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Council committee gives staff OK to work on new subdivisions around SH 130

Thursday, April 17, 2008 by Mark Richardson

The Council’s Land Use and Transportation Committee has give a tentative go-ahead to a pair of Texas 130 area subdivisions, using a funding method that would allow the city control over the area without spending tax dollars on developing infrastructure.

The developer of the proposed Whisper Valley and Indian Hills developments told committee members Mayor Pro Tem Betty Dunkerley, and Council Members Sheryl Cole and Brewster McCracken on Monday that public improvement districts (PIDs) would allow the type development the city wants in the preferred development zone in the SH 130 corridor.

Joe Peterson, developer of Whisper Valley, said under the proposal, the city would acquire the land for the subdivisions through limited purpose annexation. It would then form the districts, which would issue debt to pay for the infrastructure. The deal would give the city the authority to regulate land use in the development, but would not require it to use tax funds up front for new roads, parks, water, wastewater and other facilities.

The governing boards of the PIDs would include a majority of Council members on its board. The PID’s bonds would be paid for through fees assessed to the area’s residents. The same plan would be used for the Indian Wells project.

The developer also discussed the use of Planned Unit Developments and Municipal Utility Districts to fund the infrastructure in the two developments, but demonstrated that the PID structure was superior for how the city wanted the areas to develop.

Whisper Valley, a 2,100-acre project near Braker Lane and SH 130 would have 2,850 single-family homes; 5,000 apartments, townhouses and condominiums; more than 2 million square feet of office and retail space; and 700 acres of open space when it is completed. Indian Hills, at Decker Lake Road and SH 130, would have about 1,500 apartments and 140 acres of office, light industrial and neighborhood retail space.

“This fits in with our long-range plans for our two major areas of development, the SH 130 area and the Burnet/Gateway area, which is our second downtown,” said McCracken. “It provides us a way to develop in that corridor without the tax outlays to build the infrastructure.”

According to McCracken, Whisper Valley and Indian Hills are the type of high-density development that concentrate a larger population in a smaller area and are less expensive to serve.  Workers and residents would drive less, putting fewer cars on the streets and polluting the air and water less than other developments.

In addition to having a substantial commercial component, Whisper Valley would have more open space and park amenities and a wider range of housing types and prices. Developers say attached townhouses and condominiums would start at around $100,000, and the largest single-family homes could cost more than $1 million.

Committee members instructed Assistant City Manager Laura Huffman to begin developing an agreement between the city and the developers utilizing the PID structure. No timeline was given on when the agreement would be comepleted, but the Council must approve the final development agreement and public improvement district structure. For their part, the developers want the process completed in time to begin construction in early 2009.

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