City seeking to fund infrastructure projects
For years, development in southern Georgetown has been stagnant because of a lack of utilities in the area. However, as Round Rocks development continues to push northward, Georgetown city officials think now is the right time to invest in infrastructure projects that could bring a wave of new development to Georgetowns southern boundary.
The development is waiting to happen. The expensive and hard part is extending utilities, said Russ Boles, a principal with Williamson County real estate firm Summit Commercial. It has just taken Georgetown a while to build their infrastructure [in] that area. But they have a plan on how to pay for it, and obviously that is driven by developers and demand.
The Round Rock Premium Outlets and its surrounding retail and dining developments as well as the Teravista neighborhood are a good sign for Georgetown, Georgetown Economic Development Director Mark Thomas said.
Whats happening along University Boulevard [in Round Rock] could be in Georgetown, Thomas said. We are letting [developers] know that there are opportunities in this rapidly growing area.
Georgetown City Council could consider creating a tax increment reinvestment zone, or TIRZ, in April to help fund nearly $46 million in infrastructure projects, including water, wastewater, utility and transportation projects, for 603 acres located near the intersection of I-35 and Westinghouse Road.
[Developers] cant come to Georgetown because there is nothing to connect to, Thomas said. There is no reason that area wont continue to grow once they have the capability to [connect to the utilities].
A TIRZ is a special taxing district that caps property values at the value when the TIRZ is established. Any city property taxes collected on the increased property values are put into the TIRZ fund. Those dollars can only be used to fund improvements, such as roads and other infrastructure projects, in the zone.
New dollars that dont exist yet are redirected back to pay for the infrastructure that makes the area more valuable, Thomas said.
City staff presented the TIRZ option to council at its Feb. 25 meeting, and the first public hearing for the zones creation is scheduled for April 22.
Georgetown Chief Financial Officer Micki Rundell said the city would pay for some of the projects through bonds that would be reimbursed with the money raised by the TIRZ.
The increase in valuation could be as high as $700 million by 2020 within the zone, Rundell said. She added that, based on the increased value, the TIRZ revenue with 100 percent of the property tax collected is estimated to be $3 million per year by 2020.
The TIRZ is proposed to be dissolved after it raises $50 million, she said.
Projects considered for the TIRZ could include wastewater infrastructure, which is estimated to cost more than $7.7 million. Several road projects, including extending Oakmont Drive, that range in cost from $6.2 million to $28 million are also proposed.
Georgetown Transportation Services Director Ed Polasek said city staff were working on design contracts for the Oakmont Drive extension. The project could be done in partnership with the city of Round Rock and would extend the roadway from Teravista Parkway to Westinghouse Roads intersection with Rabbit Hill Road.
City of Georgetown staff are also working with Round Rock city staff to find a solution to the areas topography, which has made disposing of wastewater a more expensive prospect, Thomas said. Portions of Westinghouse road are on a lower plane, meaning wastewater from the area would have had to be pumped up to a treatment plant.
That region feeds into [Round Rocks] wastewater system because of the topography, Round Rock Transportation Director Gary Hudder said. So now that there is the potential for some development and rezoning, we have had to negotiate with Georgetown how we are going to make that [drainage] happen.
Thomas said that because several Georgetown city departments are working on design for projects in tandem with establishing the TIRZ, he expects a number of projects to begin soon after the TIRZ is created.
I think within a year there will be substantial construction on infrastructure, Thomas said. By the end of 2015, I think you would see substantial development activity.
Round Rock and Georgetown officials said the Oakmonts construction could open up the area for additional retail development.
I think Georgetown is seeing the wisdom because once [Oakmont] is constructed, all of the frontage along that new road more than likely is going to attract a high level of retail interest because Bass Pro [Shops] is there as an anchor, Hudder said. It makes sense for them to put the road in. Then they can develop the commercial property adjacent to the road, and it drives their tax base up.
In August, Round Rock announced plans for a Bass Pro Shops retail location at Oakmont Drive and Teravista Parkway. Thomas said he was hopeful the retailer would bring additional projects to the city.
Bass Pro is a great win for Round Rock, he said. When Bass Pro comes into an area, other projects come along. We are anticipating some of those could be other kinds of retail or hotels. Just the fact that they are going in next to Georgetown opens up the possibilities.
Other projects in the TIRZ could include up to 500,000 square feet in speculative office space for possible technology businesses or company headquarters, Thomas said.
We want to increase our odds and potential to have those kinds of jobsespecially headquarter locations and technology jobsset up in Georgetown, he said. [This area] seemed like a natural place for this to occur.
Plans for the area also call for additional residential and mixed-use space.
We had thought about doing this in the past but didnt have the economy to back it up, Thomas said. It probably would not have been as effective doing this five years ago.
Thomas said had the infrastructure been in place, he is not sure what type of development would have occurred in the area.
Were doing our part as a community, and weve found a great funding mechanism to put the infrastructure in and the timing is good, he said. The community will benefit, the companies will benefit and the citizens will benefit.
Additional reporting by JP Eichmiller