Leander growth

Leander seeks to control growth of apartments

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Leander Mayor Troy Hill wants to slow the development of new apartment complexes.

During the briefing session prior to last week’s council meeting, Hill proposed that the city require all multi-family developments to use 100% masonry in their construction.

Council member Christine Sederquist questioned whether they would be able to institute the proposal given the passage of House Bill 2439 in the recent state legislative session. The bill bars local governments from limiting a builder from using a product in construction not written into a national model code within the past three years — and also from setting more stringent aesthetic standards than what a model code lists.

She also questioned whether this proposal directly conflicts with the proposal aimed to increasing the parkland requirement to increase funding for public arts, given this is aimed to having fewer apartments built (see “Old Town proposals generate testy debate”).

Hill argued the legislation won’t go into effect until September and several cities plan to challenge it, so there was a chance the proposal could stand.

Regardless, he argued, the council could institute the requirement now to get it into effect, then use the time until September to find an alternative that would achieve the same goal. He also argued that if a developer did choose to meet that 100% masonry requirement, it would result in a better looking building that retains its value longer.

“If it accomplishes a slowdown on apartments, we’ve accomplished our goal. If it still generates money that is not there today, it also achieves another goal. It’s a win-win,” Hill said.

City staff indicated the process implementing the requirement might take long enough that it wouldn’t become active until September.

City staff said alternatives to achieve this goal could involve using development agreements to offer economic incentives or reductions in certain city requirements in exchange for using 100% masonry in the construction. The approach would mean it was voluntary and the developer could choose to not build with masonry.

Council member Michelle Stephenson questioned whether the council was overreaching, noting 100% masonry is not required on any type of building.

“I’m thinking we can probably get the same appeal with 85% maximum,” Stephenson said.

Hill said the city code already has 85% requirements and argued “the goal here is to slow down apartments.” He also argued it was a less stringent alternative to a city moratorium on apartments.

Council member Marci Cannon argued the city had close to 300 acres still zoned for multi-family development, which could amount to 20,000 units, depending on density.

Hill noted that rapid development of new apartments would have a serious impact on Leander ISD and other schools. He said it emphasized the need for less dense development, which he said was “less expensive for the city to service” while “not overloading our schools.”

Council member Jason Shaw said he agrees. “We have apartments coming too fast,” and said he supports offering an incentive but took issue with mandating the proposal.

Council member Chris Czernek said he is strongly against “putting an ordinance on somebody, that’s the whole reason I’m here.” However, he said, he has even more concerns about how many apartments are being built.

The council voted 5-to-2, with Stephenson and Sederquist, opposing to direct staff to draft language that would provide economic incentives or other options to accomplish the 100% masonry goal.

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