Courtesy, The Lookout Group
A Randalls grocery store will open in Leander by early 2016, according to the development agreement approved by City Council on Oct. 4.
The agreement between the grocery chain and the city outlined signage, roadway, landscaping and other aspects of the development slated for the corner of Lakeline Boulevard and Crystal Falls Parkway. City Manager Kent Cagle said Randalls agreed to open no later than two years after the completion of the Lakeline Boulevard extension project, expected in January 2014.
During about four months of negotiations, the city reduced $140,000 in permitting fees for the Randalls project out of the $370,000 the chain was initially expected to pay. Cagle said in the first year of its opening, Randalls will pay about $150,000 in sales tax and $75,000–$100,000 in property taxes. Randalls also agreed to purchase from the city the water retention pond located on the property for $48,000.
“We are going to make this up in the first year. And long-term, this is less than one percent that we give up if you look at a 30-year time frame,” Councilman Jason Dishongh said.
Much of the 55-acre development must be excavated, leveled and landscaped to make way for the 58,000-square-foot store. Trees will be removed—and some replaced—which raised concerns from residents and Councilman David Siebold. He said many of the appearance issues addressed in the development agreement should pass before the planning and zoning commission, especially since the city made exceptions to sign height and other rules. The commission approved zoning on the parcel in March, and according to staff, development agreements do not typically require planning and zoning commission approval.
“What’s in the agreement is different from what ordinance lines out, and I would like to see what planning and zoning has to say,” Siebold said. “If you go out there and you walk this land and you see it, that area is going to change significantly. I have not found a public person who is happy about taking down those trees.”
However, staff said in the agreement, Randalls exceeds certain landscaping requirements and plans to have more than the necessary amount of tree coverage along the abutting street. Speaking on behalf of Randalls, David Hardin said the company had to navigate the natural, hilly topography of the area.
“We really tried to save as many trees as we could. The site has major elevation issues,” Hardin said. “All the trees that we are able to save are really around the street areas, which are more visible.”
Council approved the agreement 5-1, with Siebold dissenting and Councilwoman Kirsten Lynch absent. Councilwoman Andrea Navarrette said she was content with the agreement, adding it would bring more jobs and revenue to the city.
“For that project and that piece of land, developement is going to happen. When you think of the size and the scope of the project, and what else could possibly go there, I think it’s fine for a Randalls,” Navarrette said. “I don’t think we are giving the farm away on this one. I think it’s a really good negotiation.”
Negotiations to bring Randalls to Leander took more than four years, said Michael Siefert of developer The Lookout Group. He said he anticipates the grocery chain will be an anchor and draw for more business to open in the immediate area.
“Since Randalls has been public, there has been a significant amount of interest in those corners, and [Randalls] is going to be the one that brings the growth,” he said. “The Lookout Group donated to the city $200,000 for the Lakeline right of way that in turn allowed this to happen. So I think this is a great day, and we should all be clapping that this happened.”