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Council To Imagine Imagine Austin

Plus SH 45, White Lodging, frat houses, and more

By Amy Smith, Fri., June 15, 2012

Imagine Austin looking like this, only bigger.
Imagine Austin looking like this, only bigger.
Photo by Jana Birchum

City Council meets today (Thursday, June 14) to tackle a 60-item agenda that includes the mother of all planning issues – the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan – which kicks off with a public hearing sometime after 4pm (Item 58). The draft document of about 200 pages, a combined effort of an advisory task force, staff, and the Planning Commission, is designed to serve as a long-range guide for planning how Austin wants to grow as its population swells.

Of course, the plan is not without controversy. One key point of contention deals with whether the much-debated State Highway 45 should be included on the plan's Growth Concept Map, a big-picture view of what the city could look like should it follow a plan that includes small neighborhood centers in some areas and denser commercial growth in others. The flip side of the question is whether the comp plan should even include a Growth Concept Map, which, according to the Austin Neighborhoods Council, is "too specific to be conceptual" and fails to consider existing and future neighborhood plans.

A scorecard would be required to recall the number of times city staff has added and removed SH 45 from the map over the last couple of years. At last count, both the task force and the Planning Commission had passed the comp plan without SH 45, a move that satisfied those who believe the highway's proposed path across parts of the Edwards Aquifer would wreak environmental havoc and potentially overwhelm MoPac with hundreds of additional vehicles, particularly at peak drive times. As things now stand, the Real Estate Council of Austin and city planning staff are requesting that the council approve the comp plan with SH 45 on the map – identified in the form of a dotted line linking South MoPac to I-35. Representatives of varied interest groups are expected to weigh in on the overall plan before council begins deliberations.

Other items of interest:

Approving immediate funding to add 14 new employees to the Planning and Devel­opment Review department in an attempt to ease a backlog of building permits currently handled by an overworked skeleton crew (Item 7).

Morning briefings from staff on what measures are being taken to prepare for the Nov. 18 Formula One race (Item 30) and a report on form-based code in relation to Airport Boulevard redevelopment efforts (Item 31).

Annual performance evaluations of the city clerk and the municipal court clerk (executive session).

Public hearing on a proposed code amendment creating a Central Austin Univer­si­ty Area Zoning Overlay District in response to university area residents' concerns about new fraternity houses (Item 52).

Public hearing and possible action on a proposed zoning change in the construction of a controversial condo development in far South Austin. Council tentatively approved the zoning on a 5-2 vote April 26, with Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Council Member Kathie Tovo dissenting (Item 39).

Hearing on the city's draft fiscal year 2012-2013 action plan on housing, as required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (Item 49).

Considering a zoning change to Congress Avenue property slated for the White Lodg­ing/Marriott hotel on the old Las Manitas property that would, according to backup material, address parking spaces and off-street loading (Item 46).

Public hearing and possible action on a proposed amendment to the City Code that would set limitations on outdoor amphitheatres; the action is a direct response to the administrative approval given a church's controversial outdoor performance venue under construction in Southwest Austin (Item 56).

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