By LESLEE BASSMAN, Four Points News
One of the last open tracts in Steiner Ranch, designated multiuse or MU-14, will be developed into a neighborhood of 106 detached condominium homes, individual homesites within a condominium regime, confirmed Danielle Tocco, communications vice president of Lennar Corporation. The 4801 N. Quinlan Park Rd. site is owned by CalAtlantic Homes which merged with Lennar Corporation Feb. 12. On that same date, CalAtlantic filed an extension to the project’s existing site plan, city of Austin permit documents show.
Tocco did not provide information on the residential development’s timeline but said “the project has started and we have broken ground.”
“(The neighborhood will be) the last and final opportunity to own a home in Steiner Ranch,” Tocco said in an email.
Local company Waterloo Development is overseeing the development of the project, including building out its infrastructure—streets and utilities, Waterloo Development president Christopher Blackburn said.
Brian Thompto, chairman of the Steiner Ranch Neighborhood Association, said SRNA has reached out to CalAtlantic to work with the company and Waterloo on the development.
“We are in the process of setting up some initial meetings with the home builder and the developer to make sure we put the biggest picture issues we are already aware of on the table and start a dialogue,” Thompto said.
“We’ll engage the community as this moves forward, as we get some initial feedback from them and as we learn more,” Thompto said.
He cited aesthetics on the development site—tree cover, landscaping, vegetative placement—and traffic flow in the project area as the two main issues the group seeks to discuss with CalAtlantic. He said aesthetics will factor into the neighborhood by shielding the project site from street view as well as offering these new residents privacy.
The development’s driveway will be located across from Randalls’ access point on North Quinlan Park Road, with a right turn in and right turn out only, Thompto said.
The issue is that due to the topography of North Quinlan Park Road. “The line of sight is poor so the (shopping center) does not allow even a left turn out of Randalls even though people do it anyway,” he said.
William Farrell said he anticipates the project will be zoned to Steiner Ranch Elementary (School), forcing residents to travel up RM 620, down to Steiner Ranch Boulevard and then circle back into Steiner Ranch to get to school in the morning hours. Currently, the same route would be needed to access Canyon Ridge Middle School, he said.
“It’s this big loop,” Farrell said of the route. “Or are we going to be seeing u-turns at that (RM 620 at North Quinlan Park) light in the mornings for school?”
Thompto said traffic flow has always been a concern for Steiner Ranch residents.
“The issue is there have been so many eyes on (MU-14) because people have known that we have been looking at this, trying to put fields in there for a long time,” SRNA director William Farrell said. “And, now that construction has started, we get questions from people who knew we were working on it. We just want to make sure we can work with the developer to alleviate any concerns people have out here.”
Originally, in 2013, the property was slated for 150 duplex units situated within 75 buildings, Thompto said. The community put pressure on developer and owner Taylor Morrison to vacate the residential project, he said.
“We delineated to (Taylor Morrison staffers) some of the downfalls of building on this property and some of the concerns and highlighted them,” Thompto said. “We indicated that an alternative could be to add value to the community by giving (Steiner Ranch residents) a chance to own it.”
In January 2015, the SRNA board had an agreement in place with the tract’s new owner MU-14 Investments to allow Travis County Water Control and Improvement District 17—the water and wastewater provider for Steiner Ranch—to hold a bond election and raise the $6.5 million needed to convert the tract into a recreational community site or park, Thompto said. As a water district, WCID 17 had the authority to provide recreational facilities to its constituents, he said.
Taylor Morrison divested its stake in the property, paving the way for the community to have the option to purchase the land given WCID 17’s funding scenario, Thompto said. The project could have included three ballfields and a community center, he said.
“We were petitioning (WCID 17), on behalf of the Steiner Ranch defined area, to buy (the MU-14 tract) and tax us,” Thompto said. “For our area, it was a huge deal, a huge deal to get (recreational facilities). We had the developer and had the opportunity to put it under contract. We just needed financing.”
SRNA sent out a survey to Steiner Ranch residents regarding the proposal and the response was overwhelmingly in favor of the project, Farrell said.
“That’s why we were fighting hard because we saw it as an asset for the community,” Farrell said. “MU-14 is the front door to the community. It could provide the last impervious cover credits that the community would need to build any future improvements.”
Impervious cover credits may be used to balance out other construction within an area. By leaving the tract open as a recreational use and void of buildings, the property could offset development constructed elsewhere in Steiner Ranch.
However, in June 2015, WCID 17 chose not to pursue the bond proposal, citing its need to represent the entire district and not solely one neighborhood as well as being hesitant to expand its purview into adding recreational amenities, Thompto said.
In late summer of 2015, SRNA notified MU-14 Investments that the group wanted to pursue alternative financing options for the tract and requested the Steiner Ranch Homeowners Association, one of two controlling HOAs in Steiner Ranch, pursue the purchase, he said.
“The HOA comptroller even did a cursory look into it and looked into the bylaws and said, ‘basically, it is possible for the HOA to approve this,’” Thompto said. “The proposal remained on hold due to Taylor Morrison’s controlling interest in the HOA at the time.”
During the first six months of 2017, SRNA recommended to one Steiner Ranch HOA—the Steiner Ranch Master Association—that both of its HOAs “fully explore the feasibility of doing a community purchase of the tract financed through the HOAs,” he said. In January 2018, the SRMA agreed with SRNA to move forward jointly on exploring this option, he said.
But in the meantime, CalAtlantic agreed with MU-14 Investments that it could develop detached condominium homes on the tract and received a site plan change request from the original duplex plan.
“(The proposed recreational site) was a nice idea whose time has now passed,” Thompto said. “We missed the window. If we were going to do any of this stuff, the HOA would have had to have acted in the first half of last year. That window expired.”