City, developer ink deal for Wolf Ranch project

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Agreements in place for 755-acre community

In the more than two years Iva Wolf McLachlan has worked on a development deal for 755 acres of her familys property at Hwy. 29 and I-35, her goal has been to honor the legacy of her father, who began buying the land more than 65 years ago, she said.

McLachlan said she spent more than a year investigating developers for the project before selecting Dallas-based Hillwood Communities, which began working on the project in October.

To hold the land this long and then to finally make a decision was huge. To enter into an agreement with a company to develop it, it took a lot of investigation to determine [the best developer], McLachlan said. The convergence of the timingwhere we were able to partner with Hillwood and to allow Hillwood to do the developmentat the same time we are finally coming out of the economic recession and there is a high demand for housing it was kind of a good marriage, so to speak, of two families, and we are very proud of working with Hillwood.

On Aug. 12, after more than nine months of meetings between city officials and developers, Georgetown City Council approved a development agreement with Wolf Legacy and Hillwood Communities to create Wolf Ranch Georgetown, a master-planned community with more than 2,000 residences, 130 acres of open space and 20 acres of commercial development on the familys property.

Hillwood has developed residential communities throughout the U.S. and has two developments in the Austin area, including Sarita Valley in Leander.

Building a community

Hillwood Senior Vice President Brian Carlock said the development company is expected to close on about 637 acres of the property in October. The remaining 118 acres will be purchased at a later date, according to the agreement.

Hillwoods closing triggers the next step in the annexation process, Carlock said. We expect to be annexed into the city of Georgetown by the end of November.

After annexation is completed the area will be zoned as a planned unit development, which allows for flexibility in permitted uses and can establish customized standards for projects that have different types of uses, City Attorney Bridget Chapman said.

The project is expected to include more than 1,600 single-family residences, 388 multifamily units and 336 age-targeted units; however, specific numbers could change as developers begin engineering and platting the property, McLachlan said.

Carlock said the start of construction would depend on how quickly plans are processed by the city.

Our expectation is that we would see things happening in the spring, he said, adding that it could take about nine to 12 months for the infrastructure to be developed. The infrastructure could be in place by spring 2016, and model homes could also be completed in spring 2016.

Hillwood is still in the process of completing a tree survey as well as a traffic impact analysis and final plats for the development, Carlock said.

Were not stopping; were not pausing, he said. We are really going as quickly as practical to get the project going.

The site is expected to be developed in seven to nine phases with about 150 to 200 lots per phase.

Homebuilders could be selected once lot sizes and platting is completed, and homes are expected to cost between $250,000 and $600,000, Carlock said.

Planning is also underway for 130 acres of parkland and open space, including 7.5 miles of trails that will be connected to the citys trail system, according to the development agreement. The project will also incorporate about 17 acres of dedicated parkland behind Wolf Ranch Town Center to create a 37-acre park along the south fork of the San Gabriel River, McLachlan said.

Carlock said in recent surveys parkland and trails were rated as one of the most desired amenities in new developments.

Were excited about what Mother Nature has given to us to work with, he said.

Hillwood has also dedicated about 15 acres for an elementary school as well as 2 acres for a future fire station although a final location has not been determined for either site, according to the agreement.

[This property] is close to good transportation with I-35 right there, close to great job hubs, good schools, beautiful land, Carlock said. We really like everything [about the location], and we love this particular property.

MUDs development

Along with the development agreement, City Council approved a consent agreement that will allow Hillwood to create two municipal utility districts, or MUDs, in the city limits to help fund the developments infrastructure.

MUDs are overseen by an elected board of directors chosen by MUD residents and is responsible for finances, management and policies within the MUDs boundaries.

The district is able to take on debt by issuing bonds to pay for infrastructure including parks and roads as well as water and wastewater lines. Those costs are then passed on to the future homeowners, who pay off the debt through property taxes.

According to the consent agreement the maximum property tax rate for properties in the MUDs is $0.65 per $100 property valuation, and the districts must issue all bonds within 10 years of the first bond issuance, Georgetown Chief Financial Officer Micki Rundell said.

Residents living in the MUDs will also pay the citys property tax; however, 15 cents of the city taxes paid by MUD residents will be used to fund city-obligated projects within the development, according to the agreement.

Future development

Along with the Wolf Ranch Georgetown project, McLachlan has another 161 acres of land that has been set aside for a mixed-use commercial project to be known as Wolf Lakes, according to an agreement with the city.

The property is double the size of Wolf Ranch Town Center, she said.

The fact is when we eventually do this 161 acres of commercial and retail, it will be a fabulous addition and will work well with what we already have at Wolf Ranch, McLachlan said. [The two centers] will be combined for a really major commercial, retail, mixed-use center.

McLachlan said plans for Wolf Lakes have not been finalized.

We are waiting on [Wolf Lakes], and we have not determined who will develop it yet, she said.

About 110 acres of Wolf Lakes not currently in the city limits was included in the agreement, which says when the area is annexed it will be a commercial development, McLachlan said.

Here we are 1 mile to downtown; weve got Southwestern University, San Gabriel Park, the rivers, Lake Georgetown, Garey Park and were in the heart of all this. Its [nearly]1,000 acres near Hwy. 29 and I-35. Thats what makes this so unique to be able to have a development of this size right in the heart of the city, she said. Usually to get 1,000 acres you have to go way, way out of the city.

Thats what I think will make it so special and such a transformative project for the city. That whole conceptlive, work, playyoull be able to do it because youve got parks, rivers, downtown, Southwestern, Garey Park, the lake. I just think its going to be a fabulous place for people to live, work and play, she said.

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