Council set to tackle long-range plans

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

For the first time since a lengthy discussion at the city council planning retreat in February, the council will discuss the progress of the drainage master plan at Monday’s regular meeting.

The agenda will also include consideration of the proposed transportation master plan and consideration of an engineering firm to handle the planning phase of the Stubblefield project.

The next step on the drainage master plan is for K. Friese & Associates to put the list of identified projects in order of importance based on a number of qualifications.

One of the primary reasons for the development of the drainage master plan is to make sure developers are partners with the city in absorbing the costs of dealing with drainage as well as partners in mitigating future issues caused by growth.

“Some of the drainage will be addressed through different capital improvement projects, but a large majority of it will be addressed by the private sector as development happens,” said City Administrator Greg Boatright.

In phase 1 of the city’s drainage master plan, K. Friese & Associates identified 17 problem areas in the city, which have been ranked based criteria to include the impact on property, streets, overlap with other projects, funding sources and the need for outside entity coordination.

In phase 2, the goal is to begin addressing these problem areas, the top five of which – based on rankings – were discussed at the council retreat in late February.

“We came up with 17 problem areas,” said Chad Cormack, with K. Friese & Associates. “We ranked them to determine how we would tackle these drainage issues throughout the city. Phase 2 is developing solutions on how we will address these issues throughout the city.”

The top five problem areas according to the rankings include Jenks Branch, downtown flooding, East Carson Ave., Liberty Trails Apartments and the City Park and County Road 200.

While solutions to these issues can be engineered and constructed, planning to get them done in a logical order and finding the funds to pay for them is something different.

“There will be 17 summary sheets for all the drainage issues in your city,” Cormack said. “This will be a living document, this will be what the city’s going to work through for the next five to 10 years, however long it takes to get them fixed.”

Having a documented comprehensive plan to deal with city-wide drainage issues will help guide future development as well as solve historic drainage issues.

“Once council gets this adopted, then Sally (McFeron) has a tool she can refer to,” Boatright said. “The more we can do that on the developer’s dime, the better off we will be. There will be opportunities, though, to partner through development agreements and those kinds of things.”

Potential options for covering the costs of drainage improvements were discussed in February as well, including a stormwater utility fee.

No plan to implement a fee is in place, but Boatright said it was time to begin discussions of the issue to determine what the council might want to present to citizens at a later date.
“We need to have that discussion as a staff, then make a presentation to council as to what we feel like would be the best option for our city,” he said. “Right now if I had to make a choice we would probably present to council the option of a flat fee that would help to start to underwrite some of these projects we need to construct.”

Cormack emphasized that being proactive about the drainage issue as growth occurred was much more cost-effective than being reactionary.

“We can get out in front of it and develop equitable ways to distribute the cost among the community, which would be significantly less now, or we could pay later when people are flooding and have to come back and do flood mitigation projects that are drastically more expensive,” Cormack said.

Revenue from a stormwater utility fund can be used for operations and maintenance. In the future, it would also allow the city to issue revenue bonds. Establishing such a fund would require an ordinance notification sand public hearing.

Other area cities including Round Rock, Kyle, Georgetown and Taylor have these fees in place.

What residents and businesses would be charged would be based on a Fee Equivalent Residential Unit. The base fee would be calculated on a single family home size and its average impervious cover. An impervious cover is anything that prevents water from seeping into the ground.

As an example, if the average was determined to be 3,000 square feet per property, then all single family residential units would be charged the determined base fee – such as $2 per month. That square footage would then be applied to multifamily, commercial and industrial uses to determine the fee for each. If an industrial building, along with its parking area, was 12,000 square feet, then the monthly fee would be $8.

“This would be a fee for new development within the city limits and it would fund future storm water infrastructure,” Cormack said. “It could pay for future culvert and bridge improvements as development comes in.”

This fee could be based on regional detention plans or preservation of 100-year flood plains. In some areas, developers could opt for on-site detention or pay a fee to help fund regional detention. In others areas, a fee would be developed to help with conveyance issues.

Regional planning for how to mitigate drainage is critical based on the big picture, according to Cormack, because while one development site may have a negligible impact, many new developments put together could have a much higher impact.

“We just want responsible development,” he said. “I think we have some options to look at. We’re at the very onset of this, the details haven’t been worked out, but have options for doing things holistically.”

On the roads again
As Liberty Hill puts more focus on long-range planning, the future transportation network is one of the first issues that gets attention.

For Mayor Connie Fuller, now is the time to take over such planning with the best interest of Liberty Hill in mind.

“For years we’d just look at maps and everything that was drawn was what somebody else wanted for us,” she said, adding that now the city can make it’s own plan and be part of the bigger discussion.

In April, John Dean with Bowman Consulting made the initial presentation of a proposed transportation master plan for the council to consider.

“We want to provide mobility options. I know congestion is getting to be an issue at a lot of different intersections and on different roadways in town, so we want to anticipate that and do our best to plan for it and provide alternatives,” Dean said, adding that in the process, they looked at current plans in place in other areas that could be tied into. “We took that information and laid out some roadway corridors, going back and forth with staff refining that, massaging it and get it where it achieves what we want to do in the most palatable, least offensive way, which can be difficult.”

The presentation focused on collector streets with a proposed right of way width of 70 feet. Typical design for these roads is two, 12-foot travel lanes with a nine-foot shoulder on each side, but could also have two 12-foot travel lanes plus a third 14-foot center turn lane with a two-foot shoulder.

“A collector is a roadway intended to bring traffic to and from neighborhoods and business areas,” Dean said. “It typically connects to arterial roads and has driveways on it to commercial properties. You really don’t want a driveway to a house on a collector street, but it happens a lot.”

Stubblefield, once completed, will be identified as an example of a collector.

“Arterials are more significant roadways and are intended to carry traffic over longer distances,” Dean said. “Typically you don’t want access to residential property on an arterial and you want to limit access to commercial property. It may happen, but you don’t want driveways every 10 feet because it really limits the functionality of the roadway.”

The right of way width for arterials is 100 feet, with typically four 11-foot lanes with a six-foot shoulder and a 16-foot center turn lane. It can also have a raised median in the center rather than a turn lane.

“In that median you can do landscape, you can dress it up if you’d like to,” Dean said. “That 16-foot center space allows you as you approach an intersection is to make a turn lane as well.”

Highway 29 is what Dean mentioned as an example of an existing arterial.

A number of corridors will be proposed, many of which will be meant to help move traffic better in areas like up and down County Road 200.

A bypass from Hwy. 29 on the east, connecting to CR 200 north of the railroad tracks is one option on the drawing board.

“We’re looking at the expansion of the CR 200 intersection, but we have the trap of that railroad track in that triangle,” Boatright said. “As 200 gets busier and busier, we need to come up with as many alternatives out prior to that intersection as possible.

“As we look at what the possibilities are out of 200, we have to remember it is maybe 10 percent developed. It can get so much worse. As we grow and expand our borders, this is the tool that the planning department will need to protect these areas because right now, it is still expensive right of way, but if we delay 10 years, it will almost be cost-prohibitive.”

The map will include many options, such as an extension of Long Run and Sundance Trail, both on the north side of town, east and west. The idea is for Sundance Trail to connect with 1869 closer to US 183 in the east and cross CR 200, connecting near Hwy. 29 to the west.

The Stubblefield extension could eventually loop around the south side of town, meeting and crossing Hwy. 29 and connecting to the Long Run extension.

“The entire purpose for doing this type of planning is to establish those corridors and as the development community comes in and starts planning with the city, we’re able to identify (the ROW plans) and not pay the huge amounts we would if we did nothing and let development happen without identifying the need for transportation lanes in the future,” Boatright said.
Tied into the future transportation plan, the council is expected Monday to name a firm to handle the engineering and planning for Stubblefield phase one and phase two as well.

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