Wednesday, March 02, 2016

New UT study warns of massive Hill Country changes by Randy Beamer

Wow..."in less than 35 years we may have closer to 7 million residents in the area, with 93% of that new growth packed into the San Antonio-Austin corridor." To see the report click here.

New UT study warns of massive Hill Country changes

SAN ANTONIO -- A new study out of UT-Austin warns that explosive, unregulated growth in the Hill Country could mean its unique 'natural, scenic, and water resources could be... permanently lost to future generations.'
The dire warning comes in a 120-page report which looked at growth, history, land use, and projected population in a 17-county area stretching from Austin to San Antonio and west to Uvalde and Rocksprings.
The study predicts the population of the area, now at 3.2 million, could more than double by the year 2050, so in less than 35 years we may have closer to 7 million residents in the area, with 93% of that new growth packed into the San Antonio-Austin corridor.
The report says 'Sprawling, auto-oriented development increases traffic congestion while rapid population growth contributes to escalating housing prices. These trends are pushing new development out into formerly rural areas of the Hill Country, where they will destroy the region's scenery and wildlife habitats while threatening water supplies and natural resources. More pavement in upstream areas will increase the frequency and severity of flash flooding throughout the region."
But it goes on to offer a better way, if changes are made now. "Another future is possible, one in which a new partnership and a shared destiny is established between the Hill Country and the Austin-San Antonio corridor, in effect redefining the Hill Country as a "Greater Hill Country" that encompasses both the [4] corridor counties and the 13 rural counties to the west. Through this partnership, a fraction of the growiong economic resources of the urban corridor would be used to finance a bold program of land conservation."
The report's summary says its goal is to 'initiate a public debate,' while offering a series of proposals to avert its bleak picture of a future Hill Country shrinking and morphing into rings of 'low-density suburban sprawl emanating out from Austin and San Antonio."
One of its most interesting - and maybe least controversial - proposals is the creation of a 'Hill Country Endowment' which would help pay for 'infrastructure investments, land, and resource protection.
But the authors also write such an endowment 'could also assume the role of a regional planning body.'
The report began with the non-profit Hill Country Alliance (HCA) asking the UT School of Architecture (UTSOA) to 'use fresh eyes and planning expertise to provide new ideas and strategies' to help plan for a better future for the Hill Country.
It advocates higher-density growth in urban areas along the Lone Star Rail corridor (a planned passenger line stretching from San Antonio to Georgetown) and coordinated management of land use, transportation, water, and economic development.
The report also acknowledges the opposition such proposals are likely to face in a state known for strong protection of property rights and not for regulation. It predicts getting lawmakers to change state law to allow for more localized regulation and planning will be difficult.
But it concludes 'We believe that the Texas Hill Country, and these initiatives, are worth fighting for."
'We also have enormous confidence in the ability of Texans to rally around efforts to preserve the Hill Country, this place that is so central to the self-image of our state and region.'
To see the report click here.
We would like to hear your thoughts on this study. You can let us know on our News 4 San Antonio facebook page,

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