By Marty Toohey
After two years of debates and committee meetings, Austin officials have unveiled a broad vision for growth that condemns traditional suburban development and is garnering both praise and skepticism.
The proposed, 197-page "comprehensive plan" would be the city's official philosophy for managing a booming population and the new housing, businesses, shops and restaurants that will come with it. The plan, dubbed Imagine Austin, envisions mixed-use development along corridors serviced by transit and new centers of housing and commerce miles north and south of downtown.
The plan is intended to guide every city decision over the next three decades, from where to allow construction to how much to collect in taxes to managing the economy.
It is unusually blunt for a municipal document. It talks of rectifying past mistakes. It plans around big-ticket initiatives such as urban rail or significantly expanded bus service.
And it excoriates the city's rapid suburban growth, stating that the pattern of the past 60 years came "at a troubling price in terms of social segregation and isolation, (diminished) public health, air and water quality, loss of natural open space and agricultural lands, and climate change (while) driving up the public costs for roads, water lines and other infrastructure that must be continually extended to far-flung new development."
The document assumes that 700,000 more people will move into the city over the next 30 years, creating civic pressures the city should address. The plan was compiled by the city planning staff, which distilled input from the general public and a sometimes quarrelsome, 31-member citizen committee appointed by the City Council.
Facing West Lake Hills, As seen from the Spring condo, by rutlo
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