Update on new rental developments raises discussion on water availability

By SHELLY WILKISON

With the news that two rental communities are preparing to break ground in the coming months, City Manager Greg Boatright said Monday that water is available to service the additional 176 customers.

Liberty Trails Townhomes has all of the permits in place to build 101 rental units on acreage across from Dahlia Cafe. A portion of the units will be available for low to moderate-income families.

Liberty Manor, an apartment community catering to senior citizens, was recently notified that it was approved by Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs to receive federal housing tax credits. The credits will be used to help developers raise capital from private investors, thereby reducing the developer’s debt and giving it the financial backing it needs to start the project. Liberty Manor, which will have 75 independent-living apartment units for seniors, will be built on Bailey Lane behind Chicken Express.

Liberty Manor applied for the tax credits last year, but the application was rejected because the property was not annexed into the city limits in time to meet the TDHCA deadline.

Boatright told The Independent that the City will provide water to the two rental communities through a contract it has with Chisholm Trail Special Utility District.

The City has a contract allowing it to use up to 75,000 gallons per day from Chisholm Trail. Boatright said the City currently uses about 22,000 gallons.

The proposed developments are in proximity to water lines that intersect with Chisholm Trail on State Highway 29.

During a City Council workshop Monday, elected officials learned of ongoing efforts by staff to facilitate interests by developers looking to do business in Liberty Hill. One of the intitial studies includes water availability. City engineers must approve the availability of water to meet the specific demands of a project before it can move forward through the permitting process.

In addition to the two apartment communities, Boatright said another developer is looking at property across from the fire station on RR 1869 to build up to 50 apartments. Additionally, in recent weeks, the Council gave the initial nod for the construction of three four-plexes on Stubblefield Lane.

Although the City of Liberty Hill relys on multiple wells to provide water to customers in old town, drought conditions in recent years have made it necessary for the City to depend more heavily on Chisholm Trail SUD to supplement its supply. However, the quest for more water hasn’t stopped there.

Liberty Hill is also in the process of trying to obtain its water from Lake Travis that will pass through the City of Leander water system.

Boatright told the Council this week that it could take two more years to see water flowing to Liberty Hill residents from that source.

“Williamson County is driving the boat on water from the standpoint that they want (right of way) property adjacent to CR 279 nailed down before we move forward with the line,” Boatright said.

The City and its engineers are working on the plan for construction of water lines that will include cost breakdowns and timing. The plan will be included in a utility rate study that is currently being conducted for Liberty Hill. Boatright said he anticipated the Council would see the first detailed report on the project at an August council meeting.

He added that if the Liberty Parke subdivision, a proposed development of about 300 single family homes off SH 29, “gets off the ground, it will help offset the estimated $2 million pricetag to bring that water here.

“The extension of the Leander (water) lines will have a major effect on our rates. We need to look at the timing and all issues associated with that,” he continued.

The City of Georgetown is in the process of taking over the operations and CCNs of the Chisholm Trail SUD and are awaiting final approval by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Boatright said the state agency must first hear multiple protests that have been filed.

In the meantime, neither Chisholm Trail nor Georgetown city officials are at liberty to negotiate for possible future release of CCNs to Liberty Hill, Boatright said. The City of Liberty Hill has been considering this as an additional option to obtain more water.

Currently, the City has outdoor watering restrictions in force. Even-numbered addresses water on Tuesday and odd-numbered addresses water on Wednesday.

As part of the 50-minute workshop Monday, Council members interacted with staff on a list of goals and projects in the works.

As part of Boatright’s update on pending developments, he said the Highway Twenty Nine Ranch developer had reached an agreement with property owners there regarding a proposal to build a commercial area at an entrance to an additional 100 homesites planned for the existing subdivision.

Earlier this year, the Council approved a request to rezone two lots in the subdivion to General Commercial. Some of the residents protested the zoning change on the property that had previously been annexed into the city. Boatright said the developer plans to come back to the City in the coming weeks to start the process of plat review. A preliminary plat has been on file since 2007.

Boatright informed the Council of a public meeting at 7 p.m. August 7 in the Council Chamber hosted by TCEQ regarding the City’s request for an expanded discharge permit at its wastewater treatment plant. Several residents in the area of the discharge point have protested, as well as the City of Leander.

Other goals addressed Monday are efforts to revitalize the downtown area — a long-held goal of many elected officials past and present.

Councilmember Elizabeth Branigan said that a committee working to designate placement of sidewalks in the area has agreed that the definition of the two square miles commonly known as “old town” should be considered “downtown.”

“We feel the area will develop better as two square miles rather than the one street,” she said. “It will be the hub for the area, social events and festivals.”

Ms. Branigan encouraged members of the community to provide input on the sidewalk placement, which she said would be area’s “traffic flow of the future.”

In recent months, the City was awarded a grant for 9,600 feet of sidewalks in the downtown area.

Among the other goals addressed Monday was one to improve communication between the City and the community. Council members suggested a city newsletter and a Facebook page.