Hutto city officials ask Williamson County to help with $15.5 million infrastructure improvements for Co-Op District development

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Editor’s note: Updated Dec. 6 for clarification of Hutto’s request to the county.

City of Hutto officials made their case at Williamson County Commissioners Court Tuesday morning for the county to partner with the city to help finance $15.5 million in infrastructure improvements for Hutto’s Co-Op District development.

Through a Tax Increment Reinvestment zone, or a TIRZ, Hutto hopes to finance drainage system infrastructure improvements that would help prevent flooding in the area, as well as make road improvements that will provide access to the proposed Co-Op mixed-use development and the surrounding community.

The Co-Op Entertainment District will be a mixed-use, walkable development with retail, high-density residential, entertainment, restaurant, civic and office components on a 25-acre plot of land, Hutto City Manager Odis Jones said during his presentation. It will be located on what is known as the Gin property, about 25 acres north of Hwy. 79 and west of downtown Hutto, which the city bought in 2004.

 

A TIRZ is an economic development tool in which a public entity or private developer invests in public infrastructure in an area. To repay the debt, the future owners or tenants within the zone pay portions of the future property tax revenue from within the TIRZ district.  A county can create a TIRZ, but only a city can issue the bonds.

As part of the deal, Hutto city officials asked that the county to contribute half of the incremental tax increase they would receive over the 20-year term of the project to provide funds to allow a road and storm drainage system to be built. Hutto’s  proposal also includes a request for Williamson County to sell an existing building at the development to the city in exchange for an appraised value price during a 24-month option period.

According to the city’s proposal, a regional storm, sewer and drainage system would cost about $3,675,000. Broad improvements including on Hwy. 79 and the east-west Live Oak extension would cost about $1.2 million. Utility relocation to accommodate the development would cost $625,000, and plans for a public parking garage list the probable price at about $10 million, bringing the total price tag for the deal to roughly $15.5 million, according to the city of Hutto’s presentation.

Concept designs for the Co-Op District also show building spaces for luxury apartments, restaurants, retail and office space, a movie theater, a hotel and conference center, a bank and an open-air plaza with an event stage located on the west end of the plaza lawn. Construction broke ground in early November.

In November, 72 percent of Hutto voters approved a measure to redirect Hutto’s sales tax funds for economic development to the Type B corporation instead of the previous Type A corporation. As a Type B corporation, the Hutto EDC can spend taxpayer funds on an expanded number of development investments, including land, buildings, restaurants, entertainment venues and even investing taxpayer funds to attract retail businesses.

Jones took the election results to mean that residents are in favor of the Co-Op district and the money it would bring to Hutto. Hutto Mayor Doug Gaul said the entertainment district would bring millions of dollars in cash revenue for the city, school district and county.

“But it’s not just about the revenue generated,” Gaul said. “It is also about the sense of community and the opportunities that will be generated. Residents are ready to have more places to eat, to shop and to do business. There’s a real excitement about what is going on.”

Commissioners took no action Tuesday and scheduled a public hearing regarding the TIRZ for Dec. 19 at 10 a.m. at the Williamson County Courthouse.

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