General Plan 2020: Places and Spaces

General Plan 2020 Adopted

The General Plan 2020: Places and Spaces has been approved by the Planning & Zoning Commission and was adopted by the City Council on the first reading!  Big thanks to everyone who shared their concerns and priorities for the city in last summer’s workshops and focus groups (see earlier posts).  Also our heartfelt thanks to the city staff who contributed their time and expertise to help us produce recommendations that will guide the City’s development strategy over the next decade.

Several chapters of the General Plan 2020 address issues that were not part of earlier general plans, such as community quality, sustainability, support for older neighborhoods, historic preservation, and redevelopment quality.  These are issues that the City Council has identified in the Strategic Plan as critical to maintaining Round Rock as a city of choice, and which residents expressed concerns about in the General Plan Community Phone Survey and last summer’s workshops and focus groups (see previous posts). 

Draft #4 of the General Plan 2020 is given in the previous post; the final document will be posted in mid-August.  Copies can then be downloaded or ordered from local copy centers in the binding of your choice.

Draft General Plan 2010-2020 completed

After several work sessions with the Planning & Zoning Commission and City Council, we have completed the draft General Plan 2010-2020!  A link is provided below for public review.  Print copies are also available at the Library and the Planning Department. 

Places and Spaces: General Plan 2010-2020 (draft #4) (pdf, 3.15 MB)

We thank you for your interest in this project, and hope you will review the General Plan and share your thoughts with us, especially if you participated in the focus groups last summer.  Please post your comments here on the blog, or if you prefer, contact Planner Nathaniel Strosberg directly at nstrosberg@round-rock.tx.us or 512-671-2728.

This draft will be reviewed by the Planning & Zoning Commission and City Council at work sessions in June and early July 2010.  Then we will produce a final draft, which is tentatively scheduled for its first public hearing at the Planning & Zoning Commission meeting on July 19, 2010. We will continue to post progress updates here and on the Planning Department web page (www.roundrocktexas.gov/planning).

Thank you all again for your contributions to this project!

Recap of the General Plan open house

 We are pleased to present the first complete draft of the General Plan 2010-2020!  We had a good turnout for the April 28 open house, and got many thoughtful comments.

List of draft policy recommendations from the Draft Plan
Issue posters from last summer's focus group meetings (meetings summarized in earlier posts)
Participants' comments on the Draft Plan from the April 28 open house

Please leave any additional thoughts or comments below.  If you would like to see the current draft of the plan, contact Nat Strosberg at 512-671-2728 (the current draft is in 12 Word files).

The next draft will be reviewed in a future Planning & Zoning Commission work session.

General Plan Open House moved to Baca Center

I apologize for the confusion!  The open house will be moved next door to the Baca Center, 301 W. Bagdad Avenue, Building 2.  The date and time are still Wednesday, April 28, 2010 from noon to 7:00 p.m.  We look forward to getting your feedback and ideas for the draft General Plan!

General Plan Open House rescheduled to Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Due to a last-minute scheduling conflict the open house to review the current draft of the General Plan 2010-2020 will be moved from Tuesday, April 27 to Wednesday, April 28, 2010.  Same time and location: noon to 7:00 p.m. in the community room at the McConico Building.  We look forward to seeing you!

General Plan Draft Open House April 27, 2010

The Planning Department seeks your input on the major recommendations of the Draft 2010-2020 General Plan, including the latest version of the future land use map.

These recommendations were created with your input from the Focus Group meetings last summer (see previous blog posts for summaries). The open house is scheduled from noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 27, in the McConico Building Community Room, 301 W. Bagdad Ave., ground floor. We hope to see you there!

General Plan 2020: wrap-up meeting and feedback results

A big thank-you to everyone who participated in these four workshops for the time and thought you gave to this project!

Input from these meetings, along with the phone survey and Strategic Plan, will inform the goals and objectives of the General Plan 2020, which lays out the City’s growth and development strategies for the next decade.  After the City Council retreat in mid-August, we will begin to create draft policies to achieve these goals. 

This meeting
Over the three previous General Plan workshops we have collected your thoughts about issues that Round Rock will be facing over the next decade, and how the City might address them.  We collected these comments and in this meeting asked you to rate your support for each.  The list of comments is long because the General Plan covers a lot of subjects, and we got a lot of valuable suggestions from participants in the first three meetings.  We have tried to condense them as much as we could without injecting bias. 

Blank rating form, summary of rating results and participants' written comments

Highlights 

By mean (average), the 3 highest-rated items were (all 2.5): 

  • Provide incentives for developers to incorporate water conservation measures into new development
  • Build a diversified and efficient transportation system
  • Develop public transit options for point to point routes and to serve the college campuses

The items receiving the highest numbers of “3” ratings were:

  • Build a diversified and efficient transportation system (25 of 36)
  • Provide incentives for developers to incorporate water conservation measures into new development (23 of 36)
  • Preserve the City’s history/sense of place for future generations  (23 of 36)
  • Implement a regional approach to transportation planning (23 of 36)

By subject area the results indicate:

Future Land Use & Subdivision Design

  • Strong support for more open space and recreational facilities and better subdivision design generally
  • Strong support for more variety in housing types for different life stages and incomes
  • Strong support for locating neighborhood commercial at major intersections between neighborhoods, but not within them. 
  • Strong opinion that neighborhood commercial should be scaled to local needs – several mentioned the grocery on Sam Bass. Significant concern about over-commercialization of areas near neighborhoods
  • Strong support for more assertive standards “don’t let developers define our community for us”
  • Significant support for denser and more diverse housing, and for mixed-use areas, but ONLY if well planned
  • Significant concern that apartments and duplexes are too concentrated.
  • Significant agreement that commercial development should be directed to nodes rather than strips.
  • Ambivalence/disagreement on whether subdivisions should follow a traditional neighborhood pattern or a suburban one with cul-de-sacs.

Support for Older Neighborhoods

  • Very strong opinion that the city should assist neighborhoods in improving amenities, and also strong opinion that maintenance of city properties should be improved (sidewalks, lighting, trails, parks)
  • Very strong support for organizing neighborhoods, volunteers etc. for neighborhood cleanups, and strong opinion that the city should actively organize or facilitate these efforts.
  • Very strong support for adopting/enforcing maintenance standards for rental properties/landlords
  • Strong support for having the city and volunteer groups help property owners meet code/maintenance standards
  • Moderate support for stronger code enforcement standards and enforcement

Historic Preservation

  • Very strong support for preserving the City’s history (buildings and documents) and sense of place for future generations.
  • Very strong agreement that the City needs to clarify its preservation goals
  • Very strong support for giving more attention to the character of a district: creating standards for new construction to harmonize with older buildings in the area; also strong aversion to creating a false history (theme park)
  • Very strong support for flexible standards that allow modern, better-performing materials if they preserve the building’s look and character – although standards must be strict enough to be meaningful. 
  • Strong support for various preservation activities, including improving public awareness of preservation, offering City grants, and establishing a non-profit preservation organization
  • Moderate support for more designations and stronger standards
  • Strong support for increasing the City’s support for preservation (its existing preservation programs)
  • Support for improving preservation through incentives and improvements in preservation management – streamlining review or waiving permit fees, and creating pattern books so that buildings are evaluated by their building type
  • Very strong rejection of reducing the City’s preservation efforts or standards, or that it’s too late for preservation/too much has been lost

Residential design (single-family)

  • Strong support for requiring more trees and less obtrusive utility placement
  • Strong support for encouraging design variety and better construction and materials
  • Strong-moderate support for both appropriate house/lot proportions and variety on these proportions. 
  • Moderate support for variety of house types, price points.
  • Moderate support for better design standards and less obtrusive garages.

Environment

  • Very strong support for water conservation measures, especially for new development.
  • Strong support for improving the recycling program and adding curbside service

Parks & Open Space

  • Very strong support for conservation of natural areas
  • Very strong support for the development of a connected hike & bike trail system
  • Strong support for improving maintenance of older parks – significantly stronger than support for new parks

Connectivity and the Transportation Network

  • Very strong support for a more comprehensive and diversified transportation system (incl. transit) that is integrated with neighboring communities’ systems.
  • Very strong support for better street connectivity - more entrances to subdivisions, better connections between neighborhoods and small-scale commercial, etc.
  • Agreement that you should notice the city and not just pass through as fast as possible
  • Strong support for other transportation issues: synchronized signals, better street maintenance, fewer school zones, generally improving congestion etc.

Street/Corridor Design

  • Very strong support for more sidewalks/bike lanes, and generally improving pedestrian safety, access and connectivity.
  • Very strong support for improving street appearance (and walking experience) with trees, landscaping, medians, lighting, underground utilities, etc.
  • Very strong support for better signage for both public facilities and places/events of interest. In discussion several had mentioned that they like the builder sign kiosks.  [unclear whether this was more an issue of more signs or more attractive signs, but mentioned that they appreciated that all streets had name signs]
  • Mixed opinions on speed bumps
  • Rejection of roundabouts at major intersections.

Transit

  • Very strong support for bus and rail connections, including bus service within the city. Strongest support for transit serving the university area.

Public Services

  • Strong support for strengthening neighborhoods’ sense of community
  • Strong support for ensuring that social services accommodate population increases.

Programs & Attractions

  • Strong support for attracting more businesses downtown, more family oriented entertainment, and a more diversified economic base. 
  • Strong support for developing a stronger identity for Round Rock
General Plan 2020 – wrap-up meeting July 15

In our final workshop we will discuss your comments from the previous three meetings, and how they will be incorporated into the General Plan 2020.  Participants will individually rank their priorities, which will be tallied for further discussion.

The meeting will be Tuesday July 15, from 7:00-9:00 p.m. in the Baca Center Grand Room.

Thanks to everyone who has participated in these workshops for all your hard work!

Next General Plan meeting June 30: Community Design & Preservation

The next General Plan 2020 meeting will be June 30, 2009 from 7-9 p.m. at the Baca Center.  Come early to see the preservation photo showcase “Places and Spaces That Matter” in the Baca Center lobby from 5-7.

This meting will address community design (corridors), housing & subdivisions, support for older neighborhoods and historic preservation.  This information will help to shape the General Plan 2020’s policy recommendations in these areas.

After a short presentation, participants will discuss the following questions in small groups:

  • How can we improve the appearance of transportation corridors in Round Rock?  Can you name some corridors in Round Rock that are good examples?
  • Where do you think commercial development belongs on a corridor?  What about residential, office, and multi-family development?
  • What are the things that you like and the things that you don’t like about existing subdivisions in Round Rock?  Please comment on both physical and community aspects.
  • What mix of housing types should be encouraged within a single subdivision and how should those types be arranged?  If there is commercial development within a residential subdivision, where is the best location for it?
  • What types of investments can the city make to improve deteriorating neighborhoods?
  • To what degree should the City participate in historic preservation efforts and why?
  • To what degree should the City regulate design for alterations to historic structures?

There will be a wrap-up meeting on July 15.  Whether or not you are able to attend these meetings, please share your thoughts with us here on the blog!

General Plan Meeting 2, part 2: Environment

Meeting 2 was a Q&A session about citywide transportation and environmental issues with representatives of the City’s Transportation and Utilities departments.  Discussion about transportation issues was summarized in the previous entry. 

The topics of water conservation, stormwater management, and solid waste and recycling generated a great deal of lively discussion, summarized briefly below.   We encourage you to add your thoughts here on the blog.

Presentation materials and participants’ responses:

Water supply and conservation:

Utilities Director Michael Thane began by briefly describing Round Rock’s water history http://www.roundrocktexas.gov/home/index.asp?page=149 , and the time in 1978 when the city briefly ran out of water.  Since then it has been a challenge for supply to keep up with the area’s rapid growth. The main sources at this time are groundwater, Lake Georgetown, and shared facility to access water from Lake Travis that should be operational by 2012.  This still will not be quite enough to meet future peak water needs, which will have to be met through conservation measures. 

Earlier this year the City adopted a block water rate program to reduce consumption in peak demand periods.  From May to September, use over 18,000 gal/month will be priced at a higher rate.  The difference will be used to fund additional infrastructure, thus keeping overall water rates low (Round Rock’s water rates are already quite low compared to neighboring cities and MUDs).

He discussed expanding water re-use programs, in which water is treated and used for irrigation and other non-potable uses.  Currently the only facility using this system is the Forest Creek Golf Course.  It would be advantageous to build re-use systems into the development codes now, before the city is built out.

The Utility Department has recently recycled 55-gallon plastic drums for use as rain barrels, which are available for $25.  The department would like to offer more rebates, and has recently hired a conservation specialist.  Soon they will offer free irrigation audits.

There was a lot of discussion about other conservation measures that could be adopted, such as onsite gray water systems (in which water from showers, washing machines, etc. – but not toilets – is re-used for landscaping without further treatment), requiring drip water irrigation systems, and financial incentives to develop these systems for developers as well as households.  Several participants expressed frustration at Homeowners Associations that require (thirsty) St. Augustine grass, and then levy fines if it is allowed to get brown during the summer.

Solid waste and recycling:

Currently the City operates a recycling center where materials can be dropped off, and curbside pickup is available for a small fee.  Six months ago the Utilities Dept. completed a pilot study which collected both trash and recyclables from a sample of households once each week instead of collecting trash twice a week.  Results were very positive, and the department is looking at the relative costs of the program in light of recent changes in commodity and landfill prices.

The recycling program probably generated the most spirited discussion of the evening. Several participants had been part of the pilot study, and didn’t want it to end.  They had noticed that the volume of trash was greatly reduced.  Others wondered why the City does not currently recycle glass, and whether additional recyclables would be processed locally or be contracted to a facility in Austin or San Antonio.  Some noted that an extra trip to collect recyclables might not be environmentally beneficial if outweighed by diesel pollution, others replied that it would balance out if one trash collection trip were eliminated, and others asked why the trucks should burn diesel. 

Stormwater management:

Engineering & Development Services Director Danny Halden gave a slide presentation about the City’s Stormwater Master Plan.  Because of its size, the City must now meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act, and must enforce stricter stormwater management standards, outlined in the Master Plan.  We will need to develop an ordinance for erosion and sediment control, and one for illicit discharge.  We will also need to develop a regional stormwater management program and policy, and must review our development ordinances and processes.  These programs will require new funding sources – currently some regional management systems are supported through fees, but so far there has not been much will to create a stormwater utility.

The City participates in the National Flood Insurance Program, which requires cities to adopt minimum standards in order to allow residents to purchase flood insurance.  The City uses a higher standard than what is required, which considered future development.  He stressed that the floodplain is not a set boundary but a measure of risk, and bigger floods are always possible (especially in Central Texas), as Marble Falls experienced a few years ago.

Next:  The June 30 meeting will address community design, housing, historic preservation and neighborhood support.  There will be a wrap-up meeting on July 15

General Plan 2020 meeting #2, part 1: Transportation

Meeting #2 was a Q&A session about citywide transportation and environmental issues with representatives of the City’s Transportation and Utilities departments.  Both departments are in the process of major policy initiatives and long-term projects, and there was a lot of discussion with participants, so I’m summarizing in separate entries.

Presentation materials and participants’ responses:

Summary: 

Chief of Public Works operations Tom Word gave a summary of the City’s long-term transportation plans, which for the first time include significant investments in public transportation.  It will not be possible to serve the anticipated ultimate population of the city (225,000-200,000 people, about the current population of Corpus Christi) just by adding traffic lanes.  Currently the only public transit in Round Rock is a dial-a-ride service provided by CARTS

Roadway Network:  Mr. Word summarized the City’s ultimate roadway plan.  The plan indicates more north-south arterials (new Arterial A, and extensions of Wyoming Springs and Double Creek Drive), as well as bicycle and trail improvements (refer to Transportation Master Plan web page).

Peak Hour Commuter Express Bus Service:  Beginning this fall, the City will begin a 3-year pilot project offering peak hour express bus service from downtown Round Rock and the IH-35 – SH-45 area to Cap Metro’s Howard Lane rail station and the Tech Ridge park-and-ride facility.  The annual cost of service is $500,000 per year, half of which is covered by a Federal grant.  The $1 fare will cover up to 90% of the remainder, depending on ridership.   If the service proves popular, permanent park-and-ride facilities will be constructed (refer to project web page).

Proposed commuter rail link:  There is a possible opportunity to tie in to Cap Metro’s MetroRail service.  The first line, from Leander to Downtown Austin, is due to become operational this fall.  This line comes very close to the intersection of IH-35 and SH-45, and it may be feasible to extend a track down the median of SH-45 to a stop by the Dell Campus.  Right now there are more than 15,000 jobs clustered within a mile of the proposed station.  From there it could divide into north and south lines extending to Pflugerville and/or north to the Dell Diamond, universtity area and ultimately Georgetown.  Both Georgetown and Pflugerville are interested in the proposal.  Round Rock would buy trains and contract with Cap Metro to operate them.  The proposal is currently undergoing feasibility studies (refer to the draft route map).

Next: Meeting #2, part 2: Environment

Kickoff meeting recap

May 16 meetingAt the May 6 meeting (agenda), Mayor Alan McGraw opened the meeting with a review of changes in the City over the last ten years, particularly population growth and increased demographic diversity, and issues that have emerged as challenges for the next decade.   We now have campuses for ACC, Texas State and Texas A&M – what issues do college towns have?  How will we house students, since Texas State is not planning on building dormitories?  With the new hospitals, medical and nursing campuses, where would doctors, nurses and orderlies like to live?

Planning Director Jim Stendebach gave a presentation to explain the context of the General Plan 2020 (presenation powerpoint).  The General Plan is the major policy document guiding land use, growth and development, particularly through the Subdivision and Zoning Ordinances.  One of the purposes of the General Plan is to incorporate aspects of other master plans (including the Strategic Plan, Transportation Master Plan, Downtown Redevelopment Plan, Parks Strategic Master Plan, Drainage Plan and Water & Wastewater Plan) for a coordinated approach to development. 

Based on recommendations from the last General Plan, the City has revised the Zoning Ordinance to improve design standards for development, added minimum landscaping requirements, adopted a tree preservation ordinance, produced two neighborhood improvement plans and a yard parking ordinance to support older neighborhoods, and produced the Southwest Downtown Plan to guide redevelopment in this area and support it with street improvements (now under construction). 

Some of our emerging challenges for the next decade are maintaining quality of older neighborhoods, accommodating economic and demographic changes in the community, historic preservation, improving quality of life and planning future land use patterns.

Planner Nat Strosberg summarized the results of the phone survey, which was taken last fall (see previous blog entry).  The survey gives a statistically representative picture of Round Rock residents concerns regarding the city's emerging challenges, including historic preservation, community design, and the environment. 

Nat then explained the evening’s focus group exercise, intended to indicate resident priorities and to identify any issues for discussion in the General Plan that may have been overlooked.  Posters depicting potential issues were placed around the room to prompt discussion. Participants broke into groups to discuss the questions below, and later presented its findings to the others:

a) Describe the biggest changes in Round Rock, both positive and negative, over the past five years.  (summary of responses)

b) Is Round Rock growing in a way that will make it an attractive and enjoyable place to live and/or work in 20 years?  Why or why not?  (summary of responses)

c) What specific issues related to what you heard today are of interest to you, and why? Are there other topics that you feel should be addressed in the general plan?  (summary of responses)

d) Are there any additional thoughts or ideas that you feel are important from today’s discussion or that you would like addressed at subsequent hearings?  (summary of responses)

The May 27 meeting will address citywide transportation, drainage and water conservation issues.  The June 30 meeting will address community design, housing, historic preservation and neighborhood support.

There will be a wrap-up meeting on July 15.  Whether or not you are able to attend these meetings, please share your thoughts with us here on the blog!

General Plan Survey Results

The General Plan bases its policy recommendations on the goals and objectives as expressed by the residents of Round Rock and their elected representatives in the City Council.  As a first step in this process, the Planning Department hired Raymond Turko & Associates to conduct a statistically representative survey of Round Rock residents’ planning–related concerns and priorities.

The survey included questions about the availability of retail and services, the city’s appearance, neighborhood quality and design, support for historic preservation, and improving downtown Round Rock.  Please refer to the survey results summary and executive summary for more detailed information.  Full results (huge file) are available from the Planning Department.

Round Rock General Plan 2020: Public Focus Group Meetings

Round Rock is currently transitioning from a successful suburb into a prosperous and attractive midsize city.  This transition presents major changes in Round Rock’s quality of life and business environment, from the ways people move about the city to the number and types of places where people can do business or have fun.  The Round Rock General Plan is the official policy document guiding the city’s physical growth and development, and directly impacts what kind of place Round Rock will become over the next decade.  Overall, the Plan addresses a variety of issues shaping the city, ranging from historic preservation to transportation to the environment.

The General Plan is updated approximately every ten years, and currently, the Plan is now in the process of being updated to accommodate the host of new challenges facing the city.  Public input plays an important part in this updating process.  During the upcoming months, there will be a series of public meetings held in the Grand Room at the Baca Center (301 W. Bagdad Avenue, Building 2, Round Rock), which the entire community is welcome to attend.  These meetings will cover the range of topics discussed in the Plan, and will present an opportunity for participants to contribute their feedback.  Below is the list of meeting dates:

Kick-Off Meeting (Two Options): Wednesday, May 6 from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm or Saturday, May 16 from 9:00 am to 11:30 am (Please attend whichever meeting is more convenient for you – both meetings will have the same content)

Meeting #2: Wednesday, May 27 from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm

Meeting #3: Tuesday, June 30 from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm

Wrap-Up Meeting: Wednesday, July 15 from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm

In this forum, we invite you to contribute any ideas or feedback you might have about how Round Rock can become a better place, as well as comments about the meetings.