Neighbors in Woodland Park subdivision have traffic concerns, ask city to close connection

Georgetowns largest development is expected to grow even larger starting in 2015. The Sun City expansion project is one of the largest development projects the city has seen since Sun City itself was proposed in 1995, Georgetown Principal Planner Jordan Maddox said.

This dwarfs all of the recent projects [we have seen], he said.

The projects developer, Del Webb, is under contract for nearly 1,200 acres in two tracts known as Somerset and Queen. Each section is expected to be primarily residential, said Brent Baker, Pulte Group vice president of operations. Del Webb is part of Pulte Group.

Sun City is one of the leading active adult communities in the country. Its been right at the top of the highest-ranking communities in terms of total sales, Baker said. Certainly with that being one of the leading communities in the area and in the country, we were looking for ways to expand the project.

The expansion project is expected to add about 2,400 homes to the development.

Expanding development

Sun Citys existing area already includes about 7,000 homes with about 500 lots awaiting construction, Baker said. With the additional properties, the development will total more than 5,200 acres and have nearly 10,000 homes when built out.

In October, City Council is expected to approve the second readings of the rezoning ordinances for the 768.9-acre Somerset and 405.9-acre Queen tracts as well as the second readings annexing both properties into the city limits.

Along with the additional homes, both tracts will feature a combined 60 acres of retailabout 40 acres are planned along Hwy. 195 in the Queen tract, and 20 acres will be included in Somerset. The planned retail location in the Somerset tract, which has frontage along Williams Drive and Ronald Reagan Boulevard, has not been finalized.

On Somerset we have flexibility to put [the retail] where we want. We will keep researching where we think the best fit is, Baker said.

Construction on seven new home models began in late September and is expected to be complete by the end of this year, Baker said.

[The new model homes] focus on entertainment, easy and effortless lifestyle, connectivity, rejuvenation and universal design, he said. With features such as raised dishwashers, abundant storage, indoor and outdoor entertainment areas, connectivity spaces and dual owners suites, Del Webb has put in a lot of research, time and effort to create plans that will really appeal to our active adult homeowner.

Installing infrastructure on the Somerset tract is expected to begin in early 2015 with construction on homes beginning in the summer and in late 2015 the first residents will be able to move in, he said.

Expansion plans also include amenity centers on each tract, Baker said.

We are doing 1218 months worth of research to determine if there are any new amenities that we dont have that we could add, he said. We will add our staples and do the research on any new trends.

Amenities could include tennis courts, fitness centers, swimming pools, walking trails and multipurpose space, he said.

Baker said he will host presentations throughout the day Oct. 30 for Sun City residents to get more information about the expansion. The presentation will be at the social center at 2 Texas Drive.

Transportation issues

Baker and Maddox said the areas response to expansion plans has been relatively positive with only a few people concerned with the growth; however, residents in the Woodland Park neighborhood, which abuts Sun City, have raised concerns about increasing traffic.

In April the city opened a connection from Sun Citys Apache Mountain Lane to West Majestic Oak Lane in Woodland Park to allow more connectivity in the area. Since that time, residents in Woodland Park have grown increasingly concerned about the uptick in traffic.

Several Woodland Park residents began a letter-writing campaign to the city seeking to have the connection closed to through traffic, citing higher traffic counts, speeding drivers and near collisions involving pedestrians.

The creators and approvers of that plat map may have thought they were doing the right thing to open an emergency exit for Sun City, but they could not see the future of GPS technology, rapid growth expansion and the massive number of cars and trucks that would cut through Majestic Oak Lane for a convenient, quick route to and from Williams Drive, said Charles and Barbara Perkins in a letter to the city. This is a human health and safety issue. With each additional phase of Sun City the problem will only worsen.

Georgetown Planning Director Andrew Spurgin said the citys police department and transportation department are both looking into the issue.

I would hate for a hasty decision to be made without some more quantitative analysis behind it, he said. The idea of doing [traffic] counts is we could do some analysis and give City Council some technical detail. The anecdotes from residents it would be helpful to back it up with an engineered traffic study.

Traffic counts completed by the city on May 22 and Aug. 28 showed a 103 percent increase in traffic on Majestic Oak Lane during that period.

A memo from Transportation Engineer Bill Dryden dated Sept. 16 states: While [the traffic count] demonstrates a significant increase in traffic, these data are insufficient to begin to develop any trends for the demand upon the roadway.

Maddox also noted the need for the roadway connection in cases of emergencies such as the flooding after Tropical Storm Hermine in 2010 and the overturned tanker in 2011 that closed Del Webb Boulevard, which serves as the main access point to the development from Williams Drive.

Thats one of the reasons public safety wants [the roadway] opennot just to get our police and fire trucks in, but we need to be able to get people out if there is a situation.

At its Sept. 23 meeting City Council approved an amendment to the original Sun City development agreement that will allow the developer to build additional access points that could help alleviate some of the traffic concerns Woodland Park residents have, Maddox said.

Baker said the new exit points will greatly help ease traffic in Woodland Park.

Coming through Woodland Park will be a much less attractive option, he said.

The expansions plans for retail could also have an effect on traffic flow, he said.

Theyre going that way because there are no commercial services in Sun City, Maddox said. So if we can get some commercial out there, then maybe you wont have people driving 6 miles every time they want to go do something.

City Manager Paul Brandenburg told City Council the city would work with the county to find a solution to the Woodland Park traffic problems because the neighborhood is outside the city limits while a portion of West Majestic Oaks Lane is in the city limits. The city is also continuing to do traffic counts, he said.

Woodland Park residents asked City Council at the Sept. 23 meeting to immediately close the roadway connection and only allow emergency vehicle traffic.

We dont need another study, Woodland Park resident Kathy Sweeney said. We have a problem. Its sitting right thereactually, its speeding right there.

Valerie Covey, Williamson County Precinct 3 commissioner, asked residents to be patient while the city and county work together to determine if there would be any legal issues with installing an emergency gate that would only allow emergency vehicles to access the connection.

Its easy to say, Put up a gate, Covey said. But I do want to make sure its legal. Im asking for your patiencenot weeks or months but Im asking that you allow us to determine the legal [situation].

City Council asked staff members to study any legal issues with installing a gate as well as look into the types of emergency gates available and determine costs.

Brandenburg said the city will also have to coordinate with the county to determine if there should be cost-sharing for the gate as well as to work out logistics with any potential system requirements for city and county emergency vehicles.

City Council is expected to discuss the issue at its Oct. 14 meeting.

[Correction: We incorrectly labeled the number of acres for the Somerset tract's amenity center as 0.5 acres. It should have said 10.5 acres.]