Photo by Gene Davis
Housing development could be catalyst for new hike and bike trail, developer says
The plans for a development that would bring more than 350 new condos and single-family dwellings to Bee Cave were submitted mid-March to city leaders for approval.
Plans for the Morningside development are for 316 condos and 62 single-family dwellings on 35.6 acres of land off RR 620 between the Falconhead subdivision and Home Depot. Ash Creek Homes President Scott Morledge, the developer of the project along with Embry Partners, said he hopes the city will complete its review of the development plans by late summer and that construction can start by the fall.
“I think this project makes sense for Bee Cave,” he said.
The tract of land where Morningside is planned has been owned by Barry Lewis since 1984. The plot was identified by Bee Cave’s comprehensive development plan for medium-density residential use.
“This project just seems like what should be there because nothing else would work there,” Lewis told City Council. “We’ve been around the horn a lot, and we think we’ve brought the right project.”
Since Lewis had a series of development agreements on the property before the City of Bee Cave formed in 1987, Bee Cave City Council in December worked to amend the project’s development agreement to bring it up to current city code. The approved amendments included increasing the amount of masonry used in the construction of the homes and limiting on-street parking.
City Council unanimously approved the amendments to the development agreement.
“This is a great project, and these folks have worked very hard with staff to come up with a way to get this done,” Bee Cave City Attorney Patty Akers said.
Morningside is planned so the condos and houses are clustered in separate sections. A greenbelt separates the condos from the houses, and the infrastructure is designed to keep a majority of the property’s existing trees, Morledge said.
“For all the residents that will live there, once they step outside their doors, right within their own property they have acres of unspotted areas where they can go out and walk around,” he said.
All of the condos will be built at once, and the houses will be built as buyers come, Morledge said. Construction on the condos should take about two years, he said.
The houses are expected to cost between $240,000 and $300,000 and the condos between $160,000 and $240,000. If the market does not improve, the condos will be leased, Morledge said.
The city will annex the property from its extraterritorial jurisdiction when the first building permit is issued, Morledge said.
Morledge said relatively affordable housing in the Bee Cave and Lakeway area is a commodity.
He added that Morningside would provide a relatively affordable place to live in Bee Cave, which as of 2009 had an average home or condo price of $565,935, according to City-Data.com, which compiles data for different cities. He said the homes would be useful for employees at the Lakeway Regional Medical Center, the full-service acute care hospital scheduled to open in May.
“There are a lot of people that will work there that aren’t brain surgeons making tons of money,” he said. “[Morningside] will work towards a lot of the housing needs for many [LRMC] employees.”
Bee Cave has a nearly 100 percent occupancy rental apartment rate, and Lakeway has no apartment complexes, he said. The developers of the LRMC campus have postponed a proposed 250-unit apartment complex near the hospital due to a lack of Lakeway city leader support.
Hike and bike trail
Morledge said Morningside could be a catalyst for building a new hike and bike trail in the area.
The city’s long-term comprehensive plan adopted in 2000 and updated in 2009 proposed a multiuse trail that would run from Falcon Head Boulevard to Bee Cave Central Park. Bee Cave City Manager Frank Salvato said the city has had other priorities and has not obtained any easements needed for the trail that would go near Morningside.
Morledge has suggested channeling part of Morningside’s permit and development fees to help fund the trail’s construction. He said the Morningside developers could also help secure the necessary easements for the trail.
“That’s the kind of thing that we do all the time, so it’s actually a lot easier for us to go knock on those doors and make those things happen,” he said of easements.
Hill Country Galleria developer Adrian Overstreet said an additional trail that would go to Central Park, which connects to the Galleria, would be appreciated by the Galleria’s retail stores.
“It’s a community amenity that we think is good for business,” he said. “It also gives people a reason to get out and do healthy things.”
Possible trail route
After walking multiple potential routes, Ash Creek Homes President Scott Morledge said he decided the most practical trail would be near the sewer line that runs along RR 620. There is an existing easement that goes along the sewer line that was installed about 13 years ago.
The underground sewer line would not be visible from the trail, which would be flatter and more handicap-friendly than the alignment proposed in the city’s comprehensive plan, Morledge said. He added that the easement might have to be modified to allow a trail.
“The alignment looks good, it feels good, the easement is in place. It’s kind of a big leap forward,” he said.
The Lower Colorado River Authority owns the sewer line and its easement, but it will soon be transferred from the LCRA to the Coalition of Central Texas Utilities Development Corporation. The group consists of Central Texas communities including Bee Cave and is purchasing the water and wastewater system that serve the area.
Morledge said it would be easier to modify the easement after it is out of the possession of the LCRA.
“LCRA doesn’t have a real vested interest for wanting [the trail] to happen or not wanting [it] to happen,” he said. “We’re optimistic we can get this done.”