Leander City Council approves rezoning for Hero Way tracts

Way could become home to an office park and an industrial facility after Leander City Council voted Aug. 21 to rezone two Hero Way properties.

City Council rezoned about 42 acres west of the planned Palmera Ridge neighborhood—at Hero Way and Ronald Reagan Boulevard—for heavy commercial use, and about 6.42 acres south of Hero Way for heavy industrial use.

Both votes were 5-2, with Mayor Chris Fielder and Place 6 Councilman David Siebold voting against.

On Aug. 8, City Council gave unanimous initial approvals to both property rezonings. Applicant Ryan Betz, manager of commercial real estate firm Betz Co., represented both properties. The 42-acre Wilde tract is owned by Charles and Arleen Wilde, and the 6.42-acre Larson tract is owned by Noel Larson, owner of Fabcon Products Inc.

Larson said a potential buyer planned to build a corporate office on the 6.42-acre site, but the buyer opted to move to the Scottsdale Crossing industrial park in Cedar Park. The 6.42-acre site is still for sale, as are other properties Larson owns on Hero Way, he said.

"I'm just doing my due diligence and being ready for when I sell these pieces of [land]," Larson said.

Larson said he plans to purchase the larger Wilde tract and could use part of it for RV storage. Betz told City Council an office park is planned for the Wilde site.

Under heavy commercial zoning the Wilde site can include offices, storage buildings, lumber yards, indoor manufacturing, warehouses and wrecker impoundment. Under heavy industrial zoning the Larson site can include outdoor manufacturing and assembly.

On Aug. 8, Hero Way residents spoke against both proposed rezonings. Residents including Andrew Lewis said more development on the Wilde tract would disrupt the neighborhood.

"[With] the topography of this land, there's no sound buffers anywhere to the east," Lewis said.

On Aug. 8, Leander Assistant City Manager Tom Yantis said city ordinances would require the site developer to add landscape screening where it doesn't already exist.

However, Betz on Aug. 8 asked for more time to do research about the Wilde property. City Council agreed to postpone a vote, then after recess of the same meeting City Council returned to the item and gave initial approvals for rezoning, with conditions that the site not be used for purposes such as an outdoor entertainment venue, pawn shops or payday lending establishments.

Place 2 Councilwoman Kirsten Lynch said she appreciated Betz's offer to meet the conditions.

"A lot of these compromises are making a big difference," Lynch said. "I think that's going to keep a lot of the neighbors happier."

But after the Aug. 8 meeting several Hero Way residents organized a Facebook page accessible at www.saveheroway.com and an online petition to stop the Wilde property rezoning. The petition had 87 signatures on Aug. 20, the day before the vote. Residents including Karen Hickam returned to City Council on Aug. 21 to repeat their opposition.

"The developer for this property has not presented any conceptual plan whatsoever of what he plans to do," Hickam said.

Resident Denise Lewis said the two-lane Hero Way is too narrow to support an increase in business traffic. Large trucks on Hero Way often cross into opposite lanes or slide off the road at curves, she said.

Residents asked why City Council on Aug. 8 postponed a Wilde site vote, then returned to it.

"The way that the rules work is that anyone who makes the motion or is on the winning side of the item [has] the right to bring that [item] back up the same night," Fielder said.

Council members did not address questions about traffic, but before the final vote Siebold said he was concerned about the Wilde site's proposed structures' exterior masonry standards—the city's mandates for buildings to include a certain percentage of rock or stone, such as for the sides that are visible from the road. Siebold made an alternate motion to approve rezoning but with fewer allowances for outdoor storage buildings and more restrictions on building appearances. Siebold's idea died after no other council member seconded the motion.

City Council also unanimously voted in favor of a voluntary annexation of the Wilde site.
By Stephen Burnett
Stephen Burnett has been a community journalist since 2005. He joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in November 2013. For the cities of Cedar Park, Leander and northwest Austin, he covers city and county government, business, development, events, transportation, utilities and more.


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