Photo by Gene Davis
Business owner: ‘This is not your grandpa’s Bee Cave’
With Bee Cave’s population growing every year, city leaders are facing proposals that differ from the city’s comprehensive plan.
In October and November, Bee Cave City Council debated and approved allowing tower signs at the Shops at the Galleria and 50-foot-wide lots for the Masonwood housing development, both of which go against the city’s comprehensive plan.
“I think it would be foolish to hang on to some of the ideas we may have had eight years ago that really no longer apply,” Councilman Jack McCool said about the Shops tower signs.
The Bee Cave comprehensive plan approved in 2009 serves as the official policy of the city. In the introduction, the plan says it is meant to be a guide and not a rigid policy.
“Planning is not a single event but rather a continuous and ever-changing process,” the comprehensive plan reads. “The city will undoubtedly encounter future development proposals that are inconsistent with the plan.”
Signs at the Shops
On Nov. 13, Bee Cave City Council voted to allow tower signs at the Shops at the Galleria for stores that back up to Hwy. 71.
The tower signs will be up to 175 square feet in size.
“The last time I read [the comprehensive plan], I don’t ever remember anything [in Bee Cave] being described as a shopping destination,” McCool said. “But whether we like it or not, we’ve built one on both sides of the road.”
Although the Shops at the Galleria is almost full, Daniel Myrick, vice president of Christopher Commercial, which manages the property, said it is difficult to attract and maintain businesses in the current economic climate. The Shops often has to provide incentives such as rent concessions and tenant allowance, yet big stores such as Barbeques Galore and Famous Footwear have left, Myrick said.
When trying to attract new tenants, Myrick said not having tower signs for the buildings backing up to Hwy. 71 makes it a tough sell.
“It’s a complaint that we hear time and time again when we go to market our space,” he said.
Tenants at the Shops said they hear from many customers who did not know the Shops existed or where it was located. Mandola’s Italian Market owner Damian Mandola said businesses like his are struggling to stay open and need all the help they can get to let people know they are there.
“This is not your grandpa’s Bee Cave. This is Bee Cave of 2012,” he told council members. “Face reality—[Bee Cave] is growing, it’s going to grow bigger, and people want to go out and shop.”
Former Councilman Mike Murphy, who negotiated with the Shops when it was built in 2004, said he worried that the tower signs would set a bad precedent. Mayor Caroline Murphy added that signage is an important issue that defines a town, and the signs could take away from the vision of Bee Cave.
“I’m fearful of sign creep, and I’m fearful that the towers are more reminiscent of an outlet mall than the shopping center of a town that, at least as I understand it, the community has envisioned for Bee Cave,” she said.
Despite the objections, council passed the sign amendment with only Councilman Bill Goodwin voting against.
Councilman Steve Braasch said that because the Shops generate more than 25 percent of Bee Cave’s sales tax revenue, it benefits the city to do what it can to keep the retail center healthy. The sales tax revenue is part of what helps Bee Cave maintain the lowest property tax in the state, he said.
“[The Shops] get hurt, stores go dark, the city gets hurt,” Myrick said. “It’s just that simple.”
Council also approved allowing the Shops to paint the backs of the buildings that face Hwy. 71. The paint job will make the backs of the buildings, which council members said is a visual blight, look more like the front of the buildings.
Despite the Bee Cave comprehensive plan calling for half-acre home lots, City Council on Nov. 13 approved an amended development agreement that will allow single-family homes on 50-foot-wide lots in the Masonwood development off Hwy. 71.
City Council in 2011 approved a development agreement and concept plan for 304 single-family homes and 300 apartment units on 147.59 acres of land near the Falconhead West development. City Council in November approved an amendment to the development and agreement plan that will add 47 additional acres with single-family lots and the acreage for commercial development.
In exchange for allowing single-family homes on 50-foot lots, the developer agreed not to build a 300-unit apartment complex that had previously been approved for the project.
Murphy said that the comprehensive plan does not encourage smaller housing lots and that the 50-foot lots concerned her. Councilman Bill Goodwin said that the development is not in line with his vision for Bee Cave.
“This is the lowest common denominator housing project that you are going to see out here,” he said.
However, a majority of council members said the additional single-family housing, including those with 50-foot lots, was better than an apartment complex.
Masonwood is in the Bee Cave extraterritorial jurisdiction, which is land claimed by a city outside its limits, and multiple council members said having the development conform to most of the city’s codes was a positive.
“We want this to be a collaborative effort,” said Bill McClain, an attorney for the developer. “We want it to be something you are proud of and that it fits within your community.”