Leander City Council has approved a development agreement and conditionally approved a zoning ordinance for Leander's next big project.

The agreement for the Leander Springs project was approved Jan. 21 in a 6-1 vote with Council Member Christine Sederquist in dissent. The zoning ordinance will go before council Feb. 4 for final approval after minor changes are corrected in the zoning documents. The developer may move ahead with the concept plan and preliminary plat planning but may not submit them until council approves the zoning, according to the city.

Water concerns were a large consideration during the council's discussion, and the approved agreement addresses water service for the lagoon.

Per the approved agreement, at least one private well will be the primary water source for the crystal lagoon, but the city of Leander water can serve as a backup to the lagoon due to evaporation losses for up to 200,000 gallons per day. A security deposit for the backup is $15,000, and service to fill the lagoon is only available during December, January or February, which are off-peak irrigation periods. Curtailment of service is possible during maintenance operations or emergencies.

Sederquist said she was concerned that council was discussing water for the development when the city's water study is not complete.

“I just think we could have a more comprehensive view of where we’re at if we waited for the study,” Sederquist said.

The agreement also enforced masonry standards; followed changes in the zoning ordinance, such as resident admissions; and discussed a wastewater treatment plan if chemicals or other substances are present in the discharge.

Mayor Troy Hill said the city has to be cognizant of water because of past water issues and as other cities look at how to get more water as more people move to the area. In a hydrologist's previous presentation, the lagoon's water usage was compared to the use of a family of four, Hill said.

"We have to look at water over the whole with all the projects we currently have, all the projects that we are going to approve in the future," he said. "In my opinion, this is by far the best project that we've had come along in a long time. I'm super excited about it."

The proposed zoning change will amend the current planned unit development/transit-oriented development zoning to add multifamily and general commercial base zoning districts. From the first reading to the Jan. 21 meeting, the city made several changes to the land use and zoning ordinance. New changes included:

  • cleaned-up language and removal of repetitions;

  • added phasing requirements, such as a certificate of occupancy for the hotel for Phase 3 to begin

  • a 40% general admission discount for Leander residents to access the lagoon;

  • added requirement for 70% of the crystal lagoon to be for public access; and

  • addressing concerns of council of if the lagoon is not constructed, an amendment would be required.

Leander Springs is a 78-acre, mixed-use project with retail, restaurant, entertainment, hospitality, office and residential components. The fully developed project could be valued at $1 billion, according to the city.

Hill announced the project in October with an economic development agreement for $22 million in performance-based tax incentives. A 4-acre lagoon will be the center of the 78-acre project, and no other crystal lagoons could be built within a 30-minute driving radius. A hotel and a conference center will also be built.