Bee Cave officials question car dealership traffic study

At its Aug. 20 meeting, the Bee Cave Planning and Zoning Commission discussed a preliminary plat filed by Covert Auto Group on June 11 to construct a dealership in the city's extraterritorial jurisdiction.

Following a 30-minute closed session, the commission unanimously agreed to postpone the vote on the plat recommendation until Sept. 17.

Bee Cave Community Services Director Lindsey Winthrow presented the commission with the applicant's proposed plans for the eight-acre development located at 15900 W. Hwy. 71, Bee Cave.

The proposal includes two driveways, surface parking in the front for customers, two showrooms and a service center in the rear of the property, Winthrow said. Although she said the parking structure on the tract would be three stories tall, Kenneth Watkins, engineer with Bleyl and Associates Engineering, said that Covert was contemplating a four-level garage. However, because of the drop in terrain toward the rear of the property, the fourth floor would only be 16 feet above Hwy. 71, Watkins said.

Traffic study under fire

A traffic study of the proposed dealership showed an average of 1,500 cars, or about 3,000 total trips in and out of the property, are anticipated daily, said David Besly, from Bleyl and Associates Engineering, which conducted a traffic analysis of the Covert tract. He said that a car might have to wait three to five minutes to turn left out of the dealership, but a dedicated left- and right-turn acceleration lane was not warranted by the volume of traffic on Hwy. 71.

However, the traffic study did not take into account the Lake Travis ISD middle school planned for the area, Besly said. He said that he was unaware that a school was scheduled to be built nearby and that not taking the school projections into account likely rendered the traffic report moot. According to the LTISD website, the new middle school will be located on Bee Creek Road, just off Hwy. 71, and is projected to open in 2014 to accommodate an additional 1,200 district students.

Besly also said that his analysis did not consider school routes, number of accidents and the typical size of trucks in the area, statistics which commission members said were required by city ordinance to be reviewed in the report.

He said that he could not consider the general crash history in the area because there was no crash history related to an operating driveway at the site. Besly said the visibility on Hwy. 71 at the Covert tract was not a problem because the sight distance would be over 600 feet at the proposed driveway entrance.

The Covert property is located just outside of the Falconhead West neighborhood and east of Nitro Swimming in Bee Cave's extraterritorial jurisdiction. Watkins and Besly declined to say whether or not the Covert tract owners will voluntarily comply with the city's lighting code for their proposed dealership build.

Bee Cave community weighs in

Eric Johnston, a father to a 5-year-old son, lives directly behind the proposed dealership. He said most of his neighbors include families with young children. He told commissioners that he is concerned about cars from the dealership entering his neighborhood to either turn around or take a test drive and thus encountering children playing in the street.

Johnston said that the water runoff from the proposed area, which includes pavement and car services, might affect the environmentally volatile Edwards Aquifer located across the street.

The city's comprehensive plan was intended to protect the area's scenic views, and a four-story parking garage would not fit into the plan, he said.

Although the majority of citizens at the Aug. 20 Planning and Zoning Commission opposed the project, Lorraine Pennington of Mont Blanc Drive, Bee Cave, said she was in favor of the dealership's proposed project because she has purchased three cars from Covert since the 1990s.

She said the safety concerns of the citizens could be alleviated with a gate into the Falconhead West subdivision. The traffic issue presented by the dealership is nothing compared to the development headed west of Hwy. 71 in the next 20 years, she said.

First plat denied

Covert Auto Group's first preliminary plat was denied by the Bee Cave City Council on Dec. 17 based on the city's subdivision ordinance requiring two entrances and exits in all developments unless otherwise approved by council. At the time, Covert did not have approval for the second entrance and exit. Covert filed a second plat Feb. 7 and additional supporting documents on July 17, Winthrow said.

A discussion about the Covert tract was listed on the Bee Cave City Council Executive Session agenda for Aug. 27 but no statements were entered into the meeting record following the session.

At time of publication, Covert Auto Group did not respond to requests for comments.