

Council gave its approval Thursday to the city’s Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, voting unanimously to endorse its framework and forward that plan and the plan’s preferred growth scenario to working groups. When completed, the growth scenario will provide a map for where and how the city will accommodate 750,000 new residents over the next 30 years.

 

In a presentation yesterday, Garner Stoll, assistant director of the Planning and Development Review Department, told Council that the Austin Citizens Advisory Task Force, the Planning Commission, and city staff had identified several ongoing issues that need to be addressed by the working groups during the upcoming third phase of the comprehensive plan process.

 

Those points for ongoing discussion include:

 

       development in the city’s extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ), especially along the SH-130 corridor;

 

       the density of mixed-use corridors;

 

       the relationship between the comprehensive plan and neighborhood plans;

 

       development over the Edwards Aquifer; and

 

       consistency with the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (CAMPO) 25-year regional transportation plan, particularly in relation to SH-45.

 

The preferred growth scenario calls for most of the growth to come between SH-130 and MoPac Boulevard

 

Meanwhile, before Council endorsed the plan framework (“The aspiration that has all of the things we are asking for,” according to Planning Commission Chair Dave Sullivan) and forwarded it to the working groups, it approved new language suggested by Steven Zettner from Sustainable Neighborhoods of North Central Austin.

 

The change is part of the plan’s strategic direction No. 5, which reads, “Create healthy and family-friendly communities through development that includes a mix of land uses and housing types and affords realistic opportunities for transit, bicycle, and pedestrian travel.” With the approval of the proposed change, the direction now ends with the phrase “and provides both community gathering spaces and safe outdoor play areas for children.”

 

Realtor Frank Herron, who has been a longtime advocate for a comprehensive plan but who has expressed concern that some parts of the current plan may not be realistic, pointed out discrepancies between the plan’s numbers and straight-line projected numbers for the city’s growth over the next 30 years.

 

“We don’t need a plan that pretends to accommodate a certain number of people but which in fact can only be expected to accommodate a third or a half of that number,” Herron said. “To put the 750,000 number in perspective and demonstrate why it’s so crucial to be real about that number, there’s going to be 1,650,000 people added to the metro area over the next 30 years. … That means if we achieve 100 percent of our goal, there are still going to be 900,000 people added outside our ETJ.”

 

The public, he said, has voted for density and now needs Council’s help for direction on how to reach its goals. 

 

The plan’s working groups are scheduled to begin phase three of the comprehensive plan at the end of March and will work into July. If all goes according to plan, the city will adopt the comprehensive plan in early 2012.

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