Neighborhood association tackles Steiner Ranch growth

Group in discussion with developer about proposed rental units

A plan for approximately 725 new rental units in Steiner Ranch has galvanized the area's neighborhood association that formed in December.

The Steiner Ranch Neighborhood Association, which has boundaries that stretch from Lake Travis to Lake Austin to the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, has been meeting with Steiner Ranch development company Taylor Morrison on a monthly basis about future development in the area. Taylor Morrison has planned two apartment complexes and a set of duplexes on three tracts of land near the entrance of Steiner Ranch.

SRNA board member Cindy Thompson and Chairman Brian Thompto said residents are concerned about the impact that the new residential units could have on Steiner Ranch. The neighborhood association delivered a petition with approximately 1,400 signatures to Taylor Morrison in May stating the neighborhood's concern with the future planned development.

"We just wanted to be able to hand [the petition] to the developer and say, 'Look, we are concerned, and you need to be aware of this,'" Thompson said. "It raises awareness and shows that the community agrees with us."

There are approximately 5,000 homes in the SRNA jurisdiction, so 725 new rental units would be an increase of 14.5 percent.

"The sheer amount of development that is currently planned for the Steiner Ranch neighborhood is a huge concern for us because it is a major increase," Thompto said.

Taylor Morrison entered into an agreement with the City of Austin in 2000 to develop Steiner Ranch as a master-planned community. Taylor Morrison spokesman Adib Khoury said Steiner Ranch was designed to have multiple housing options, including apartment complexes and duplexes.

"Our agreement allows us to put a lot more in Steiner than we are actually going to do," he said. "We're making decisions to make projects less dense than what we could do in Steiner Ranch."

Construction is expected to start this year on one of the apartment complexes and in 2013 at the earliest for the other complex. The earliest start date for construction on the duplexes is mid-2013.

After some pushback from the SRNA, the tract of land planned for the duplexes was zoned to not allow an apartment complex.

Thompto said the SRNA is most concerned about limiting development on the duplex tract since it is near the entrance to Steiner Ranch.

Khoury said he thinks collaborating with the SRNA can lead to a plan that is acceptable by a majority of people.

"It really is about collectively trying to put our heads together to figure out how to move forward in a way that is positive," Khoury said. "That process is continuing."

Thompto said he agreed that the meetings with Taylor Morrison had been constructive.

"We've had some challenges working with the developer with trying to limit growth to be compatible with the community," he said. "At the same time, we have been able to strike a constructive tone with them and get things done."

Emergency services

Emergency Service District No. 6, which provides fire response and emergency services to Steiner Ranch and much of the Lake Travis area, has a slower-than-average response time. Fire Chief Jim Linardos said additional residents in Steiner Ranch could make that problem worse.

The average emergency response time in the Lake Travis area is about 11 minutes for ESD No. 6. The recommended response time is between four and eight minutes, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

"We will have slower response times as the density increases until we can add more resources, which really aren't in the plans right now," he said. "That's a problem."

ESDs by state law can tax property owners in the county up to 10 cents per $100 of valuation. ESD No. 6 also receives funding from a 2 percent sales tax on qualifying goods sold in the ESD's jurisdiction.

Between the two taxes, the district gets about $10 million in annual funding, Linardos said. He said most comparable ESDs get about twice as much in funding.

A further population increase for Steiner Ranch could make a second fire station necessary for the area, Linardos said.

"We are keeping an eye on the growth and maybe redistributing the resources we got [to Steiner Ranch]," he said.

Transportation

To help accommodate the future population growth, Taylor Morrison and the SRNA have discussed adding a road with a traffic light that goes into Steiner Ranch.

Thompto said an additional controlled intersection is necessary since there are only two roads, Quinlan Park Road and Steiner Ranch Boulevard, that connect with

RR 620. Only Quinlan Park Road has a stoplight.

"Right now it is a huge safety concern," Thompto said. "As the population increases, you need another way out of the community to handle some of the volume of the growth."

At a June 20 meeting, Khoury and the SRNA talked about the possibility of realigning Comanche Trail and Steiner Ranch Boulevard so they connect as well as installing a light where the roads would intersect with RR 620.

The SRNA has also been involved in discussions on future transportation plans for RR 620 and FM 2222.

State Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin, organized a meeting June 18 between the SRNA and Texas Department of Transportation about possible future projects on RR 620 and FM 2222.

"As a representative, I see that part of my role is to facilitate the needs of the constituents of the district with government and try to make sure that the things that are needed get done," Workman said.

At the meeting, TxDOT representatives discussed the plan to add a double right-hand turn lane from RR 620 onto FM 2222. The project is expected to go to contract at the end of the year, TxDOT spokesman John Hurt said.

During the meeting, the SRNA pushed TxDOT to also address long-term transportation plans for the area. Thompto said the expected future growth for the Lake Travis area makes a long-term plan important so RR 620 and FM 2222 don't become constant traffic jams.

Potential options that were discussed by the SRNA were to turn RR 620 into a freeway or to build overpasses at the more congested intersections such as FM 2222 and Anderson Mill Road.

TxDOT representatives said they would examine the options, Thompto said.

"Right now there is nothing on the books, so nothing is ever going to happen," he said. "We've just got to get the ball rolling."



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