Council offers support for two multi-income rental communities

By SHELLY WILKISON 

A conceptual elevation of the proposed Liberty Trails Townhomes, a 100-unit mixed income development.
(Courtesy Graphic)

The Liberty Hill City Council adopted resolutions Monday supporting two proposed multi-family rental communities that developers say will help grow the city’s economy.

Both residential developments are seeking approval from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs to earn federal housing tax credits. A property that qualifies for housing tax credits (HTC) uses those to raise capital from private investors, thereby reducing the developer’s debt. Because the debt is lower, the property can offer lower priced rents that are based on a range of resident income levels.

To demonstrate the City’s support of the projects, the Council adopted resolutions committing in-kind contributions that could be used to connect water and wastewater service to the developments.

If approved for housing tax credits, Liberty Trails Townhomes — a proposed 100-unit mixed-income development — will be constructed on 9.5 acres on the Northeast corner of RR 1869 and State Highway 29. The complex will offer one, two and three-bedroom townhomes with attached garages. The property will have a clubhouse with a business center, exercise room, media room and library, and will offer after-school care for resident children.

Jorge Aguirre, vice president for Development at Picerne Development of Altamonte Springs, Florida,  told the Council Monday that the $15 million complex will serve all income levels.

“At the lowest income level, someone could rent a three-bedroom (townhome) for $400,” he said.

Councilman Sammy Pruett, who cast the lone no vote on resoultions supporting Liberty Trails Townhomes and providing $15,000 worth of city in-kind contributions, expressed concerns about the community renting to lower-income residents.

“We are not Section 8,” said Aguirre. “This (HTC) is not a rental assistance program. Residents must be employed and we want residents that are hard-working. There is a minimum income requirement. Residents are required to pass a strict criminal background check and credit checks.”

“I want you to fight that lower income as hard as you can,” said Pruett. “I don’t want the center of our town to have an eye sore.”

Aguirre said less than 15 percent of the units will be available to lower income families. About 35 percent will be rented to moderate income families, which he said qualified at an annual income of $35,000 for a family of two. He said 25 units will be available at market rate, which for a three-bedroom unit could rent for $1,142 per month.

Aguirre estimated that the City will gain about $70,000 in annual property tax revenue if the development is constructed.

Picerne Development owns and operates an apartment complex in Austin, Circle S Apartments, 7201 S. Congress.

Breck Kean of Georgia-based Prestwick Development, the company proposing the development of a 74-unit independent living complex for senior citizens, told the Council that he did not believe the state would award tax credits to both Liberty Hill proposals. Kean presented the plans for Liberty Hill Manor to the Council on Jan. 28. (Read the story on www.LHIndependent.com) 

The resolution supporting Prestwick included $10,500 in in-kind contributions toward city infrastructure. The Council supported the senior development by a unanimous vote, with Council member Connie Fuller abstaining because of a familial interest in the 10 acres being sold for the project at State Highway 29 and Bailey Lane.

The Council will hold public hearings on March 4 and 11 on the proposed annexation of the property into the city.

HTC awards are expected to be announced by July. Each developer said construction of their projects is contingent upon award of the tax credits.

Also Monday, the Council voted 3-2 against proceeding with plans to install city sewer service to the restrooms at City Park in order to consider bids to construct a septic system there.

The question of whether to connect the restrooms, which are currently under construction, to the city sewer or to a septic system has been a divisive issue between the Council and the City’s Economic Development Corp. Board of Directors. In 2011, a previous council voted to allocate $60,000 in EDC funds to connect the restrooms to city sewer. Since that time, EDC Board members and some elected officials have suggested a septic system at the park will suffice and EDC monies would be better spent encouraging business growth in the community.

Mayor Jamie Williamson said the city’s engineer was in the process of mapping plans to make the sewer connection, but was awaiting easements from impacted property owners. The former city manager failed to secure those, she said.

She said there might also be a way to avoid sending the line underneath the railroad track — an item that was expected to add significant costs to the project. However, due to the differing views on sewer vs septic, she wanted the Council to make a final decision before the engineer proceeded with any more work.

“The park restrooms are at a standstill depending on which way the Council goes,” she said. “We will have a completed restroom, but I don’t know when we will be able to use it.”

Councilman Wendell McLeod, who has been a vocal opponent of spending the money to connect the facility to city sewer, made the motion to solicit bids from local septic system installers. He said he believed the City could save as much as $50,000 by using a septic system.

“I know people who do septics that can do lots of capacity for less than $60,000,” said Mrs. Fuller as she seconded McLeod’s motion.

“My concern is that both of you (McLeod and Mrs. Fuller) sat on the council in 2006 when you voted to spend $8 million on (a sewer system), and now you want to put the city park on a septic system,” said Mayor Williamson. “That concerns me.”

Pruett voted with McLeod and Mrs. Fuller to solicit bids for a septic system. Council members Byron Tippie and Vicki Brewer voted no. McLeod volunteered to solicit bids from three vendors.

In other business this week, the Council approved a task order authorizing the engineer to prepare construction plans for drainage improvements along Myrtle Lane. Funds for the  construction will be paid with a $50,000 grant from Community Development Block Grant program — $5,000 of which will be reimbursed to the City for engineering costs approved Monday. The City will spend $3,000 in grant administration costs that are not covered by grant funds.

The Council also approved by a 4-1 vote a $4,503 change order for engineers Steger Bizzell to cover additional expenses incurred in Phase 3A of  the sewer system project. Pruett voted no.

In other business, the Council voted to:

* Approve a final plat of the Estates of Stonewall.

* Accept the resignation of Valerie Zapien from the EDC Board of Directors.

*  Adopt a resolution designating the signers on city bank accounts.

*  Adopt an ordinance regarding the control of backflow and cross connections of the city’s water distribution system.

The Council began Monday’s meeting with an hour-long executive session to consult with the attorney on a wastewater collection system capacity reservation agreement. There was no discussion on the matter when the panel reconvened and no action was taken.