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County OKs Land Water and Transportation Plan

Wednesday, December 3, 2014 by Mark Richardson

Despite the fact that Texas counties have very little real control over how unincorporated land is developed, Travis County is giving it its best effort, as Commissioners approved a comprehensive Land Water and Transportation Plan on Tuesday.

The plan, the result of 10 years of work and planning by the county’s Transportation and Natural Resources Department, is a framework for development in some areas of the county while also outlining land and water conservation measures.

It supports development of compact, mixed-use developments along major corridors such as SH 130 and RM 620 rather than encouraging more sprawl. The compact developments, which the plan calls “activity centers,” would be connected by infrastructure such as roads, public transit, pedestrian trails and bikeways.

Staff said the development concept provides for an alternative to how new growth will be accommodated and supported in the unincorporated areas of the county. It is derived from the long-range transportation plan and encourages new growth to concentrate in activity centers. They are compact, mixed-use developments that provide transportation options for motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians, and transit where transit is available.

The plan also calls for conservation of several types of land, including natural springs, endangered species habitats, floodplains and riparian zones. Staff said the conservation corridors they are proposing include the Colorado River, parts of eastern Travis County, Onion Creek and Wilbarger Creek.

In their presentation, staff pointed to the influence public input had on developing the plan. In one case, they noted that there was strong support for land conservation, particularly to protect the water resources. They also heard from the public about balancing conservation and development without sacrificing improvements for congestion relief, safety or mobility.

Commissioner Ron Davis expressed concern that there are no plans in place for scheduled bus service to the proposed activity centers in the county.

“What kind of transit? Are we talking about Capital Metro?” he asked. “Because I understand that since the bond failed on the rail proposal, there’s now money available for bus routes. You have all heard me yell and scream about that for a long time. How can we get bus service through eastern parts of Travis County?”

Some 23 miles of SH 130 — one of the preferred corridors — goes through Davis’ Precinct 1, and getting public transit to any activity centers along that corridor is one of his priorities. More than half of those giving input on the plan said access to public transportation was important to them.

The plan approved by Commissioners on Tuesday is not a road map for developing specific places, but what staff called a “work plan,” with items that the court could move on when the time is appropriate.

Copies of the draft Land Water and Transportation Plan are available on the Travis County website.


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