Council pushes new Liberty Parke entrance forward
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
The traffic hazards created by the current entrance to the Liberty Parke subdivision on SH 29 led the City of Liberty Hill to look for a safer alternative, which materialized in the opportunity to relocate the entrance and align it with the intersection of Stonewall Parkway and SH 29.
“No one can get out of there,” said Council member Steve McIntosh, a resident of Liberty Parke. “If traffic is normal no one can get out. I’ve heard about this for three years. It’s been asked of me for three years and we never addressed it because it was our understanding that TXDoT would not agree to do this so we didn’t even appeal to them. When we understood it was possible that we could move the exit and entrance down to the existing light, and that would give people protection turning left and right out of the subdivision, we started formulating the idea.”
The initial design, presented to the Council by Curtis Steger of Steger Bizzell, got the go-ahead from Council Aug. 13 to move into the detailed design phase, preparing the project to go out for bid.
The new design will eliminate the portion of Liberty Way at SH 29, and the new extension will come off of Liberty Way to the east and wrap around the back side of Classic Bank to line up with Stonewall Parkway at the traffic light east of the bank. A bank drive between the back of the bank lot and the new road is being added to the project in exchange for right of way from the bank.
Mayor Rick Hall said he hopes the project can go out for bid before the end of the year.
The estimated cost of the project, without contingency and engineering, is $1.33 million. Hall is hoping to cut that cost to the City some by diverting Williamson County road bond funds originally intended for the Long Run extension project, which would have extended that road on the north side of the Stonewall subdivision east to intersect with US 183.
“In the last (county) bond package there was money that was approved by the county to do some road construction work in the Liberty Hill area,” Hall said. “We kind of initially earmarked it and it was not advertised this way so the county has the ability to shift that money around based on a resolution request from the City.”
The shift in funds would make approximately $500,000 available for the project and there has been no announcement how the City would fund the remaining balance. Because the Long Run extension was not a project listed on the ballot for the county bond package it was not guaranteed funding, so the Commissioners Court would have to vote to dedicate those funds to the new project.
Hall explained that after the City was unable to annex the Stonewall Ranch subdivision into the city limits due to the debt cost of the MUD, there was no more opportunity to create a public improvement district that was initially intended to pay for the City’s portion of the Long Run extension. That extension is part of the City’s current long-range transportation plan, which Hall shelved in August 2019 when he told residents the current plan would be removed from the City website.
“I have taken the initiative to totally stop the transportation plan that we have in effect right now because we do have to go back to ground zero,” Hall said at the time.
To date, there has been no public discussion of a new transportation plan.
New retail developments
A site development plan for a new McCoys Building Supply was approved unanimously by the Council.
McCoys currently operates 88 stores in five states – Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arkansas and Mississippi – with its nearest regional store in Georgetown. The company – which began in 1927 – is headquartered in San Marcos.
McCoys will be a 26,000 square-foot retail building and warehouse on 12.5 acres located at the south corner of SH 29 and RM 1869, between SH 29 and Carl Shipp Drive.
“I think this is a great opportunity for the City of Liberty Hill to have a national brand to put us on the map,” Hall said.
The Council also approved the preliminary plat for the Heritage Ridge retail development.
The 10.5-acre development will include eight commercial spots and is located along the south side of SH 29, between the highway and Liberty Hill Junior High.
The property is heavily covered in trees, making tree preservation an issue for the developer. The proposal calls for the removal of 158 trees that are 10-inches or greater in caliper size, and at least 50 of which are considered legacy trees of 19-inches or more.
“One thing to note is there was extensive tree coverage on the subject’s property, and in recognition of that the applicant decided to place some concessions in the preliminary plat,” said Director of Planning David Stallworth.
Developer Michael Beevers, of Liberty Hill Investments, LLC, proposed a number of development concessions due to the planned removal of the trees to include an eight-foot shared use path along the 1,200 feet of SH 29 frontage, enhanced streetscaping along SH 29 and Championship Drive, and trash enclosures.
The development will be accessed in two places on SH 29 and also along championship Drive, which leads to the Junior High from SH 29.
Loop speed limit
The Council found itself at an impasse once again on the debate over the speed limit on Loop 332.
In July, the Council received the results of a traffic study conducted after the speed limit along the entire Loop was lowered in January to 30 miles per hour.
That study showed that the suggested speed limits along the Loop were actually the same limits previously posted, ranging between 30 and 40 miles per hour.
“The traffic study was completed about two weeks ago and we got the report last week,” said Curtis Steger of Steger Bizzell Engineering. “The recommendation is to increase the speed in different sections of 332 from the existing 30 mile per hour speed to 40 miles per hour (on some portions).”
Sign purchases in March show the City spent $350 on signage and the recent traffic study cost the City $3,550.
When asked why the speed limits were changed initially without conducting a traffic study, Hall said, “It was a gut instinct by the Council that we felt like it was too fast.”
This time the debate was over whether to change back to the original speed limits before the Main Street Social food hall, on the west end of the Loop between Liberty Hill Elementary School and SH 29, is opened.
“My recommendation is once the food court is open, maybe 30 days down the road, we do another study for right there in that section,” Hall said.
Council member Kathy Canady, who made the initial push for the speed limit reduction, said she was unaware that the study would not take into account projected future traffic impacts, and agreed that a new study after Main Street Social was open would be beneficial.
“If I’d have realized that wasn’t included I probably would have just shut my mouth and not said anything about it until after the food court was finished,” Canady said.
Also postponed was consideration of changes to the City’s drainage master plan, which Hall first brought to the Council in July and has presented for a vote now on two occasions.
Cindy Englehardt, with Halff Associates, was present at Thursday’s meeting to address the proposal shared by Hall, but was unable to speak specifically in detail on the current or proposed plans.
“I was asked to take a high-level look at the prior drainage master plan and provide high-level estimates of what it might take to reevaluate that drainage master plan,” she said. “Until we take a look, we really don’t know that, and I haven’t been able to take a look at the prior analysis either. I haven’t seen any of the models or anything associated with the prior analysis.”
Hall said the City would get that information to Englehardt for more analysis.
“We will have to dig that up and get that over to her so she can do a better assessment on that,” Hall said.
In July, the Council was given the new proposal Hall said was put together in partnership with Halff Associates. The plan emphasized five steps, including flood risk refinement, conceptual drainage capital improvement project refinement, drainage maintenance, a drainage utility rate study and drainage criteria recommendations. The estimated budget for the five areas to be addressed is $265,000.
The current plan, approved in 2018, was developed by K. Friese and Associates and was presented in phases. The Phase 2 report was 72 pages with methodology, funding recommendations, maps and a detailed list of 17 identified problem areas. The City invested $22,471 into the study.
Hall cited the high cost of implementing the project as his reason for seeking an alternative.