The City of Austin has struggled for decades to actively manage growth and development in attempts to preserve a high quality of life for residents and the sanctity of local natural resources. The adversaries in this struggle include an exploding economy and expanding population, market forces that favor sprawling development patterns and a State Legislature that is fundamentally critical of growth management regulations.
In 1998, the City adopted a Smart Growth Initiative to manage development and redirect growth away from environmentally sensitive areas. This Initiative attempted to consolidate the long held Austin values of environmental preservation with the realities of rapid population growth and development. However, any policy designed to shape the patterns of development requires interjurisdictional cooperation and a shared vision for the future.
The City of Austin's relationship with the Texas Legislature has been contentious for years. This is especially true regarding policy issues that relate to the regulation of developers and private sector interests, stricter environmental regulation, and increasing local government control. Austin has encountered limited success in its growth management goals and will continue to be less effective unless there can be support for these endeavors from the Legislature.