Lakeway Town Center: How did we get here?

Lakeway Town Center: How did we get here?

I am encouraged that so many residents are talking about the proposed “Town Center” development and attending meetings on the topic. Increased civic engagement is one of my top priorities. While discourse is good, fiction is not.

So, I think it is relevant to take a look at the events from the past, how they relate to my tenure on the City Council and the associated high-level timeline that have led us to this point. Here are dates that are relevant to the current City Center Planned Unit Development (PUD) from Legend Communities. I have added links to the video or meeting minutes for further details.

·        May 12, 2014 - Sandy Cox Elected to Lakeway City Council.

·        Fall 2014 - discussions occurred about zoning the Lakeway MUD property AHEAD of the sale of the property so that the City could manage the development requirements of this last major parcel of land in the heart of Lakeway.

·        Jan 20, 2015 - First City Council discussion about managing the zoning of a plot of land versus the standard process of waiting for a developer to propose zoning.  Also included in the discussion was a draft proposal of the potential zoning and the decision to reach out to stakeholders with focus groups, survey the residents and to conduct townhall meetings.January Arts District City Council Meeting Video   

·        March 16, 2015 - 2nd City Council Meeting.  Results of the stakeholder discussions and surveys were shared (4 focus groups - ~100 people & 185 surveys completed).   Basically, the survey was split between those “for” and “against” the proposal.  Seven (7) community members came to speak about the process and their views. No action taken. March Arts District City Council Meeting Video

·        April Townhall Meetings - Open meetings for the community to comment and ask questions about the proposed zoning.  Here are the information graphics that were shared during the events  - Arts District Townhall Information Graphics.  Some relevant text includes:

o   “The arts district is the city’s great idea". Staff is working to develop the concept by talking to artists, residents, business owners, and other members of the community. Once the concept is defined, the City Council will be able to compare this idea to other great ideas about how to use the undeveloped land in the heart of Lakeway.

o   “What about the city’s plans for a performing arts center? A performing arts center (PAC) would make a great anchor for an arts district, but it could also be developed as a stand-alone project. The Lakeway Visitors Commission recently commissioned a feasibility study for a PAC. The study should be completed in the near future. If the Lakeway City Council decides to move forward with a performing arts center project, the first decision will be where to locate such a facility. The city has an agreement with developer Stratus Properties that would allow the purchase of the land on the western side of the Oaks at Lakeway development. This is one possible location for a PAC. Land acquisition and construction costs for a PAC could be financed in part by revenue from the hotel occupancy tax, established in 2012. When complete, the feasibility study will help the City Council determine whether and how to move forward.

o   “Will the city be involved financially in an arts district development? In a word, no. The city’s goal in this process is to establish conceptual land use standards that will shape future development of this central area. The majority of the undeveloped land in this area is owned by the Lakeway MUD. If this land remains undeveloped, the city may ask LMUD to cooperate in an effort to construct a road connection from the Oaks at Lakeway to Lohman’s Crossing.

·        City Council Pre-Zoning conversations were tabled in the Summer of 2015.

·        August 26, 2015 - Lakeway MUD Board reviews Appraisal and discusses strategy for 82 acre land sale.

·        September 9, 2015 - Lakeway MUD Board discusses strategy for 82 acre sale - No action taken.

·        October 14, 2015 - Lakeway MUD Board discusses 82 acres - Board authorizes General Manager to create an RFP for bids.

·        November 14, 2015 - Lakeway MUD Board approves sale of 82 acres - Board approves bid packet, sealed offers to be opened at the January meeting or special meeting.

·        January 13, 2016 - Lakeway MUD Board meeting -  Review of Bid opening process.

·        January 27, 2016 - Lakeway MUD Bid packages opened - 4 proposals made of 40 packages distributed.  HSD - Lakeway Holdings, LLC $13.1M; JDI Holdings LLC $6.2M; Stratus Properties $3.1M; CNA Builders $3.0M.

·        February 3, 2016 - Lakeway MUD Board Meeting - Board authorizes General manager to continue negotiating with HSM - Lakeway Holdings, LLC.

·        March 9, 2016 - Lakeway MUD modifies contract - price $12,512318, Lakeway MUD will retain 50' strip, 6 month feasibility study with closing 30 days thereafter, and a cost to the developer if extended beyond 7 months of $10,000 the first and second months and $15,000 for the third, fourth, and fifth months (total $65,000).

·        March 16, 2016 - Lakeway MUD accepts highest bid for 82 acres land - HSM - Lakeway Holdings, LLC contract approved.  Given 12 months to close, $165K in escrow ($65K extension fees can be applied to purchase price if the contract is closed). 

·        May 16, 2016 - Sandy Cox's City Council term expired and I did not seek re-election.

·        February 14, 2017 - City council special meeting with Legend Communities - Initial discussions in approach for the 82 acre development.

·        August 21, 2017 - Council Workshop with Legend Communities - Concept review of Legend Communities proposal for the Lakeway MUD property.

·        November 20, 2017 - Special City Council meeting - Review of Oaks and City Center proposal.

·        February 2018 - Legend Communities Townhall - Tuscan residents

·        February 2018 - Legend Communities Townhall - Rolling Green residents

·        March 7 - ZAPCO Meeting Review Legend Communities Planned Unit Development City Center Proposal - no action taken.

·        March 15 - ZAPCO meeting - Special meeting held in the evening for additional public comment - some changes made from previous ZAPCO meeting based on public and commissioner comment (Lohman's Spur changed to 4 lane road, Heights modified, Flex areas committed to specific uses and dwelling units dropped from 507 to 298).  Motion to delay decision until next ZAPCO meeting - approved.

·        April 2 - Legend Communities Townhall Q&A

·        Upcoming April 4 - ZAPCO Meeting @ City Hall

The Legend Communities City Center development is a significant decision for the City of Lakeway.  It will impact the aesthetics of our city, our tax base, our traffic, and our community.  Stay informed and please let your council members know your opinions.

I believe that Lakeway should have a Town Center and the Legend Communities City Center proposal is a great start towards achieving this vision.  Having a place where our residents can congregate, host outdoor events, attend farmers markets or partake of wine festivals would be an asset to the community.  Connecting Lohman's Crossing to 620 through Main Street and Lohman's Spur is an opportunity for our residents to shop, dine, and play without having to drive on 620.  That is a plus.  I also believe the new urban design can help meet the changing needs of our current and future residents with the balance of live-work units.  The arts district is also an interesting concept.   All that being said, there is more work to be done with the City Center proposal.   

A few items that I believe need to be negotiated (this is not an all-inclusive list):

  • Balance Commercial and Residential to make sure we do not over saturate our community with commercial development nor miss out on sales tax opportunity.
  • Define each area in detail so that we know specifically what will be built. 
  • Connect Main Street through the Stratus project, this should help with traffic flow and safety.
  • Reduce the number of housing units, currently the plan is too dense.
  • Maintain the isolation from the Rolling Green community, the residents do not want their streets connected to the development and neither do I.
  • Increase the park land especially in the town center.
  • Review again the traffic study and affirm the current infrastructure plan once changes are made.
  • Review again the parking model and affirm the parking plan once changes are made.
  • Events / Performing Arts Center concept is interesting, but needs to be carefully considered.  The city performed a feasibility and marketing study for an arts and conference center in 2014 and I was a part of the committee.  The study made several business model assumptions that would need to be detailed further and confirmed.  Arts centers are inherently risky as I learned through my tenure as Board Chairman for TexARTS.   Although the scope of a Events Center will be contemplated at a later phase of the project, I wanted to bring this discussion to the forefront.  The business model must make sense. 

The easy option is to "Stop" or say "No" to the City Center PUD proposal.  However, I think it is in the best interest of the City to continue to negotiate an acceptable solution with Legend Communities.  We are conceptually aligned (creation of a Town Center and Main Street Connection), but there are many details and items to work through.  If the process starts over with another developer, it will likely add another two years to the timeline before Main Street is cut through to Lohman's (the City does not have right-of-way). However, the extension of Main Street road as a local option could help us divert traffic from 620 and make our commutes safer in the meantime.

To be clear, I don't think we should "Reject" or "Approve" the City Center Plan.  I think we negotiate.