30 residents hear final changes to city’s comprehensive plan

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 16, 2000

Jim Hayden heard there was a Planning Commission meeting Tuesday night, so he was at City Hall early, placard in hand.

Wednesday, August 16, 2000

Jim Hayden heard there was a Planning Commission meeting Tuesday night, so he was at City Hall early, placard in hand. He wasn’t there for the meeting, however; he was there to get his message out to the people attending the public hearing.

Email newsletter signup

"I’m just objecting to the fact that the proposed $14 million airport expansion is such a terrible waste of taxpayers’ dollars," he said. "It’s such a short-sighted plan for the average citizen. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could put that money into our schools?"

Inside, the atmosphere was one of inquiry and cooperation, with more than 30 residents attending the final public hearing on the city’s comprehensive plan. The airport expansion wasn’t a featured item in the plan, although resident Pat Schmid did question the wisdom of planning any further residential development north of the airport.

"To me, urban sprawl is when you go out into an area where you don’t need to be, beyond a natural barrier," Schmid said. "The airport is a natural barrier."

Although her comments on the future zoning by the airport didn’t affect any changes to the plan, many other citizen observations and issues raised at the previous public hearing in July were reflected in changes to the plan. Yaggy Colby consultant Jeff Mundt presented the changes at Tuesday night’s public hearing.

Mundt has been working with City Community Development Director Craig Hoium and commission members to finalize the plan, which will serve as a guide on land-use issues and further development for city officials after its formal adoption by the City Council, to be voted on Monday, as recommended by the members of the Planning Commission Tuesday.

That recommendation came after more than an hour of discussion and explanation between the commission, Mundt and Hoium and the audience members.

The major topic on the minds of many audience members still was flood control and prevention. Francis Skinness and Dean Dykeman want a committee set up to study the problem and work on solutions; Leo Reding wants the city to make sure retention ponds actually hold the water for the intended period of time rather than draining too fast. Another audience member wanted the city to acknowledge that changing wetland areas like Main Street North and raising the elevation in places meant that more water went to other areas. Bev Nordby, representing the Mower County Soil and Water Conservation District, wanted interagency cooperation and a positive attitude.

"We can’t point fingers; there are a lot of factors that contributed to the flooding in July," Nordby said. "Maybe we (the Soil and Water Conservation District) should have been involved in this plan, but we weren’t. Now what we need to do is all sit down together and look at water management on a watershed basis.

"The money tree hit Mower County when Austin got flooded, so when you’re planning please consider federal agencies and what they can do," she added.

When commission member Gordie Kuehne suggested including the names of the agencies Nordby mentioned in the plan, Commission Chairman Brian Johnson disagreed.

"Our recommendation hasn’t changed," Johnson said. "It’s still to develop a comprehensive stormwater management plan. … I think it would be a mistake to put in too many specifics beyond that. I’d rather leave that to the city and the council and not tell them how to set up committees or who to work with."

Other changes to the plan since the last hearing included more zoning designations for multifamily residential districts, a clearer explanation of the changing focus of Austin’s downtown and several changes to the zoning map, including the addition of existing green space areas.

Only one further addition was made after the hearing: to include language addressing green space to be developed for animal habitat, in addition to green space developed for active and passive human recreation like bike trails and public parks.

After the meeting, Johnson said he was pleased with both the plan and the public’s input.

"I think we’ve had good input from the public throughout the process," he said. "And I think the plan does a good job addressing the issues in the manner that it could, which is as a plan and a vision statement, not a detailed step-by-step approach to concerns."