By CASSIE MCKEE, Four Points News
A lot of new development has popped up along the RM 2222 corridor over the past 10 years, and there is one local non-profit group continually working behind the scenes to keep developers on their toes, the 2222 Coalition of Neighborhood Associations.
Incorporated in 2005, 2222 CONA represents the interests of nine neighborhoods located along the 2222 corridor, including River Place. The nine neighborhoods each contributed financially to help 2222 CONA incorporate a decade ago. Each neighborhood delegates one person to serve on the 2222 CONA board.
2222 CONA board members work with developers to ensure projects comply with land use codes, environmental regulations and local ordinances such as the Hill Country Roadway Ordinance.
“Those are key to maintaining the character and appearance of our territory,” said 2222 CONA president and founding member Peter Torgrimson.
While the group believes that developers have a right to develop their property, Torgrimson said developers often want variances and extra entitlements.
“We feel like if they’re going to get a bunch of entitlements, there should be some community benefit to that,” he said.
More than a decade ago, when much of 2222 was still ranch land, members of the not-yet-incorporated 2222 CONA worked with the Ribelin family, whose ranch land would become the future site of Vandegrift High School, and who also donated a lot of land to the Balcones Canyonland Preserve.
Recently, 2222 CONA worked with the developers of the Ladera Bend retail development at Jester Boulevard and RM 2222.
The group’s strategy is to negotiate with developers privately behind the scenes and come up with an agreement that is amenable to both the developer and local neighborhoods before the case ever goes before the city’s zoning commission or city council. That way, if a vote is required, the item can be placed on the consent calendar and be approved quickly without a lot of debate.
“(Developers) would like to avoid a protracted battle in front of the city too because it costs everybody a lot more money and time,” Torgrimson said.
River Place developments
A recent issue with which 2222 CONA got involved was a zoning change request for a lot near RM 2222 and River Place Boulevard.
After development company C. Lee Family Corporation purchased a 19,000-square-foot-lot at 10815 RM 2222, the company put in a request with the city to remove a provision of a conditional overlay that had been put in place by the previous owner in 2013, at the request of the River Place HOA and 2222 CONA. The conditional overlay prohibited drive-through establishments.
“(In 2013), we said we think we have enough McDonald’s and Taco Bells and we don’t need any more there in the River Place Center area,” said former River Place HOA member Randy Lawson, who now serves as vice president for 2222 CONA. “This new owner wanted to modify that to give him a little more flexibility in what type of business would lease from that property. We said, ‘No, we still don’t want a drive through service at that site.”
After negotiations, Lawson said the new property owner consented.
“They agreed that they would drop that request and retain the existing language of the conditional overlay,” Lawson said. “They also agreed to additional restrictions such as no amplified music outside at any time.”
2222 CONA has also gotten involved in negotiations between home owners on Milky Way Drive and a home builder who wanted to build a large housing development in their neighborhood. The home builder put in a zoning request with the city and hundreds of River Place residents were against it earlier this year.
Lawson said developers want to see their projects move forward with little opposition.
“If they have an opportunity to negotiate with us and make any opposition go away, then they can present a united front and show they have community support,” Lawson said. “We don’t want to get up there in front of city council and vehemently oppose something. Most of the time, they’re willing to try to find a compromise that everyone can live with.”
Another priority for 2222 CONA is transportation issues. Carol Torgrimson, Peter’s wife, serves as the transportation coordinator and interacts regularly with the Texas Department of Transportation.
Projects the group has worked on include intersection improvements such as the dual-turn lanes at RM 2222 and McNeil that turn into Vandegrift High School.
“Those are fairly modest changes in the intersection but they have a big impact,” Torgrimson said.
In 2008, the group worked closely with TxDOT on improvements to the RM 2222 and Loop 360 intersection.
They have also provided input on TxDOT’s proposed RM 2222 connector road, which would create a bypass to the 620/2222 intersection.
“We’re very much in support of it,” Lawson said. “I think it’s a win-win. It’s not a permanent fix but it certainly will improve traffic flow considerably with the least number of dollars.”
Road to VHS
Torgrimson said the “Road to Vandegrift” proposal has not come up to 2222 CONA specifically. While the group hasn’t taken a position on the project, he hinted that it would be opposed to anything that interferes with the BCP.
“We are very familiar with the situation and possible solutions,” Torgrimson said. “We’re a big fan of the BCP though. The BCP is a huge amenity and we would like to preserve that.”
The group also hasn’t taken a position on TxDOT’s possible long-term scenario of building an elevated roadway from U.S. 183 to RM 2222. Torgrimson acknowledged that traffic on RM 620 is a “nightmare situation.”
“There’s no place to put additional expansion,” he said. “One of the big impediments (on 620) is driveways. Every time you put in a driveway, that’s another obstruction point because of someone slowing down to turn in. On a lot of stretches of 620, there’s a driveway on both sides of the road every 100 feet.”
While 2222 CONA directly represent the nine neighborhoods who helped fund the non-profit, Torgrimson said they also work cooperatively with other neighborhoods.
“We don’t directly represent them but we do coordinate with them,” he said.