Leander approves city annexations

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After months of discussion, Leander City Council approved the annexation of about 1,750 acres of privately owned land in 16 city-designed areas during a meeting April 21.

The city first began to consider annexing more than 3,500 acres in November and mailed notification letters to landowners in January. City Manager Kent Cagle said the council worked to honor agriculture exemptions to qualifying landowners since that time, which allowed the property owners to voluntarily annex their land in five years. Those exemptions cut the amount of land the city annexed to 1,755 acres.

A handful of residents filled the Pay Bryson Municipal Hall during the City Council meeting to speak against the annexations April 21. County Road 279 resident Susan Turner told the council she was making a plea not to be annexed.

“America is a place where you can start a business and build it, but we have to be left alone to do it,” she said. “Leander doesn’t have to be like all the other towns and cities that push out the very foundation that makes America great.”

The city held two public hearings as part of the involuntary annexation process in March, though council members were not able to directly respond to residents’ comments. City staffers were available during and after each meeting to answer questions.

During the April 21 meeting council member Michelle Stephenson said she was struggling with her own conscience over the annexations.

“I have an issue with trying to force someone to annex into a city that they don’t want to,” she said. “I just can’t agree to this and vote in the affirmative.”

Councilmember Ron Abruzzese said he hoped the city answered all the residents’ questions after the two public meetings in March.

“I hope that we on staff and council were open to the discussion and everybody felt that they at least got a fair share to say their piece,” he said.

The council approved the annexations at a vote of 6-1 with Stephenson as the only dissenting vote.

Other rezoning cases

Council members also approved two rezoning cases that were opposed by several residents who spoke during the meeting.

Joshua Becker, a representative of Dannen Development, requested the council issue a Planned Unit Development for 1.5 acres on Apache Trail to allow for the development of a multi-family town home development called the Village Townhomes.

Becker told the council that some neighbors were worried about traffic, privacy and how the townhomes would look, and said he tried to address all their concerns. He said the company altered the plans to build 20 townhomes with a two-story height limit and requested a specific type of architecture.

Several Leander residents, including Iron Horse resident Bill Russell, told the council they were concerned there would be an increase in traffic.

“If this goes to townhomes, that will be too much density for traffic for residential streets,” he said.

Council members approved the rezoning unanimously.

The council also heard an amendment to the Oak Creek PUD southwest of San Gabriel Parkway and U.S. 183, which had previously been zoned for townhomes. Mark Baker, a representative with SEC Planning, requested to amend the PUD to increase the residential density allowed to turn a portion of the lots from townhomes into apartments.

The proposal had been denied by the Planning and Zoning committee, but Baker told the council they were trying to meet the demand for housing in the area.

“Our proposal, we believe, is enhancing the vision that the city has laid out over the last several years,” he said. “I’ve worked in Leander for years now, and the vision has been to try to concentrate density around the transit station and around 183.”

Several residents spoke out against the development, and council member Troy Hill said the homeowners in their neighborhood purchased houses there when the development was planned to become townhomes instead of an apartment complex.

“When they buy a house, they look [around] at the zoning,” he said. “They think they know what it is and they should be able to depend on that.”

The item was approved by a 5-2 vote with council members Hill and Stephenson voting against the measure.