Half and half Hutto

Half and half HuttoThe annual number of building permits issued for single-family homes in Hutto has been on the rise since 2012, according to city documents, and as the city’s residential development booms, officials are emphasizing the importance of balancing the growth with commercial development.


Hutto set the goal of a having a 50-50 ratio of residential and commercial appraised property value to broaden the tax base and support more local jobs. The target ratio refers to assessed property value, not acreage. Currently about 84 percent of Hutto’s assessed property value is
residential development.


To help support commercial development in Hutto, city and Hutto Economic Development Corp. staff are taking steps to attract new businesses, such as attending trade shows and reorganizing city planning departments, to make it easier for developers to navigate the planning and construction process.



Achieving the 50-50 split


In determining Hutto’s appraised value goal of 50 percent residential development and 50 percent commercial and nonresidential development, city staff and officials compared Hutto to similar municipalities throughout the country.


“We used so many calculations to determine what could be a sustainable city,” City Manager Karen Daily said. “[A 50-50 ratio] means there are more opportunities for people to live and work in Hutto. [...] It helps balance the cost of delivering services, and it brings in more revenue for the city.”


Comparatively, the neighboring city of Taylor has a residential-to-commercial ratio of about 61-39, Taylor Assistant City Manager Noel Bernal said. Although the city has not set a target ratio, Taylor officials have expressed interest in expanding the city’s commercial component—particularly industrial businesses, Bernal said.


“We realize Taylor needs to have a strong mix of its commercial and residential base,” he said. “For the most part Taylor is pretty much one-fourth developed, so much of what Taylor is going to grow into hasn’t happened yet.”


Hutto spends about $498 per resident on public services annually but only receives about $418 per person in residential property taxes, so the difference is made up by commercial property taxes and other sources of income, according to city documents. Property taxes make up more than half of Hutto’s general fund revenue, and homeowners are currently paying a larger share than Hutto businesses are, according to Hutto’s 2015-16 budget.


More commercial development in Hutto will provide additional revenue and give the city financial flexibility in providing services for its growing population, Daly said.



ChallengesHalf and half Hutto


An important part of developing Hutto’s retail market is securing a major retailer, such as Target, that smaller stores can co-locate around, Daly said. Hutto has been seeking to attract a grocery store for several years, and although grocery anchors are important, large retail stores can be just as crucial to drawing new businesses, she said.


“We can’t make someone build a grocery store. We did the [grocery store feasibility] study last year, and we have given that to every grocer in the area,” Daly said. “All the retailers know exactly where we are. We’re going to be patient.”


Another challenge Hutto faces as it looks to expand commercial development is maintaining the city’s small-town atmosphere, Mayor Debbie Holland said.


“One of our challenges is to be able to provide additional services that aren’t here yet but [keep] a safe, family-friendly-oriented space for people,” she said. “My hope is we can do that by adding jobs for people to where they can truly live, work and play [in Hutto]. We don’t aspire to be a bedroom community.”



Hutto EDC goals


While the city of Hutto takes the lead on attracting retailers to the area, the Hutto EDC’s jurisdiction is attracting “export industries”—or companies that manufacture a product or service sold outside the Austin metro area.


Tim Chase, who started as president and CEO of the EDC in August, said export industries bring new dollars into the economy each time they make a sale.


“Injecting new money into our local economy dramatically increases the size of the economic pie,” Chase said. “As the economic pie grows, all the service sector business [...] have the opportunity to increase their slice.”


In the past the Hutto EDC has competed for several international companies, including a German plastics company, board Chairman Mario Perez said. Chase said the EDC has launched an initiative to organize comprehensive inventories of Hutto’s infrastructure and other assets that could make it more attractive for such companies to relocate to the city.


“My goal for the next year is to increase my product knowledge and to find creative ways to help Hutto compete with the thousands of other cities who all want to achieve the same results,” he said.



Next steps


Hutto Development Services Director Helen Ramirez said city staff talk weekly to developers in various stages of planning and building  and are focusing on areas such as the Hutto Crossing complex off FM 685 as the commercial centers of the city.


Daly said the property around the East Williamson County Higher Education Center and the 1,248-acre megasite between Hutto and Taylor are also ripe for development.


The 50-50 goal means that as property becomes available in Hutto it will be zoned to comply with the city’s future land-use plan, which includes mixed-use retail and residential sectors.


In September, Hutto City Council approved the rezoning of approximately 4 acres off Limmer Loop from residential to commercial, Ramirez said. The property is now ready to be developed, and the city is expecting a site plan as the next phase of the project, Ramirez said.


To streamline the development processes, Hutto restructured its departmental organization to consolidate the planning, engineering and building and code enforcement divisions under the  Development Services Department earlier this year.


“[The reorganization] creates the council’s vision of a one-stop shop where the developer can go,” Ramirez said. “The route to development under one roof is important to give to developers.”


During the next few months members of the Hutto Marketing Team—including EDC staff members, community volunteers and city staff—plan to make appearances at 13 marketing events to promote the city and court businesses.


“In general our top priority is to be ready to get lucky,” Chase said. “By that I mean we have to be prepared to present the most competitive solutions to export companies interested in investing in our community and region. Like most every job the hardest work is getting and remaining prepared.”Half and half Hutto



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