10 things to look for in 2017 in Cedar Park and Leander

1. More residential real estate growth anticipated in Cedar Park, Leander in 2017


Residential Real Estate Growth
Residents can expect several new residential developments to pop up in 2017 as residents continue to flood Leander and Cedar Park. But experts say housing prices and property tax payments could also go up.


The population of Cedar Park rose 35.5 percent from 2010-15, and the Leander population increased by 37.6 percent during the same time period, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Dec. 8.


Both cities will be in high demand for homebuyers in 2017 because of their proximity to health care facilities, quality school districts and thoroughfares into Austin, said Brandy Guthrie, 2017 president of the Austin Board of Realtors.


Guthrie, who works in the Cedar Park and Leander area, also said the increasing amount of retail and restaurant options will draw more residents.


“That’s always an indicator and a driver for where people want to be,” she said.


Home values and property taxes
Vaike O’Grady is the Austin regional director for Metrostudy, a company that provides data on residential construction and the housing market. Metrostudy representatives collect data by driving through the market and making physical observations on the status of new construction, O’Grady said.


She said the price of homes continues to increase, but the pace of that increase has slowed compared to 2015 and early 2016 because of competition—more new home options are available in surrounding areas, such as Georgetown and Liberty Hill.


“There’s more supply coming online ... outside of the Cedar Park and Leander areas,” she said. “Builders aren’t quite able to raise prices like they could have.”


The competition is prompting builders to offer smaller homes in the area to keep prices lower and attract more buyers, she said.


“That is working in favor of the customer,” she said.


Since 2010, the mentality has been “bigger is better” among builders and buyers because of lower interest rates caused by the economic recession, O’Grady said. But as interest rates increase, buyers may not be able to afford larger homes, she said.


Guthrie said much of the residential growth in Cedar Park and Leander is because the median home price in both cities remains lower than the Austin market. But with low inventory and high demand, Guthrie said she predicts home prices in the area will continue to increase.


“As property values continue to rise, it’s likely that property [tax payments] will increase as a result,” she said.


Property tax payments are one of the largest costs of home ownership for residents in Travis and Williamson counties, she said.


Residents will likely see higher property tax bills in Cedar Park and Leander this year. In September, Cedar Park City Council approved a property tax rate of $0.474 per $100 valuation for fiscal year 2016-17. The rate is a half-cent less than the FY 2015-16 property tax rate but is higher than the effective tax rate, or the rate that would generate the same amount of money as the FY 2015-16 budget, meaning property owners will likely pay more.


According to city data, the average home value in Cedar Park increased by 9.11 percent from 2015 to 2016—from $265,991 to $290,223. With the new tax rate, the owner of an average-valued home in Cedar Park could see an increase of about $101 in his or her tax bill in 2017.


Leander City Council also adopted a lower property tax rate in September of $0.599 per $100 valuation for FY 2016-17. Again the rate is lower than the FY 2015-16 rate but higher than the effective tax rate.


According to the city, the average home in Leander increased in value from $234,851 in 2015 to $262,729 in 2016, or an increase of 11.87 percent. The city estimates the increase will amount to $19 more per year on the average resident’s tax bill.


The rate of growth
In Cedar Park, Guthrie said homes are spending an average of 39 days on the market.


“Which means they’re selling very quickly,” she said.


Leander home sales are also up from last year, and the city’s demand is rapidly catching up to the demand to live in Cedar Park, Guthrie said. Leander also has about a dozen new developments in the works as well as available land where more growth can occur, she said.


Cedar Park does not have as much room to grow, she said.


“[Both cities] have been very smart about the developments … to ensure what they do have available is being utilized to its full potential,” Guthrie said.


O’Grady said the Leander and Cedar Park area has about 22 months of supply of vacant developed lots, which is considered healthy. Another 1,300 lots are in development, which means more new homes are coming to market in 2017, she said.


“It’s still a very active submarket,” she said.


Metrostudy data show the number of annual starts, or new construction in the area—at 2,030 for Oct. 1, 2015-Sept. 30, 2016—is close to the number of annual closings, or the time when construction is complete and the residence appears occupied—at 1,759 for the same time period. That means people are buying new homes, O’Grady said.


District plans for more students
Guthrie said Leander ISD has been planning for residential growth, and she said she is confident it can support the growing student population.


“I know that they work hand in hand, understanding where new developments are going in,” she said.


Leander ISD works with Population & Survey Analysts in College Station to keep track of future development as it relates to student population growth. According to representatives Pat Guseman and Stacey Tepera, who presented student population projections to the LISD board of trustees in October, LISD will need six more elementary schools, two more middle schools and one more high school In the next eight years.


Guseman said the district saw 1,100 more students in the 2016-17 school year, and it can expect an additional 1,100-1,350 students annually over the next 10 years.


Although the percentage of annual growth in LISD has slowed because of rising home prices, LISD was still the 14th fastest-growing school district in Texas last year, Guseman said.


LISD is scheduled to open Elementary School No. 26 in fall 2017 directly in front of Stiles Middle School on Barley Road in Leander.


Tom Glenn High School, which opened in the fall, is in the heart of north Leander where much of the district’s growth is occurring, Tepera said. But by 2024, Glenn will likely reach its threshold for overcrowding, she said.



2. Leander could annex land on southeast side of city


What we reported In April, Leander City Council approved the annexation of about 1,750 acres of privately owned land in 16 city-designated areas.  The city first considered annexing more than 3,500 acres, but council cut down the amount of land annexed through agriculture exemptions to qualifying landowners. On Dec. 1, City Council passed two resolutions that commenced the annexation process of about 1,200 acres on the southeast side of the city.


The latest Since the resolutions in December were passed, notification letters have been sent by the city to all affected property owners, and agriculture exemptions are currently being negotiated, Assistant City Manager Tom Yantis said. City Council held public hearings on the annexations Jan. 5 and 19.


What’s next The first reading of the ordinances will be held at a special-called meeting Feb. 9, and the final reading of the ordinances will be Feb. 16.



3. Cedar Park, Leander move forward on park projects


What we reported In 2015, Cedar Park voters approved a $5.65 million bond proposition for parks and recreation projects. In May 2016, Leander voters approved a $26.65 million bond proposition for the development and improvement of existing city parks.


The latest In November, Leander completed the purchase of parkland along the San Gabriel River, and design is in the works for Lakewood Community Park. The city has issued requests for qualifications for design work for synthetic turf at Robin Bledsoe Park, Mason Creek Trail and the senior center.
In December, Cedar Park City Council approved a resolution for the design and improvements at Veterans Memorial Park in an amount not to exceed $500,000. Improvements include dog park renovations, turf renovations at the sports fields, expansion of the plaza seating and pool resurfacing.


What’s next In Cedar Park, turf renovations, plaza seating and pool resurfacing could be completed in 2017, and renovations to the dog park are expected to be completed in 2018. The synthetic turf at Bledsoe Park in Leander could be completed around September, and design work for the Mason Creek Trail is expected to begin by March.



4. Leander population expected to hit 50,000 early this year


What we reported The city of Cedar Park’s population grew in 2010 to 50,000, which is a benchmark for any city, said Phil Brewer, Cedar Park economic development director.


The latest As of September, the city of Leander estimated its population to be 44,936. City Manager Kent Cagle said he expects the population to hit 50,000 in the first quarter of 2017, and the city has been preparing for growth.


What’s next As a city hits the 50,000 mark, which is determined by the U.S. Census Bureau, a few changes take place, Cagle said. The city of Leander would have to begin recording City Council meetings and posting those online, and the city would also take over maintenance and operations for traffic signals currently operated by the Texas Department of Transportation, he said.



5. Changes coming to Old Town Leander in 2017


What we reported Leander’s Fire Station No. 1 is scheduled to relocate next to the new Tom Glenn High School, and the current station, along with the connecting Pat Bryson Hall, will be renovated to serve several city departments. Leander last January also created the Old Town business grant program, which helps support businesses locating or expanding within the Old Town area. One of those businesses is Sweeten Up Bake Shop, which received a $30,000 grant to move the business into Old Town.


The latest On Dec. 15, Leander City Council approved funds to begin the Fire Station No. 1 relocation project and began discussing the Pat Bryson Hall renovation and expansion. Leander Assistant City Manager Tom Yantis said the expanded space will house the building inspection, economic development, engineering, municipal court, and planning departments and divisions. City Council also approved Old Town business grants for Ponyfoot Public House, a brewpub and Texas Office Machines.


What’s next While the city does not currently have other grant requests submitted, Leander Economic Development Director Mark Willis said he expects a couple of additional new business ventures in Old Town in 2017. Yantis said the renovated and expanded Pat Bryson Hall could be completed by the end of 2017.



6. Here are the new Cedar Park, Leander area schools in the works in 2017-18


What we reported Leander ISD’s 26th elementary school will open in August for the 2017-18 school year. It will be located in front of Stiles Middle School on Barley Road in Leander. The Leander ISD board of trustees approved an attendance zone for the school in June. The new school will relieve overcrowding at Reagan, Pleasant Hill, Whitestone and Parkside elementary schools.


Round Rock ISD’s Pearson Ranch Middle School will serve residents in the Avery Ranch neighborhood. The school will open in August for the 2017-18 school year.


The latest At an LISD board of trustees workshop Jan. 5, trustees were briefed on the process for selecting a name for Elementary School No. 26.


What’s next LISD closed the name nomination period Jan. 20. The board of trustees will hear a final list of name nominations and could vote on a name in February. The new school could be named after the community in which it is located, a historical site or event, or a significant individual. If the nominated name is after an individual, he or she must be a widely respected person of character who embodies a wholesome image and carries a background of service to the residents of LISD, Texas or the country.



7. More health care options coming to Cedar Park, Leander in 2017


What we reported In 2015, Cedar Park Regional Medical Center opened its Heart & Vascular Center, a 6,000-square-foot hospital expansion that included a dedicated cardiac catheterization laboratory as well as newer equipment for X-rays and analyzing images of a patient’s heart condition. CPRMC also partnered with Bluebonnet Trails Community Services to offer mental health care on-site in 2015. Austin Regional Clinic opened a new 20,000-square-foot clinic at 801 E. Whitestone Blvd., Bldg. C, Cedar Park, on Dec. 12. The new clinic offers family medicine, internal medicine and pediatric care. Read more about these options on Page 16.


The latest CPRMC offers joint and spine care, but the entity will open a dedicated joint and spine center on the fourth floor of its facilities sometime between October and December. The new center will include 12 beds, an exercise area and a community room for meals. The center will focus primarily on patients who need hip or knee replacement, according to Director of Marketing Laura Balla.


What’s next: Balla said CPRMC will explore expanding specialty services on its campus in the future with a concentration on creating a full continuum of care to meet the needs of patients and their families.



8. Cedar Park and Leander move forward on public safety investments


What we reported With a growing population and business sector in Leander and Cedar Park, both cities dedicated funding for extra positions and equipment for public safety improvements in the 2016-17 fiscal year. The cities’ police and fire departments also have several building projects underway that will help meet the needs of the growing departments.


The latest In the fall, Cedar Park City Council approved funds for a scenario-based training simulator and mobile command post for the police department. In Leander, Police Chief Greg Minton said his department has been in the process of hiring for new positions, and Leander City Council approved funding for a Sally Port entrance, or a secure garage area for an arrestee and officer, in the fall.


What’s next According to the city of Cedar Park, the modular training simulator is expected to be complete in the spring, and the mobile command post could become operational in late 2017. A new fire administration building should open in 2017, and an expansion to the police station and construction of Fire Station No. 5 should be complete in 2018.
Leander’s fourth fire station is expected to open at Ronald Reagan Boulevard and Crystal Falls Parkway around June, and construction of the Sally Port for the police station is expected for this year.



9. Cedar Park to examine land use for Heritage Oak Tree property


What we reported: On Nov. 17, Cedar Park City Council approved a petition that initiated the amendment process for a roughly 9-acre parcel on Quest Parkway in the city’s future land use plan, or FLUP. The parcel holds Cedar Park’s Heritage Oak Tree, a roughly 400-year-old tree that is strung with about 30,000 lights every December for the city of Cedar Park’s annual Tree Lighting and Santa’s Workshop event. The owners of the property, 900 Quest Parkway Partners Ltd., seek to change the plan to high-density residential use and proposed a mixed-use development with residential, office or retail space for the site. Richard Suttle, an attorney with Armbrust & Brown in Austin, which represents the owner, told the council in October that the development would be designed around the Heritage Oak Tree to preserve it.


The latest Since the petition was accepted, the owners submitted a rezoning application, which city staff is reviewing along with the FLUP amendment, according to the city of Cedar Park. All zoning decisions must conform to the FLUP, so the FLUP amendment must be heard and approved prior to the approval of a zoning request, according to the city.


What’s next If both the FLUP amendment and rezoning request for the property are approved by City Council, the site could then be developed as a mixed-use development. If the FLUP and rezoning are not approved, the property could be developed under its existing zoning of general retail use, which allows for a variety of retail, office and personal service uses, according to the city.



10. Bond projects in Cedar Park, Leander underway


What we reported In May, Leander voters approved four bond propositions totaling $70.9 million for city projects involving transportation, parks projects, a recreation center and a senior center. In November 2015, Cedar Park voters also approved four bond propositions totaling $96.7 million. The four categories were for streets and roads, public safety, park projects and a new library.


The latest Both cities were moving forward with several bond projects throughout 2016. In Cedar Park, Phase 1 of an arterial overlay project for portions of Lakeline Boulevard, Little Elm Trail, Cypress Creek Road, El Salido Parkway and Cougar Avenue was completed in 2016, according to the city of Cedar Park. In Leander, engineering work for an extension to Metro Drive, an extension to San Gabriel Parkway, Raider Way, East Woodview Drive, North Brushy Street and East Street are all underway, according to the city of Leander.


What’s next In Cedar Park, Phase 2 of the arterial overlay project is expected to begin in 2017. City Hall Building 6 and the extension of New Hope Drive from Cottonwood Creek Trail to Ronald Reagan Boulevard are both under design, and construction for both is expected to begin in 2017, according to the city of Cedar Park. Phase 1 of the Bell Boulevard Redevelopment Project is under design, though there is currently not a timeline for construction.
In Leander, construction is anticipated to begin on the Metro Drive and North Brushy Street project in 2017, according to the city of Leander. For updates on park projects.



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