Few residents may have noticed a City Council agenda item at the May 26 council meeting executing an annexation agreement with a landowner in northeast Round Rock for about 154 acres of land. However, the deal is part of a larger plan the city is pursuing to manage land use in the area and ensure the city has some control over the last large tracts of undeveloped land in Round Rock.
City Council and city staff have discussed options for implementing development standards in the undeveloped tracts of land east of A.W. Grimes Boulevard along University Boulevard, or Chandler Road, as it is known east of SH 130.
Much of the land surrounding where University meets CR 110 and SH 130 is part of Round Rock’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, or ETJ. Though the city does not control the land, it reserves the right to annex the land at a later date, bringing it into the city limits. Round Rock’s ETJ extends past SH 130 and is bordered by CR 100 to the east.
Round Rock officials are looking at options available to them to control development standards for the area, which Mayor Alan McGraw said is the last large block of undeveloped land in the city’s territory.
“Future growth necessarily has to go to the northeast because we’re fairly landlocked on all other sides,” McGraw said.
City officials anticipate private entities will be interested in putting large-scale developments in the area. However, aside from the Vizcaya housing development, which is currently being built and is in the city limits, there is no specific project moving forward in the area at this time.
City officials said they would like to ensure that whatever development may come in the short or long term, it will meet the development standards the city laid out.
McGraw said because the area is currently outside the city limits and counties in Texas do not have zoning authority, any developments in the area currently could be developed without any guidelines. He said examples could include mobile home parks or mini storage units.
“We would like to see the development that takes place be complementary to the rest of the city,” McGraw said. “You can look throughout any city and see developments that took place well before the population got there. We’re trying to avoid that.”
The city plans to go to landowners in the area and present them with annexation agreements. These agreements state that as long as landowners keep their properties for an agricultural use, the city will not annex the land. However, if a landowner starts to develop the land, the city can annex the property, and it will be considered a voluntary annexation.
City Manager Laurie Hadley said if the city were to involuntarily annex the land, it would be more expensive for the city because officials have roughly two years to extend certain utilities to the property. If the annexation is voluntary, however, it is up to a developer to pay to extend the utilities.
“You can look throughout any city and see developments that took place well before the population got there. We’re trying to avoid that.”
– Alan McGraw, Round Rock mayor
“Typically Round Rock leaders have adopted the philosophy that growth pays for growth,” Hadley said. “If a developer wants to go in and bring the infrastructure out there, they should pay for that—it shouldn’t be our tax dollars that pay for that. So you have to be careful with involuntary annexation if you do it without a plan.”
Hadley said involuntary annexation is not the city’s first choice, but at some point council may have to decide whether to do just that.
“If the goal of this governing body is to guide the growth, and no one wants to come in under a development agreement, then [council] would have to make that decision to annex or not,” she said.
If the city were to involuntarily annex the land in northeast Round Rock, it would have about two years to extend water and wastewater lines to the land in its water service area, Round Rock Utilities Director Michael Thane said.
However, much of the land east of SH 130 along University is in the Jonah Water District. Thane said if the city were to annex land in the city’s ETJ, but in Jonah’s water service area, the city would not be required to extend water lines, just wastewater utilities, to that area.
Jonah Water District General Manager Bill Brown said his district has had several meetings with Round Rock officials to discuss potential developments in the area and if the district could handle large-scale, water-hungry developments such as single-family housing.
Brown said about three years ago the district extended a 16-inch water line to the area.
“We are confident we could supply high volumes of water to that area,” he said. “A 16-inch water main will adequately provide fire flow for most developments; I would say it’s more than adequate.”
The city of Round Rock’s wastewater coverage area covers the entire ETJ, so any potential developments off SH 130 and University would have Jonah as a water provider and Round Rock as a wastewater provider, Thane said.
Hadley said when it comes to potential developments, the area could turn into “anything and everything.”
“There was a time when folks did not think retail was sustainable along toll roads. [SH] 130 has proved the belief wrong,” she said. “[Development] could be high-density housing; it could be an office park. The nice thing about having that many acres is it could be anything.”
McGraw said the area will probably be a mix of different developments. He said the area next to SH 130 would probably be for commercial use, but farther away from the toll road, the area could be used for housing.
“I see it as a variety of uses throughout that region,” he said.
Ultimately, how the land will be developed is up to landowners, Hadley said. She said some may not wish to sell or develop their land or sign the development agreements.
“That is absolutely their right,” she said. “I think we would talk with them and encourage them to let us annex or do a development agreement so we could go on to the next parcel.”
McGraw said officials are interested in what develops in the ETJ because property and sales tax generated in the area will contribute to the overall well-being of the community.
“[Potential taxes] generated would pay for improvements needed in that area; would help pay for the library, which everyone is using; [and] will pay for the police, which everyone is using,” he said.