Developments loom large along Bee Creek Road section

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A massive sports complex, a new elementary school and medical offices—these are the large-scale projects planned or already in progress for a stretch of road in western Travis County many residents say is not yet equipped to deal with the growth.

The area along Bee Creek Road has been the site of massive developments that include the Bee Creek Sports Complex, The Paddocks multiuse development and Lake Travis ISD Elementary School No. 7.

Development increases have caused concern among residents fearing heavy traffic, light pollution, public safety and the many growing pains that accompany construction.

“I understand and appreciate development and growth,” resident Bob Steckler said. “The growth would be easier to take if the builders would not destroy landscape as they build,”

Steckler, a 10-year resident of the Bee Creek area, added much of the wildlife he used to enjoy has been forced to leave.

While there are already signs of heavy development along the portion of Bee Creek just north of Hwy. 71, other effects of growth loom on the horizon.

Travis County voters approved $23.5 million in funding for the Bee Creek Sports Complex at 4440 Bee Creek Road during the November 2017 bond election, and the city of Lakeway approved a formal agreement to lease 70 acres to Travis County for the use of the complex.

According to concept plans, the Bee Creek Sports Complex will include 560 parking spots to accommodate the soccer, baseball and football fields and various meeting buildings.

Stantec Consulting Services, the engineering firm hired by Travis County, reports the official design plans for the complex are 60% complete.

Through the bond election and open house meetings, the complex has seen substantial public support, but many community members have expressed concerns about conserving the landscape.

“When most developments come in they have to clear existing vegetation,” Lakeway City Manager Steve Jones said. “After all is said and done and there’s been a little time for everything to grow back, typically the development looks good.”

Lakeway Building and Development Director Charlotte Hodges said the city of Lakeway implements requirements that mandate site plans cannot include more than 60% impervious cover. That includes any section of the development that is impervious to water, such as buildings, concrete parking lots and other paved components.

The sports complex is subject to tree-protection ordinances and landscaping requirements, and the complex has submitted an approval of protected tree plans, Jones said.

Protecting the Hill Country’s vegetation is not the only concern for neighboring communities.

Residents said they fear late-night light pollution as a result of 70-foot field lights approved within the complex’s concept plans, but Jones said the quality of the lights planned for installation will not be intrusive to nearby homeowners.

“One of the reasons they’re so high is so they can shine straight down and not out of the property,” Jones said.

The goal is to reduce light pollution, and the complex is willing to allocate necessary funds to do so, according to Jones.

Public safety along Bee Creek has also been a major concern for residents, many of whom describe issues with traffic buildup along the rural two-lane road.

Pedernales Fire Chief Troy Wenzel said his department will have the lead in responding to emergency calls in the area, and added PFD will receive assistance from surrounding Travis County departments as a result of automatic or mutual aid, meaning the closest available department will respond to an emergency.

“One of my original concerns was that [the Bee Creek Sports Complex]didn’t have good egress,” Wenzel said, referring to attendees’ ability to exit the facility.

Wenzel said there are tentative plans to construct a secondary means of egress and access for emergency vehicles, which will require approval from Travis County Transportation and Natural Resources before construction begins.

Residents have also expressed concerns surrounding LTISD Elementary School No. 7, which is scheduled to open August 2020.

LTISD broke ground on the new school April 16, embarking on a yearlong, $31.51 million construction project necessitated by increased student enrollment, according to the district. The building will encompass over 102,000 square feet and have a capacity of approximately 850 students.

The size of the school and its planned enrollment, coupled with the current size of Bee Creek, has also led to concerns among some residents.

“Bee Creek is a winding road with many blind spots,” resident Mariska Berkley said. “The drop-off and pickup lines [for the school]will run into Bee Creek Road and cause a dangerous scenario with the turns in the road.”

Wenzel said he was told LTISD planned to widen Bee Creek and put in a turn lane to better facilitate traffic flow.

LTISD Director of Communications Marco Alvarado confirmed a traffic study related to Elementary School No. 7 is underway from an engineering firm working on behalf of the district, but a draft is not yet available.

Bee Creek will also see the addition of the Paddocks at Bee Creek, a proposed medical and retail development that could open one of its buildings adjacent to Lake Travis Middle School at 4900 Bee Creek Road by December, according to property owner Tommy Reagan. Lakeway City Council approved the initial permit for three buildings sized at 5,433, 9,898 and 9,530 square feet April 15.

Due to the increase in development on Bee Creek, traffic remains a concern for residents, especially if officials execute any kind of major expansion project on the roadway to meet the demands of growing development.

“I truly fear that if they widen Bee Creek to … four lanes with divider and bike lanes and sidewalks, and then make Bob Wire [Road] larger, that it will become a very heavily traveled cut-through to [Hwy.] 71 from Lakeway,” Berkley said.

The city of Lakeway requires new developments within its city limits and extraterritorial jurisdiction, land not within city limits but annexed by Lakeway, to fill out a traffic analysis worksheet, according to Hodges. If a proposed development is projected to generate over 2,000 daily trips based on information from that worksheet, then the developers are required to conduct a full traffic analysis, Hodges said.

Hodges said developers for the Bee Creek Sports Complex have not yet submitted full site-development plans, but once a traffic impact analysis is completed, it will be reviewed by the Lakeway City Engineer’s office.

Some residents remain fearful of developments being constructed before roadway modifications are made.

“It’s like they put in developments first and make adjustments after,” Stubbs said.

Jones said he understands the concerns of the community, but added that in Texas property owners have a right to develop their land.

“I was here before Steiner Ranch [was built], and I remember driving by and seeing that pristine hillside with not a building on it,” Jones said. “Now, it’s covered with rooftops. That kind of thing has an impact on you, and I appreciate that. We can’t always satisfy everyone, but we do listen, and to [that]extent, we can help them.”

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