In a 4-3 vote, the Lakeway City Council voted Nov. 15 against a compromise measure to allow for the development of workforce housing on an undeveloped site at the intersection of RM 620 and Nightingale Lane.
The measure, offered by council member Laurie Higginbotham, would have allowed a density of 20 workforce housing units per acre–less than the roughly 32 units per acre offered earlier in the evening by Conine Residential Group Inc. and its Nightingale at Lakeway proposal.
Higginbotham said she made the motion to balance Lakeway’s generally accepted need for affordable housing and the concerns surrounding neighbors of the Nightingale project had for the density of the Conine housing proposal. Those living nearby the proposed site said during a public hearing that the amount of traffic generated by the project would be unsafe for the neighborhood.
Joining Higginbotham in voting for the lower-density proposal were council members Gretchen Vance and Sanjeev Kumar. Voting against the proposal were Mayor Tom Kilgore, Mayor Pro Tem Louis Mastrangelo and council members Keith Trecker and Steve Smith.
“I think it was a missed opportunity, but I don’t think it was the last opportunity,” Higgenbotham said after the vote. “I think there is universal support for workforce housing. I think the question is always where and how dense.”
Opposition to Higginbotham’s motion centered around the need to adhere to the city’s future land use map, or FLUM, which Higginbotham’s motion would have altered to allow for a residential apartment complex to be built at Nightingale Lane. The current FLUM calls for commercial development at this location.
“I still have great difficulty giving up the commercial lot on 620,” Kilgore said during a council discussion of the Nightingale proposal.
Kilgore said the city has a need to generate sales tax revenue from areas designated for commercial development and that it has made an incremental step toward workforce housing by requiring the developer of The Square at Lohmans to investigate affordable rental units within its mixed-use development planned for acreage off Lohmans Crossing.
Earlier in the meeting Kent and Meg Conine of Conine Residential Group presented their workforce housing plan to Lakeway council members. They had sought to create a public utility district, or PUD, on the 7.6 acres of land at Nightingale Lane and RM 620. That PUD would have allowed for a 248-unit apartment complex intended for people earning on average 60% or less of the area median income. That works out to between $40,000-$60,000 depending on a family’s size, according to statements made by Meg Conine during remarks to council.
Higgenbottom’s motion would have allowed for a complex with about 152 units, and the city’s current zoning for multifamily residential housing allows for a complex with 12 units per acre for a total of 91 units.
After the meeting Kent Conine said he had no comment on the council’s action, but during his presentation to council he said the Nightingale proposal was the city's best option to build workforce housing and that the city has no other feasible locations for workforce housing due to the restrictive zoning within Lakeway.
“Workforce housing is difficult to deliver under any circumstances–and Lakeway does not currently have the land use tools to achieve it,” according to a statement Conine presented to council members.
During a public hearing on the matter, local residents and business owners came out for and against the Nightingale workforce housing complex.
Local business owners said they have trouble retaining employees who drive from other communities into Lakeway to work.
Christy Black, who operates Primrose Schools in Bee Cave and Lakeway, said business owners deserve the support of local government through initiatives like workforce housing.
"Not supporting workforce housing feels like you are not supporting your businesses," she said in her remarks to council.