As the city seeks to balance rapid growth with appropriate infrastructure, city council is considering a proposal that would require developers to pay one-time costs to fund transportation infrastructure.
After holding a public hearing, Round Rock City Council on Feb. 28 voted 7-0 to move forward with establishing roadway impact fees. A second and final vote will take place at City Council’s March 14 meeting.
“It will be the toughest vote I take in 7 years,” Mayor Craig Morgan said. “I don’t know what the alternative solutions are. These impact fees are not new. They’re all across the country. They’re in Texas. So they’re coming.”
Roadway impact fees could be applied to traffic signals, bridges, sidewalks, roadways, thoroughfares, land acquisition costs, survey and engineering fees and study costs.
However, the money could not be used for upgrades to existing development or repair, operation or maintenance of existing or new facilities, the proposal states.
In light of anticipated growth, more than $1.2 billion is needed to fund roadway projects, according to Round Rock’s 2017 Transportation Master Plan.
“This item is not fun for anybody,” Morgan said. “It’s a very difficult thing. But since I’ve been on this council the number one issue in our biennium surveys [of Round Rock residents] is traffic.”
As proposed, the roadway impact fees would take effect Jan. 1, 2020. However the proposal indicates a buffer period for projects in the pipeline. Roadway impact fees will not be assessed for building permits issued before Jan. 1, 2021, the proposal states.
Should the proposal pass, a standard fee rate will be included. This will include a calculation table for developments. Setting the fees in advance will create an equitable system, said Gary Hudder, transportation director for the city.
Community members speak out
Four members of the public spoke on Feb. 28—all in opposition to the fees.
Sally Decelis, a realtor with RE/MAX and resident of Round Rock said she represents commercial and residential clients.
“There are unintended consequences,” Decelis said. “The [roadway] impact fees are going to drive people away.”
John Avery, whose family donated around 126 acres to create a higher-education and medical campus in northern Round Rock, also spoke at the meeting. He raised questions about whether nonprofits will be exempt from the fees.
“We’ve created three hospitals and three universities,” Avery said. “If you don’t want more of those, then pass this ordinance.”
Future growth is going to occur on the undeveloped land in Northeast Round Rock, Avery said.
“For large landowners, either we walk away and don’t develop our [land] and save it for the next generation—we’ve had it since the 1860’s so another couple years isn’t going to matter,” he said. “But if we walk away […] you’re going to see all the development going to the square miles of available land that’s in Austin city limits. Just like Apple did.”