Georgetown council denies 300 new apartments near Water Oak neighborhood

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Georgetown City Council denied a development and wastewater agreement Dec. 11 for a proposed 300-unit apartment complex on Hwy. 29 west of city limits that was roundly criticized by residents in the adjacent Water Oak neighborhood.

Austin-based JCI Residential sought the agreement to begin initial steps toward building the complex, which was called Water Oak Apartments in city planning documents.

The Georgetown council denied the request with council members Steve Fought and Kevin Pitts voting in favor and council members Anna Eby, Tommy Gonzalez, Rachael Jonrowe and Valerie Nicholson opposed. Council Member John Hesser was absent.

Water Oak residents circulated an online petition opposed to the project that received several hundred supporters. Residents also attended the Dec. 11 council meeting, and several spoke to council members.

Roger Chappell, who is an alternate commissioner on Georgetown’s Planning and Zoning Commission but spoke to the council as a Water Oak resident, said those living in the neighborhood worried that the apartments would be out-of-place near the single-family subdivision and would harm safety, health, property values and quality of life.

The potential for increased traffic was a focal point of criticism.

“The traffic concerns are real,” resident Gary Cobb told council members. “The entire Hwy. 29 corridor is concerned about the safety issues along Hwy. 29. It is a monumental issue.”

JCI President Kurt Goll also spoke to council members and tried to counter concerns.

Goll said JCI has built and successfully managed similar developments, including the 300-unit Southpark Crossing and the 312-unit Estancia Villas, both in Austin, as well as the 152-unit Belterra Springs complex in Dripping Springs. He said JCI properties typically rent to younger couples looking to start families, older couples seeking to downsize and working professionals.

Goll disputed that the type of multifamily projects his company develops have had a negative impact on surrounding property values. He told council members the company would work to minimize negatives on the Water Oak neighborhood, including increased traffic.

Before the council’s vote denied an agreement with JCI, discussion centered on the development’s density and the buffer between existing Water Oak homes and the 20-acre property on which apartments would be built.

The apartments’ location in Georgetown’s extraterritorial jurisdiction would have brought less-strenuous development standards than if the location was inside city limits, although Goll said JCI was willing to follow some of the stricter in-city standards, including having at least 30 feet of landscaping to separate the apartments from the Water Oak neighborhood.

Gonzalez shared broader concerns that the city was approving too many new residential projects without seeing enough commercial and retail development to provide balance.

“I’m not opposed to the development; I’m just opposed to the development right now,” Gonzalez said before voting against the agreement.

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Evan Marczynski is editor of the Georgetown edition of Community Impact Newspaper, which he joined in 2016 as a reporter in Northwest Austin covering Austin-area health care and Round Rock ISD.
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