Access to site problematic for owners and TxDOT
By LESLEE BASSMAN, Four Points News
Nancy Bui, managing partner of New Corridor Development LLC, said she was excited to bring a grand 115,000-square-foot shopping center to the Four Points area when the group—that specializes in developing small shopping centers — purchased about 28 acres off RM 620 near the intersection of RM 2222 in 2005. After waiting out the downturn in the local economy and picking up the project anew in 2011, city of Austin approved site plans for High Pointe Village, including two buildings of 25,000-square-foot each; three pad sites totaling 14,500-square-feet; and a 44,000-square-foot building that attracted a lease from a Georgia-based high-end movie theater company.
However, those plans are on hold following discussions between New Corridor and Texas Department of Transportation regarding the proposed bypass or connector road from RM 620 to RM 2222 that Bui said will involve taking right of way off New Corridor’s parcel; decrease the building space; and offer only one unsignalized entrance to the development from an already congested RM 620. In addition, the bypass will divide her property.
“The (connector) road will substantially reduce the amount of land we have left to build on,” Bui said. “In addition, without access to our project from the [connector] road, the value of our property would be further reduced by approximately 80 percent.”
Access to commercial center
BOE Consulting president Bobak Tehrany said originally, before the connector road was proposed, there were two entrances to the commercial site plans and both were off of RM 620 and both received approval from the city of Austin. BOE was hired by New Corridor to assist with the company’s access to the new development site.
Tehrany said, at the time, the commercial center’s primary entrance was to be located at the intersection of the now-proposed connector road and RM 620. This primary entrance was to be signalized, he said. There was also a secondary right-in, right-out driveway a short distance from the primary along RM 620.
“That’s what was originally permitted through TxDOT and the city of Austin for this development way back when,” Tehrany said. “(Bui)’s company posted financial surety to the city of Austin for a signal at the intersection that they were anticipating to be their primary point of access. Since then, TxDOT has come in and proposed this (connector road).”
Bui said New Corridor posted a letter of credit in the amount of $250,000 for the original traffic signal.
Now, with the connector road proposal, vehicles heading north on RM 620 would encounter the shopping center’s sole driveway which is slated to be “full-purpose,” meaning vehicles could turn left into and out of the driveway as well as right in and right out, Tehrany said.
“Every property is legally allowed to have access to a roadway,” he said. “At this point in time, it seems that the only access this property will have to a public roadway is off of (RM) 620.”
Diann Hodges, TxDOT Austin district public information officer, confirmed all the plans for the connector road show no access from New Corridor’s tract to the proposed connector road.
“TxDOT has met with the property owner to explain the state’s project and how it affects the abutting property,” Hodges said in an email. “The property owner will need to decide what is the best use of their property after the acquisition (of right of way).”
Tehrany said TxDOT’s decision to leave only one unsignalized entrance to the project off a congested RM 620 may stem from the agency’s push to preserve the connector road as a “fluid” thoroughfare.
“Based on my understanding of our preliminary conversations with TxDOT, it is that they did not want to jeopardize the goals they had so people would not have to stop along this bypass,” Tehrany said. “Introducing a driveway onto the bypass would potentially cause people to slow down when someone was turning right or even left.”
Compensation for right of way
Citing her site engineer’s calculations, Bui said although the right of way proposal uses 5.4 acres for the road itself, the plan bisects the tract leaving a 4-5 acre portion at the site’s southern end that “becomes useless.”
Additionally Bui said she has not received any offer of compensation from TxDOT for the New Corridor property that will be needed to construct the proposed connector roadway.
TxDOT is required to pay the landowner the market value of the real property and its improvements that the agency takes for public projects, “as well as any damages to the remainder property that result from the acquisition,” Hodges said.
However, she said no dollar amount has been approved at this time in New Corridor’s case.
Resolving the issue of access
Tehrany said he is involved in ongoing conversations with TxDOT about how to resolve the issue of access to New Corridor’s project if the agency moves forward with the connector route.
“We are still negotiating with TxDOT,” he said. “So we don’t know, at the end of the day, we may or may not be successful convincing TxDOT that we should have access off this bypass and we (may) come up with a creative solution to achieve their goals and our goals.”
Bui said New Corridor — that also owns Spicewood Springs Plaza in Austin, K2 Plaza in Round Rock and Shops at Riata in Cypress — anticipates High Pointe Village to be its largest center to date.