Commissioner: Lack of water in lake still to be an issue
The Lake Travis area can expect similar growth in retail, development and real estate in 2012 to what it saw in 2011, according to speakers at the economic forecast luncheon held by the Lake Travis Chamber of Commerce on Jan. 18.
The speakers gave mostly good news to Realtors and business owners, but Huber pointed out that water woes could continue as lake levels continue to drop.
"I think we would be remiss if we didn't address the challenges that we face in 2012. We've had a lot of good news—we're in a booming economic cycle here," Huber said. "The forecast looks good from a growth standpoint, but we do have some challenges, and I feel like it's important we be aware of this as we go through 2012."
At last year's economic forecast, Huber spoke about a study that the county was supporting on the economic impact of the lake. It was completed in fall 2011.
"It was designed to be a tool. Water policy in Texas is very fragmented, and the entities that make water policy don't necessarily communicate well with each other, so we need good tools to help them make good policies," Huber said.
The study showed the assessed tax values of the properties surrounding Lake Travis were $8.4 billion, which is divided by taxing entities such as the state, local municipalities and Lake Travis ISD.
The lake is considered full at 681 feet above mean sea level.
"The study found that 660 feet [above mean sea level ] was the average optimum level for a dynamic economy," Huber said.
As of Feb. 3, despite recent rainfalls, Lake Travis was at 626.91 feet.
The study found that when lake levels fell below 660 feet, businesses in the area as well as home values were affected.
Despite lake levels, development in the Lakeway area has picked up somewhat compared with the previous two years.
"Even during a recession, our sales tax revenue has increased," Jones said. "Sales tax revenue is a direct indicator of your economic activity."
In 2011, the City of Lakeway had 165 new home starts, and Jones anticipates the same or more for 2012. He also anticipates 10 commercial permits in 2012 for new development projects.
The six areas Jones identified as the most active community areas are the Holiday Inn being built on RR 620, Tuscan Village, Discovery Point, the Lakeway Regional Medical Center, Serene Hills and Lakeway Highlands.
"I expect to see continued growth in both residential and commercial markets in 2012," Jones said.
Despite Bee Cave's reliance on sales tax for the majority of the city's revenue, Murphy said he does not expect a lot of commercial activity in the area at this time.
"The commercial growth in Bee Cave has kind of plateaued for the immediate future," Murphy said. "The [Hill Country] galleria is nearly 100 percent full now, and the Shops [at the Galleria] is 100 percent full. Even the office space in the galleria is leased out completely."
Falconhead West, Rocky Creek and Spanish Oaks all had many home sales in their new developments, Murphy said.
"We have Ladera coming on with Taylor Morrison, which is going to have about 250 houses," Murphy said.
Masonwood is also adding a development near Falconhead West with about 300 homes and 300 apartments.
Morningside between The Home Depot and Falconhead West has an agreement to put in 50 new single-family homes and about 300 condominiums.
Galleria Townhomes will have about 40 townhomes—two- to three -story single-family homes—facing the parking garages behind the Hill Country Galleria along Bee Cave Parkway.
"The housing market is very good here. We continue to attract successful, self-disciplined people with initiative who want to move out here and be in a nice neighborhood," Murphy said.