Highest & best use : strategies for growth management and agriculture and prairie conservation in the SH130 corridor

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Abee-Taulli, Pamela Jo, 1960-

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The population of central Texas is increasing rapidly, and urbanization and suburban development continue amid projections of unprecedented growth to come. How is this affecting the expanses of rich agricultural land and remaining scraps of Blackland Prairie upon which the agricultural industry of east central Texas was built? State Highway 130 is partially complete – providing an urban-area bypass intended to alleviate traffic on I35 between San Marcos and Georgetown. In view of the building of this new transit and development corridor to the east of I35, on the eastern edge of Austin, what can be done to preserve agriculture and native prairie on Austin’s urban fringe? In this PR, I examine this question in terms of two essential components: growth management and land conservation. There are numerous studies on the structures and efficacies of growth management tools and of land conservation strategies, but there is little discussion of the role of growth management in relation specifically to urban and urban-fringe agriculture. I begin with a literature review, surveying the current state of study and practice with regard to growth management and open space & agricultural land conservation. This is followed by a case study of state-level open space conservation policy in Georgia, from which I draw lessons relevant to my case. The next step is to frame the potential management and conservation policies presented win the literature review and case study within the context of local practices, thus narrowing the focus of analysis to the confines of my study area: an approximately 20-mile wide, 58-mile long corridor along a portion of SH130. To gauge the possibilities for management and conservation within the study area, I have produced a matrix of jurisdictions and policy options, and an inventory of vacant land. Using the matrix I analyze, on the one hand, the relevant legal codes available to each jurisdiction, and on the other hand, local attitudes toward growth and agriculture. The land inventory is a graphic presentation – through GIS mapping – of factors critical to the potential preservation of open space. The final operation is to sketch a larger proposal within which this study would fit as a preliminary step. Here I suggest an implementation plan, based on the Envision Central Texas model, and recommend directions for future research.



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