Round Rock exploring roadway impact fees to address infrastructure needs

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On July 26 the city of Round Rock will host the first of two public hearings to discuss the possibility of implementing roadway impact fees on future developments in the city.

“We are responding to the needs of the community,” said Gary Hudder, transportation director for the city. “A lot of dollars in infrastructure is going to be required to keep up with the growth, and this is an opportunity for us to even the playing field with development.”

Roadway impact fees are one-time costs required of developers to go toward projects to improve transportation infrastructure. A standard fee rate would be approved by council.

According to Round Rock’s 2017 Transportation Master Plan, more than $1.2 billion is needed to fund roadway projects to accommodate anticipated growth in the city.

The fees would be used to fund specific transportation projects, including traffic signals, bridges, sidewalks, roadways, thoroughfares, land acquisition costs, survey and engineering fees, and study costs. The fees could not be used on the repair, operation or maintenance of existing or new facilities. Impact fees also cannot be spent on upgrades to existing development.

HOW IMPACT FEES WORK

Of Texas cities with populations over 25,000, roughly a quarter have roadway impact fees in place. Most of those cities are in high-growth areas. New Braunfels, Taylor, Schertz and Cibolo all have roadway impact fees, and Austin and Buda are currently in the process of studying roadway impact fees.

Currently, developers may contribute to roadway improvements on a case-by-case basis. Hudder said that when a developer submits a site plan to the development department, the transportation department will conduct a traffic impact analysis—or TIA —to determine which improvements, if any, will be required.

“It could be something like a contribution to a traffic signal or adding main lane capacity,” Hudder said. “It’s truly development-specific and based on an independent TIA for that particular project.”

As a result, Hudder said that current transportation impact fees require negotiations between the city and developers.

“By having an impact fee, the value or the impact of that property being developed is already predetermined. So if you’re a developer and you locate a specific property that you want to develop on, you will know ahead of time what the impact fee is for that property,” Hudder said.

Hudder said that adopting roadway impact fees would put an approved calculation table in place that would be implemented for each development. Setting those fees ahead of time, Hudder said, would help the developers make those calculations on the front-end and bypass lengthy negotiations.

THE APPROVAL PROCESS

On Jan. 11, City Council approved a contract with Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc. for the creation of a roadway impact fee implementation plan.

A public hearing of the completed fee study and calculations is scheduled for the July 26 City Council meeting, and an open house for public input will be held Aug. 7.

After collecting input, a public hearing on the impact fee rate is scheduled for Sept. 13. A draft ordinance could be presented to council in the fall.

“This process is pretty long and drawn-out, and it’s designed that way on purpose,” Hudder said. “There’s going to be a lot of public interaction and communication with the developer community between now and any possible date that council could take action.”

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  1. Having lived in Round Rock for the last six years, my observation is that most of the road improvements made during my time have been mostly poorly designed, too late… and too little. With an occasional notable exception, such as 620 between Toll Road 45 and I-35, virtually everything I’ve seen has been very poorly planned, designed, and executed.

    For examples, look to the “roundabout/traffic circle” in downtown Round Rock – it’s not only too small, but traffic backs up leading to Mays. I could mention the “improvements” nearing completion along Gattis School, where the basics such as adding bike lanes in front of the high school (or anywhere else, for that matter) are completely overlooked. Navigating to/from I-35 from just about anywhere is based on 1960s design principles. How many times have I seen someone going in the wrong lanes on University in the “improvements” made at I-35? I’ve lost count.

    I could go on, but unless the city leadership realizes how poorly, out-dated and inadequate the planning and execution of road improvements have been in Round Rock, most of the $1.2 billion proposed to be spent is largely wasted.

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Kirby Killough
Kirby Killough joined Community Impact after working in broadcast news. She is currently the editor for the Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto edition of Community Impact.
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