Lakeway officials accept donation of 68 acres of open space in Serene Hills development

Charlotte Hodges, the city's director of building and development services, addressed City Council during the Jan. 21 regular meeting. (Courtesy city of Lakeway)
Charlotte Hodges, the city's director of building and development services, addressed City Council during the Jan. 21 regular meeting. (Courtesy city of Lakeway)

Charlotte Hodges, the city's director of building and development services, addressed City Council during the Jan. 21 regular meeting. (Courtesy city of Lakeway)

The developers of Serene Hills—a 456-acre development located north of Hwy. 71 and west of Serene Hills Drive that includes more than 300 single-family lots, a 34 acre multifamily development, 40 acres of commercial land, 8.26 acres of public parkland and more than 136 acres of open space or greenbelt property—has also proposed to donate to the city an additional 68 acres of open space containing a primitive trail system.

Official discussion around this donation first took place during the Dec. 16 City Council meeting, at which the city elected to table the item for a later date. During the Jan. 21 regular meeting, council voted to accept the donated acreage, but not before an extended discussion centered on wildfire mitigation and other issues associated with the land.

The donation comes in addition to a city-required parkland donation of 8 acres from the Serene Hills developers as stated in Lakeway’s city code.

During the Jan. 21 meeting, council discussed compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act for public facilities pertaining to a trail system that accompanies the land, maintenance costs, parking availability and fire hazards regarding the donated acreage.

Charlotte Hodges, the city's director of building and development services, said the city would further examine exactly what it has to do regarding ADA compliance for the trail system.

Parks and Recreation Director Andra Bennett also delivered a presentation to council on numerous challenges associated with the donated acreage, including wildfire danger, costs, parking and pedestrian access.

Bennett proposed putting a pull-out parking lot for the land on the east side of Serene Hills and added the area's proximity to various blind spots and high-speed roads make that the safest part of the tract for a parking lot, and farther north of the proposed lot would be the safest pedestrian access point.

"If you haven't had a chance to get out there—and of course, I'm a parks and rec person, so I'm going to tell you we need this land—but it really is beautiful. It truly is special," Bennett said to council, adding that even though there will be sizable costs associated with the acceptance of the donated land, the long-term investment is worth it. "It really is a little slice of heaven here in Lakeway."

Bennett provided some cost estimates, including for wildfire mitigation work that would max out at $140,000, tree maintenance costs that max out at $5,000 annually plus another $3,000 every five years, bridge upgrades at about $3,000 and general trail maintenance costing about $8,000. The addition of sidewalks for pedestrian access adds another $32,000.

City Manager Julie Oakley suggested the city apply for federal grants to help reduce the cost of wildfire mitigation.

Council Member Gretchen Vance said her main concern regarding the land and trail system is that without a parking lot, it feels like it would just be an amenity for those living within the Serene Hills development.

Mayor Sandy Cox said the costs associated with the land, which all tallied to about $290,000 not including a parking lot, are concerning but added she still wanted it to be city-owned land.

Oakley said at least some of the costs discussed could be absorbed by the city's potential pursuit of a bond proposal centered on roadway and infrastructure improvements targeted for the coming May election, and other costs could be phased in to diminish an otherwise more immediate draining of city coffers.

Ultimately council voted unanimously to accept the land, with several members echoing the notion that improvement costs can be assessed through a variety of payment options over time, and it is simply too valuable a donation to pass up.

During the Jan. 21 meeting, council also discussed receiving a financial contribution in lieu of less than an acre of dedicated public parkland for the 46-acre development called Lakeway Estates.

The agreement would authorize Oakley to negotiate the appropriate financial contribution with the developer. City information states negotiations have begun with the developer; however, at this time an agreement has not yet been made.

This agenda item was also first discussed during the Dec. 16 regular meeting.
By Brian Rash

Brian has been a reporter and editor since 2012. He wrote about the music scene in Dallas-Fort Worth before becoming managing editor for the Graham Leader in Graham, Texas, in 2013. He relocated to Austin, Texas, in 2015 to work for Gatehouse Media's large design hub. He became the editor for the Lake Travis-Westlake publication of Community Impact in August 2018.


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