City Counseling

Sí, Comprende

With a myriad of existing and often competing plans addressing affordable housing, transportation, sprawl, neighborhood zoning, conservation, recycling ... and more ... ping-ponging weekly through City Hall, have you ever wondered how the city keeps things straight? Short answer: It hasn't.

Until now, that is.

At this week's meeting (Thursday, Feb. 12), City Council will hear presentations from three finalist consultant groups, the winner to be tasked with developing a comprehensive plan for the city of Austin. As a blueprint for the city's future, a comprehensive plan is supposed to coalesce and coordinate city policies as they relate to growth and development and to be revised every five years. However, the city has been without a current plan since 1979, when the Austin Tomor­row Comprehensive Plan was adopted. It's been amended several times since, but this effort will be the first ground-up re-engineering since the beginning. The three finalists named are the ACP Visioning+Planning Team, led by the New York- and Ohio-headquartered firm best known for planning redevelopment of NYC's World Trade Center site and lower Manhattan; HNTB, with offices nationwide, including Austin, which has facilitated city plans in the Chicago area, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere; and the WRT team, led by Wallace Roberts & Todd LLC, which planned The Woodlands suburb of Houston, consulting also in Georgetown, Galveston, and Irving. The presentations are scheduled for 2pm, with displays and representatives available through the afternoon. Citizens are encouraged to comment through Tuesday, Feb. 17, with the next council meeting, Thursday, Feb. 26, being the earliest council could make its selection.

Slipped Discs

After becoming comic fodder for the Wall Street Journal, the Statesman, and the Carole Keeton Strayhorn campaign, council is ready to formalize how the city inquires about federal funding, most specifically that pending in the Obama administration's stimulus plan. A proposal for an $886,000, 36-hole Frisbee disc golf course (in a lengthy list of long-pending city projects) was snarkily recounted in a Wall Street Journal story highlighting unusual projects cities pitched as "shovel ready" for potential federal stimulus dollars, prompting haughty echoing sneers from the daily. (Never mind that had the item simply been referred to as a new "park" project, no one would have noticed. Plus, is the Statesman editorial board dense enough to think that much in spending and construction wouldn't create a few jobs? Wait, don't answer that.) This meeting, Item 24 from Council Members Lee Leffingwell and Mike Martinez calls for creating a process to formalize funding submittals. "Should new federal dollars become available for City of Austin projects," the resolution reads, "it is necessary and prudent that a process for Council review be established in advance of that availability."

Free Association

Also up: a $10 million down payment on an estimated $250 million Austin Energy solar-energy farm (Item 16), the nation's largest as planned. (Chatter has it a council decision may be delayed, however.) Additionally, there's a 2pm briefing on the controversial boardwalk trail over Lady Bird Lake, and along the same shoreline, implementation of "certain aspects" of the city's Waterfront Overlay Task Force (Item 25). Council also formally appoints an acting city auditor (Item 27), while in zoning, the controversial case for the Wildflower Commons planned unit development returns after a delay last meeting (Item 63). The Save Our Springs Alliance has sent out an action alert calling for citizens to e-mail the council in protest and attend the meeting in opposition.

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