AUSTIN (KXAN) - A plan to shape the city's growth and development throughout the next 30 years has been set into motion after Austin City Council unanimously approved -- very early Friday morning -- the comprehensive blueprint for growth.
"It's inspirational in a couple of areas: multimodal transit; vertical mixed-use, transit-oriented development -- because I think that type of density is very democratic, and it provides paths to prosperity," said Austin architect Martin Barrera. "It develops healthy communities. Through walking communities, through biking communities, we can help to overturn decades of car-designed communities -- and with that, the obesity trend that is really crippling our state."
It is called Imagine Austin – a renewed, comprehensive approach to things like:
- Sustainable water resources
- Investment in the workforce, education and entrepreneurs
- Environmental protection and nature
- Creative economy
- Affordable housing
"It's not a perfect plan," said Councilwoman Laura Morrison, who was up until nearly 1 a.m. Friday with her fellow council members deciding on this plan. "It doesn't solve a lot of the challenges we have. We have a lot of work ahead of us ... Rewriting the land development code is a carefully reasoned process, but I do believe it's time to move forward with this."
As we have been chronicling in our ATXpansion coverage, with the area growing so rapidly, people have been calling for a way to manage growth.
"People need to know: Will there be urban centers plopped down in their neighborhoods, right next to them? Will they be taken out by a transportation center?" said Marcy Hoen, with the Austin Creative Alliance. "So those are the things of great concern."
At the top of the list: transportation improvements and reliable water resources.
A number of people showed up for public comment Thursday night to talk about how they felt about the plan.
"As a voice for the younger generation, as a voice for Austin as a fit city, a beautiful city, don't make the mistake of destroying what is the most sacred -- our environment, our Mother Earth," said a girl who was at the late-night meeting.
Austin History Center Manager Mike Miller said many of present concerns are the same as decades past.
A large goal of Imagine Austin is to address the population boom for the that city has outgrown its last development blueprint by far.
Council members did hear comments from people asking that the idea of extending State Highway 45 Southwest from MoPac to FM 1626 not be included in the Imagine Austin plan.
That could end up being written out of the plan on amendment at a later date.
Amendments to Imagine Austin plan
While the Council meeting on the growth plan went into late Thursday night and on into very early Friday morning, some amendments were still brought up toward the end of it all.
Councilwoman Sheryl Cole and Morrison wanted to make sure that the new Imagine Austin plans would inform, but not predetermine decisions made in the future by small-area plans, or those by neighborhoods.
The new plans will have the same status and function as existing small-area plans.
In addition, Morrison asked that the growth-concept map be revised to identify where growth should not happen, in addition to where it should. That, she said, strengthened the concept that the map is consistent with neighborhood plans.
Morrison also pointed out that small, local business wasn't identified enough as a priority, so that was also added to important sectors in the Imagine Austin plan.
State Highway 45 Southwest friction
There has been a brewing transportation dispute between Hays County and Austin City Council.
Hays County Commissioners on Wednesday passed a resolution calling on the Council to support extending State Highway 45 Southwest from MoPac to FM 1626 as part of the city’s Imagine Austin plan. Commissioenrs said they believe it will improve traffic in the area dramatically.
But Austin's Planning Commission recommended council members drop the roadway from Austin's master plan.
Amendment regarding removal of State Highway 45 Southwest
The amendment, perhaps, that drew some uneasiness well after midnight Friday came last when Morrison brought up the need for a plan to ensure consistency between the Imagine Austin plan and local transportation plans, requesting removal of State Highway 45 from those Austin Metropolitan Area Transportation Plan and Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization plans for 2035.
"I am going to accept this amendment, but I do have concerns that we don't take actions that suggest that we do not want to be regional planners," said Cole, who also sits on the CAMPO Board. "Just because we don't want something and other areas of the region want something, then we're going to say, 'We don't want to play ball because of that.'"
Cole said Austin has to collaborate on these types of transportation plans, saying