Lakeway annexing 1,000 acres in the next 10 years


By Aden Holasek Friday, 05 November 2010 (Source: Community Impact News, for access to actual article, please click here.)

LAKEWAY — Under the recommendation of developers, the City of Lakeway plans on annexing about 1,000 acres in the next 10 years. Much of the annexed areas is already under construction or planned for new single- and multifamily homes, as well as some mixed-used developments.

City Manager Steve Jones said once that land is annexed the city will be finished expanding. Jones said the Lakeway City Council has discussed annexing portions of the Hill Country but believes the ranching culture in that area does not match the lakeside lifestyle of Lakeway. He said the city feels the same about land to the south, beyond Hwy. 71.

The rest of the City of Lakeway is bordered by the City of Bee Cave, Lake Travis, the Hill Country and Austin’s extraterritorial jurisdiction.

Growth in the city

Former Lakeway Mayor Steve Swan said Lakeway was developed in the late 1960s as a place for Houstonians to retire or to buy a second home. At that time, it was not considered an Austin suburb.

In the past 20 years, Lakeway’s population has doubled due to modern infrastructure and the quality of schools in the area, making Lakeway more accessible to those with jobs in downtown Austin and to families with school-aged children.

With Lakeway Regional Medical Center planned to be complete in 2012, more families are expected to move in.

Mayor Dave DeOme said the medical center will bring an estimated $300 million to the city’s tax base, increasing the current tax base of roughly $2.4 billion by 12.5 percent.

“I don’t think any of us have a full understanding of what the hospital can or will do for the community,” Swan said. “But it will have a major impact on the whole area.”

Though the total impact the hospital will have is unknown, employees at varying salary brackets will likely be looking for housing in Lakeway as the hospital begins hiring.

While the hospital will not be complete for another two years, the need for more homes is already growing in Lakeway.

“Activity in single-family development revenue shows that the economy [in Lakeway] is recovering,” Jones said. “More people are moving out here for the quality of life.”

He said the first model homes in two years have been built in Lakeway—in the Ridge at Alta Vista and Terrace at the Preserve Condominiums. Buyers are already showing interest in the homes, with eight out of the available 30 homes in Terrace at the Preserve sold within 30 days.

Those communities are two of the half dozen or so under construction in the city. Little residentially zoned land remains open outside of these developments, but according to city records, these communities will add approximately 3,400 residences to the city.

Legend Communities, the company that is developing Rough Hollow and Tuscan Village—two of the eight residential communities being developed in Lakeway—owns the majority of the undeveloped land in the city. The company develops mostly single-family communities; however, Haythem Dawlett, founder and principal of Legend Communities, sees a need for additional multifamily units in Lakeway.

He said there are approximately five apartment complexes in the nearby area, each 94 to 98 percent full. He believes hospital employees will need this type of housing, so he plans on including apartments and town homes in Rough Hollow, which will be the first multifamily housing within the city limits of Lakeway.

The residential growth in Lakeway has resulted in an increase in commercial growth, Jones said.

According to city data, there are eight developments already planned for Lakeway that will have commercial space. Included in these projects are one to two hotels, some restaurants and medical complexes. The majority of the space, however, will be for retail shops.

Dawlett said retail will follow demand, but he sees the limited amount of land in Lakeway as a hindrance to potential businesses. He believes the land and community can only support one more large retailer—such as H-E-B, which already owns land in Serene Hills. The rest of the land, Dawlett believes, will be developed into shopping plazas or a centralized town square.

“Mom and pop stand-alone businesses will not work; they need the density [of a shopping plaza] to create a mass attraction,” Dawlett said.

Impact on the city

Adding all this new residential and commercial traffic to an area that is not increasing in size will put more traffic on already strained roads, water systems and schools, Jones said.

Jones said while people rarely like to pay higher taxes, it usually takes bonds or tax hikes to pay for those infrastructure changes, such as new schools.

“Growth does not pay for itself,” Jones said. “For example, people move in and drive the need for a new school, but it is the people who live here already that pay for it. They did not cause the growth, but they have to pay for it. It is not the fault of the school district but the fault of the design.”

Two schools are already planned for Lakeway: an elementary school inside Rough Hollow and another just outside the city limits on the west side of Bee Creek Road.

Dawlett’s company paid to install a right-turn lane from Lakeway Boulevard onto Lohman’s Crossing Road and constructed Highland Boulevard, giving Lakeway residents greater access in and out of the city. He said he believes this will greatly help the residents of southwest Lakeway but does not think roads are the most limiting infrastructure issue.

“The compromising thing about growth in Lakeway is the sewer,” Dawlett said.

He said there is no sewer system that serves the whole city, but there are six utility districts. He adds that some of the open land in Lakeway is being used as irrigation land for those districts and believes they could be relocated in Rough Hollow to allow for additional growth near the city center.

Regardless of whether the infrastructure is ready for it, growth continues in Lakeway.

Swan said that while citizens may be split on whether growth is a good thing, he said he thinks the strict ordinances already in place will help the city maintain its charming nature.

“Lakeway will be different than what we know today,” Swan said.