Williams Drive targeted for redevelopment projects

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The city of Georgetown has deemed Williams Drive a priority for redevelopment projects in 2014 to revitalize the area and help the commercial corridor continue to grow.

City Council could consider removing the Williams Drive Special Area Plan Overlay District rules that govern a portion of the roadway in March and begin reinitiating a plan later this year to develop the area near the roadways intersection with I-35.

We have this major corridor that also serves as a gateway into our city; lets do something with it, Georgetown Project Coordinator Andreina Davila-Quintero said. Its like a three-part project or three separate projects. Its something we are picking up again and we want to move forward with, and we are just starting with [removing]the overlay district.

The project, which could also include infrastructure improvements and beautifying projects such as sidewalk improvements, streetscapes and relocating power lines underground, is a multi-year project for the city, City Manager Paul Brandenburg said.

We want to look at Williams Drive in general and improve the look and feel [of the roadway], Brandenburg said, adding that he has often heard people ask why Williams Drive does not have the same look as downtown with buried power lines, sidewalks and old-fashioned streetlights. I think the first step is trying to move forward with lifting the overlay district and then move forward with [working on]the look and feel because its changing.

Overlay zoning

In 2003, the Williams Drive Special Area Plan Overlay District, which runs from Shannon Lane to Power Road, was created to help the light-commercial uses that had developed along the roadway coexist with the surrounding homes.

The overlay district applied standards set by City Council in 1986 including requiring new developments to have the same appearance and scale as a residential building.

City Council approved a resolution in September to begin the process to remove the overlay district.

We want to be more consistent with what our future plans are for the city, Davila-Quintero said. The standards in the overlay district were the same as [city standards]in the 1980s. A lot has changed in the past 30 years. The market has changed, and our community has evolved.

The zoning change would allow more offices, including medical facilities, as well as personal services, such as salons and day spas, dance studios and restaurants with some limitations, Davila-Quintero said.

[The overlay district] established a framework of regulations that required a residential appearance, Georgetown Planning Director Andrew Spurgin said. We want it to be a lot better looking than what it is today and hope that whatever happens will tie into [the rest of]Williams Drive and what is happening to the west [with new developments].

Public involvement

In December the city hosted a community meeting to discuss removing the district, which would ease restrictions to property owners wanting to develop their land in the overlay district.

Some residents at the meeting supported removing the district.

Its restrictive and doesnt allow anyone who has the desire to come in and make it a better piece of property with higher taxes for the city, one property owner said at the meeting. Its so restrictive now you cant do it, and Ive never understood it from the get-go. I think this is a much better proposal than what had been on Williams Drive.

Others said they were concerned removing the district may cause making any changes to existing developments more difficult; however, Davila-Quintero said anything previously allowed would still be allowed after the change.

Ive had several people in this room approach me [questioning]what they could do with their property, Brandenburg said at the meeting. This overlay district becomes very cumbersome. I think its antiquated in my opinion. It made sense at one time.

The plan to remove the overlay district will be presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission in February and could be considered by City Council in March, she said.

Williams Drive Gateway

Davila-Quintero said the next phase of Williams Drives redevelopment could include redoing the Williams Drive Gateway Redevelopment Master Plan, which was originally written in 2006.

The goal of the redevelopment master plan was to revitalize the area, which had been hampered by poor access, a lack of vision and fragmented property ownership, according to the 2006 document.

We may start [in 2014], she said. Conditions have changed since it was first drafted. [We need to study] what is still applicable today and what we need to do to move forward.

The document featured a conceptual land use and transportation plan for the approximately 70-acre area, which included the former McCoy Elementary School and properties along the southbound I-35 frontage road.

Davila-Quintero said part of the update could mean redefining the plans boundaries and reassessing transportation needs.

One of the things that is going to help us is the Rivery Boulevard expansion, she said. The alignment was approved earlier this year, and the final design has been pushed to the next fiscal year.

Rivery Boulevard will be extended to Northwest Boulevard and is expected to help ease traffic congestion along Williams Drivea concern raised by property owners and residents at the overlay public meeting.

Rivery Boulevard being extended [will help]alleviate that traffic, Brandenburg said. Right now one of the problems is all of the traffic is being dumped on Williams Drive, and there is no other east-west road.

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