A public information workshop hosted by the city of Leander drew vitriol from residents of the Cold Springs neighborhood, many of whom said the city changed a voter-approved plan for Lakewood Park without public notice.
Leander voters approved $10 million in bond funds in May 2014 to build Lakewood Park adjacent to the Cold Springs and Hazelwood subdivisions. Vehicular entrance to the park was originally planned to go through the undeveloped Crystal Springs neighborhood. City Manager Kent Cagle said the city lost access to Crystal Springs when its developer, Buffington Homes, walked away from the development after its funding partner fell through.
"The land is on the market now," Cagle said.
He said the city identified a qualified buyer in past six weeks—American Century—who would be willing to dedicate the land needed for the park and its entrance.
"They want to close by the end of December," Cagle said.
But the city was awarded a $400,000 grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that it must use on Lakewood Park by January 2018 or it will be revoked, Cagle said. In order to begin work on the park before the grant expires, the city presented a new park plan that, among other changes, would shift the primary entrance into the Cold Springs neighborhood temporarily.
The Cold Springs neighborhood was originally slated to have only a hike and bike trail entrance to Lakewood Park. Residents argued a vehicular and construction entrance would be unsafe for neighborhood residents, especially children.
Ryan Thompson, former Cold Springs Homeowners Association president, was among the first of more than 20 people to speak in opposition to the new entrance proposal. He said the city did not contact any of the residents of Cold Springs to inform them about the change. When he tried to contact the Leander Parks and Recreation Department, he said his emails went unanswered and his calls went unreturned.
"We are being misled by our city," Thompson said.
Cagle said the city did not want to attend the Oct. 27 workshop without a proposal, but the proposal was subject to change based on residents' input.
When another resident asked if the temporary entrance to Lakewood could be constructed somewhere other than Cold Springs, the design project manager said the park was confined by private land on all other sides.
Numerous residents said they would not have voted for the 2014 bond if they had known access to the park would go through Cold Springs. Resident Scott Calame asked if the city knew the original Crystal Springs developer was in financial trouble at the time of the 2014 bond election.
"We knew there were some issues," Cagle said.
Others said narrow roads in the neighborhood have caused trucks and SUVs to flip in the past, and they feared with more traffic coming in and out of the park, it would happen with children present. Many residents in the crowd agreed the city should give up the state grant and wait until a developer purchased Crystal Springs to being construction on the park.
At the request of residents, Cagle said he would find out whether Texas Parks and Wildlife would extend the grant beyond the January 2018 deadline and whether the city could somehow construct a roadway through Crystal Springs prior to its purchase by a developer.
"We're here tonight, and we're listening to you," Cagle said.