Development annexed; park bond tax will be 3 cents
Fredericksburg City Council approved the annexation, land use change and zoning for the Friedën development during Monday’s regular meeting.
The area is located off U.S. 87 South, on the southeast side of town.
The 219 acres will house a planned unit development (PUD) which includes varied land uses.
“There is primarily commercial zoning along the front, a middle part that would be a mix of neighborhood commercial and mixed residential and the back part, the lion’s share of the property, some 120 acres would be devoted to single family residential,” said Brian Jordan, the city’s director of development services.
The area is designed to preserve open space, Jordan said, while putting houses in a curvilinear pattern, surrounded by lakes and trails.
Some residents of the neighboring Heritage Hill Country subdivision were concerned about the use of adjacent Mariposa Drive and the possibly of Friedën extending it to U.S. 290 East.
“I don’t see language that specifies Mariposa East will be permanently gated off to through access from the development,” Martha Zieher, a resident of Heritage Hill Country said. “I hope the city council will make some assurance to the citizenry that this will not happen.”
Jordan assured council that Mariposa would only be used for construction traffic, during development, and then emergency use afterward.
“It’s always been intended there’d be a gate at Mariposa,” Jordan said. “There wouldn’t be any traffic except emergency vehicles for this development. That wouldn’t mean properties to the south wouldn’t develop and ultimately have access to U.S. Highway 290, but this project will not.”
Developers were present during the meeting and re-stated that they will do whatever they can to help alleviate Heritage Hill Country’s residents’ concerns.
Oakcrest Sports Park
Dan Wegmiller, the city’s financial advisor, said a three to three-and-a-half cent tax increase (per $100 valuation) would fund a $12.6 million general obligation bond issue for the expanded development of Oakcrest Sports Park.
The council will meet to vote on calling an election for the bond at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 10 in the Cardinal Room of the Lady Bird Johnson Golf Course.
The tax rate could drop through the bond term if property values continue their rise, Wegmiller said.
“For the $12.6 million, the increase estimated at three to three-and-a-half cents would impact the fiscal 2019 budget and then the rate would stay at or just below that level over the 20-year term of the bonds,” Wegmiller said. “Continued increases in property values could result in the tax rate on the bonds falling slightly over time.”
Wegmiller added that the interest rate (around three percent) is historically low and since the city manages its debt efficiently, the debt-per-capita ratio would stay below those of peer group cities, adding there were no credit concerns that would impact the town’s AA bond rating.
Councilmember and former city manager Gary Neffendorf said even if the bond passes, it wouldn’t have much overall effect.
“Since the legislature’s in session, Dr. Wright said last time it’d be a Robin Hood taking, 28 cents county-wide,” Neffendorf said. “So even if we pass this bond election, our tax rate won’t be 28 cents. There’s more going out than we’re collecting in our entirety and it all stays here.”
If approved by voters, the sports park project is expected to take about 18 months to construct.
Parks Director Andrea Warren said the expansion would help more than 1,000 people in the various sports leagues, and Mayor Linda Langerhans agreed.
“There’s lots who will benefit from this and that’s a lot to be said for quality of lifestyle,” Langerhans said.
Golf course proposals
Assistant City Manager Clinton Bailey said they are going through Request for Qualifications for a lease proposal on the Lady Bird Johnson Golf Course.
“On Aug. 3, the city received six qualified operations who have submitted on the lease,” Bailey said. “We will be shortening the list and conducting interviews by the end of the month.”
The city voted last month to look into leasing the golf course to offset the course losses.
Upcoming city meetings
At 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 10, at the Lady Bird Johnson Golf Course Cardinal Room, the city will hold a meeting with the Fort Martin Scott Advisory Board.
At 4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 14, the council will go into executive session to talk with legal counsel about the proposed hotel/conference center planned for the west end of Main Street to see what incentives, if any, they want to offer the developer. An additional budget session will take place after.
At 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 30, a public hearing will be held at the Gillespie County Law Enforcement Center for the effective tax rate increase.
Special session update
City Manager Kent Myers said he’s been watching the state legislature and the bills he’s focused on include:
• Senate Bill 1, the revenue cap: Will not affect the city because language applies only to cities of $25 million annual M&O Property tax, where Fredericksburg is at $3 million.
• Senate Bill 18, which caps the amount of increase in the total budget: Wasn’t picked up by the senate and doesn’t plan to be.
• Senate Bill 6, deals with annexation control: Still has a chance to be revised, but may not pass. Myers said it only applies to cities of 500,000 or more.
Future agenda items
Items for discussion at the Aug. 21 meeting include the required budget hearing and the vote on the tax rate for next year.
Jordan said two upcoming public hearings from the planning and zoning commission include a conditional use permit for two drive-thru restaurants (Taco Bell and Starbucks) and a conditional use permit for a ground-floor B&B project being built at South Washington and Main.
Attainable housing talk
Myers said the council is continuing to look at a waiver of fee ordinances for attainable housing, helping developers with the extension of infrastructure (such as wastewater and street improvements) and the possibility of a developer building on city-owned property on Friendship Lane to help the shortage of attainable housing.
The Gillespie County Economic Development Commission (EDC) is doing a study on the need for attainable units and costs. It will take 60 days to complete.
Council members expressed caution about where to get involved.
“Unless we’re willing to provide financial assistance, that’s out of our control,” Councilmember Bobby Watson said. “The banks control what they loan and if the developer can’t get assistance for low-income housing, then I don’t know what we can do.”
Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce President Penny McBride said the city should help hire someone to help with the issue.
“While I realize that’s a cost to the city, I think the return on that investment in terms of helping create opportunities for businesses to grow through more available workforce, will come back to you in an increased tax base,” McBride said.
The city discussed helping with land or utility costs, among others, to offset costs of the developer, which would ease the burden on the resident, but they worried about where to begin.
“I don’t know what the target is, how to get there, and what financing is available,” Watson said. “If we are going to solve the problem, there needs to be a major participation from the city.”
For now the city plans to wait until the EDC study is released.