A Dense Discussion

Downtown density debate to unfold on dais tomorrow

A Dense Discussion
Photo courtesy Flickr user jdn [CC]

One City Council agenda item we neglected to mention Monday - because it deserves its own post - is the re-re-return of the Downtown Austin Plan. And we got a preview of philosophical disagreement over one of the plan's biggest sticking points – the Downtown density bonus program – at a council work session Tuesday.

We'll have more on the density wrangling in this week's column, but, suffice to say, the question over whether Downtown density itself is a benefit is as hot a question as ever.

Kathie Tovo and Laura Morrison sounded decided agnostic on the question, saying regardless of its community benefits (reduced sprawl, to name a big one), it still created a financial incentive for developers that should be shared with the city. Said Tovo, “When you have a developer who has purchased a lot to go 60 feet, and they’ve suddenly doubled that – there’s an increasing financial benefit to that developer. Some of that economic benefit should be returned to the public in the form of a community benefit.”

Lee Leffingwell argued that “the additional density, in and of itself, is a community benefit,” noting that “the Downtown area subsidizes the rest of the city” and “produces more money for services than they use … The calibration formula you come up with [for future density bonus projects] should address some part of the community benefit” density itself produces.

Taking a middle-ground approach was Bill Spelman, noting “On balance, I think the benefits [of density] exceed the costs.”

It'll be fun to see how much discord this presents on the dais tomorrow. We'll be live-tweeting the proceedings; in the meantime, bone up on the discussion by eying the presentation council received at their work session.

Density Bonus Briefing - Dec. 2011

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

The Daily Hustle, City Council, Development, Downtown, Downtown Density Bonus, Downtown Austin Plan

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