By CASSIE MCKEE, Four Points News
A proposal by the Steiner Ranch Neighborhood Association to purchase an 84-acre property at RM 620 and Quinlan Park Road in Steiner Ranch from Taylor Morrison and other private landowners has fallen through, according to SRNA Chairman Brian Thompto.
SRNA opposes MU-14 duplexes
Thompto discussed the project at the May 28 Steiner Ranch community meeting and said SRNA does not support the duplex development for several reasons. First, due to the topography of the tract, developers will only be able to build one entry road for the site, which will be on Quinlan Park Road, across from the entrance to Quinlan Crossing.
In addition, vehicles leaving the property would only be allowed to turn right toward RM 620. He said that families wanting to access schools or neighborhood amenities would either have to make an illegal U-turn at an already dangerous intersection or go far out of their way on RM 620 just to access the neighborhood.
“Our neighborhood association for the last two and a half years has been actively encouraging (Taylor Morrison) that we think this is a very bad fit for this property due to traffic flow,” Thompto said. “We are not the only ones. Everyone who sees this says this does not make any sense. This is not a good fit for that property.”
Thompto said the duplex project was rejected by the county twice for not having at least two access points, which is required for developments with more than 30 units. After hiring an attorney, however, he said Taylor Morrison was granted an administrative waiver that allowed them to move forward with the project.
Additionally, Thompto called the MU-14 tract the “front door” of Steiner Ranch and said the project does not make sense aesthetically. The addition of that many families would also put additional pressure on the already-crowded schools.
Community purchase proposal
At the May 28 meeting, Thompto proposed an idea for the Steiner Ranch neighborhood to purchase the tract from Taylor Morrison at a fair market price of between $6-$8 million.
One advantage for doing so would be that MU-14 is one of the last remaining undeveloped tracts of land in the community. Purchasing the land would allow for future development that would directly benefit the community.
“We have nowhere left to develop for any future needs,” Thompto said. “So if we wanted to add a library, a new park or any kind of expanded community center, we don’t have any capacity or land for that. This property would be great for any number of potential future uses for the community.”
He said the SRNA board created a proposal where, if approved by voters, the land could be purchased by Travis County Water Control and Improvement District 17 and then the community would pay for it through bonds.
He said the tax impact would be around 2 cents per $100 valuation from initial estimates if paid for only by the WCID-17 Steiner Ranch Defined Area.
However, because water tax rates are already planned to drop by more than that amount, homeowners would not see an overall tax increase. According to the initial analysis, WCID-17 said there were several reasons for the potential drop in taxes: bonds getting paid off and refinancing rates, Thompto said.
Thompto said a snap poll done at the May 28 community meeting showed that 95 percent of the more than 250 attendees said they would support the purchase of MU-14.
There were also 125 written surveys filled out at the meeting showing that 96.6 percent of respondents did not think duplexes were a good fit for the property and 94.6 percent were in favor of purchasing the property.
“The feedback we’ve gotten as a board is that the community overwhelmingly supports the idea that we could purchase that land,” Thompto said.
SRNA approached TM
SRNA had previously discussed the idea of the land purchase with Taylor Morrison, who indicated that it would be something they would consider, Thompto said. He made a formal presentation to the board of WCID-17 on June 19. He said they also seemed very receptive to the idea.
After seeing that both WCID-17 and the community were open to the idea, Thompto went back to Taylor Morrison and formally requested a selling process so that negotiations could proceed. Taylor Morrison said they would sell the property for $6 million; however, in late July, the company said they would not move forward with the deal.
“The reason they gave us was they are a publically traded company,” Thompto said. “And even though the community purchasing the property would not be a loss, the company’s focus is on putting up rooftops. So they want to develop rooftops because that’s what investors are looking for.”
Frustrated by the decision, Thompto said the SRNA board is planning to send a letter to the regional president of Taylor Morrison this week, asking him to reconsider. He said he doesn’t know that the community has much recourse other than making its voice heard.
“Even though we aggressively tried to secure this option, we’re now appealing to the higher powers in company with no guarantee of success,” he said.
Thompto stressed that SRNA is not anti-development, but rather wants development that is compatible with the needs of the community. He said he thinks it’s important for homeowners to know about the planned development.
“This is the tail-end of a development of a master-planned community that they’ve been working on for two decades,” he said. “It would really be a shame that at the end of this development, they crowned it with a bad apple, something that doesn’t fit with the community after they’ve put so much effort and thought into this community.”
A representative for Taylor Morrison did not respond to a request for comment.