Inside the controversial proposal dividing Austin’s green groups

EA Crunden

AUSTIN, TEXAS — To look out over the capital of Texas is to see a growth spurt in its most fervent phase. The rapidly-growing city of Austin extends in every direction, bleeding into its also-booming suburbs, while modern apartment complexes are replacing once sleepy, green spaces. 

That growth explosion is at the center of a bitter feud that has divided the city’s green groups, cost millions of dollars, and sparked a controversial ballot initiative known as Proposition J that will appear before voters this November.

The ballot initiative was introduced after some residents took legal action against the city: Austin wanted to reduce urban sprawl but naysayers said the city went about things the wrong way, sparking the lawsuit and resulting in Proposition J.

If approved, the initiative would require both a public vote and a mandatory waiting period extending upwards of three years prior to any change to the city’s Land Development Code. That means the city’s currently out-of-date code, adopted in 1984, will take years to be updated.

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