The Parks and Recreation Board had considered one of its most contentious – and longest – conferences in current historical past Tuesday night time with a heated debate about plans for a phase of Williamson Creek in South Austin.
The dispute centered on a proposed imaginative and prescient plan for what could be known as the Central Williamson Creek Greenway between Menchaca Highway and Congress Avenue. The 58-acre space encompasses Metropolis Council districts 2, 3, and 5, along with city-owned tons as soon as occupied by flood-damaged houses and different potential buyout properties positioned in a floodplain.
Board Member Kate Mason-Murphy, who lives within the Southwood neighborhood of District 3, was an early chief in advocating for creek cleanups and linked nature trails. She championed the creation of the Emerald Wooden Group Backyard and close by path off of South First, named in honor of the late Tom Donovan, a former member of the parks board.
Mason-Murphy is now a lead critic of the course the creek’s imaginative and prescient plan has taken. She and one set of residents had championed a clear creek and a pure path surroundings with minimal buildout. One other set of residents labored primarily with consultants Asakura Robinson and a nonprofit group, Group Powered Workshop, to create a plan that covers an A-Z listing of options, together with mountain biking trails, a bring-your-own hammock grove, a labyrinth, meals forests, wildflower meadows, a music grove, and extra.
A number of board members appeared sympathetic to Mason-Murphy’s stance that neighborhood outreach and engagement was selective and that householders focused for potential buyouts had been “actively silenced,” as Mason-Murphy put it.
The assembly started unraveling when Mason-Murphy launched an aggressive cross-examination of the consulting crew. Her line of questioning took a conspiratorial tone suggesting Group Powered Workshop was a part of a gentrification effort to eradicate 250 houses, aided by the Parks and Recreation Division, Watershed Safety, builders, and Mayor Steve Adler, an eminent area lawyer.
She known as the imaginative and prescient plan “essentially, systematically flawed.” Since many of the course of happened throughout the Covid pandemic, the town and the consultants ought to have tabled their efforts till the scenario improved, she stated. “What got here out (of the method) was a digital actuality based mostly in a digital time, and it seems to be actually good, however it isn’t in any respect what our neighborhood wished.”
She made a movement to reject the plan, however the movement dangled awkwardly with out a second.
Chair Daybreak Lewis stated she wished to see stakeholders enter into mediation to attempt to settle their variations earlier than the proposal returns to the parks board.
In the meantime, Parks and Recreation Division Director Kimberly McNeeley signaled her exasperation with the practically two-hour debate, for the reason that dialogue had veered properly out of vary of what was posted on an already packed agenda.
“It’s a bit disappointing to have a few of this dialog really feel like an enormous assault,” McNeeley stated. “I simply need to let that my crew, the Watershed Safety crew, and the crew that was a part of this course of doesn’t need to be attacked in public. You’re allowed to have your opinion, you’re definitely allowed to specific your issues about this specific plan, however being attacked just isn’t acceptable, and I simply want you to know that.”
Katie Coyne of Asakura Robinson additionally voiced her irritation with the accusations. Her sense was that Mason-Murphy ought to have recused herself from the dialogue due to her degree of involvement within the creek matter. She additional famous that Mason-Murphy and her husband, Larry Murphy, have had a long-running feud with Watershed Safety, which features a violent risk made towards Watershed employees members. “This has turn out to be very poisonous,” she stated, explaining why she’d canceled an outreach assembly in April.
With Mason-Murphy’s movement rendered moot for lack of a second, Board Member Laura Cottam Sajbel made a movement to desk the merchandise, which secured unanimous assist. The Environmental Fee previously approved the plan unanimously, with Coyne, who serves on the fee, recusing herself from the dialogue and vote. If and when the imaginative and prescient plan returns to the parks board, its members can both vote on it or take no motion. Regardless, the plan doesn’t require Metropolis Council approval.
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