Le­an­der store dis­pute:

City Coun­cil to con­sider zon­ing change to al­low gro­cer, but res­i­dents worry about crowd­ing.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Ben­jamin Wermund bw­er­mund@states­man.com

Sup­port­ers say a pro­posed H-E-B is a tes­ta­ment to Le­an­der’s growth, but some neigh­bors say de­vel­op­ers need to look for a dif­fer­ent site.

The city’s third gro­cery store could be an H-E-B on the cor­ner of FM 2243 and Ron­ald Rea­gan Boule­vard. Some say the po­ten­tial store is a tes­ta­ment to Le­an­der’s con­tin­ued growth, but some neigh­bors, cit­ing con­cerns about flood­ing and traf­fic, say de­vel­op­ers need to look else­where.

The Le­an­der City Coun­cil will con­sider a zon­ing change needed to al­low for the store at its Jan. 17 meet­ing, weeks af­ter it was orig­i­nally set to take up the is­sue. H-E-B of­fi­cials post­poned the zon­ing re­quest to “fur­ther re­view the con­cerns of the neigh­bor­hood,” spokes­woman Les­lie Sweet said.

Res­i­dents in the Ridg­mar Land­ing neigh­bor­hood, who have en­joyed a ru­ral life­style in the city’s east­ern ex­trater­ri­to­rial ju­ris­dic­tion, are ask­ing the gro­cery chain to look at other spots along Ron­ald Rea­gan Boule­vard.

“I don’t know if there is a per­fect cor­ner any­where, but what (H-E-B is) propos­ing works fine there,” City Man­ager Kent Ca­gle said, adding that zon­ing fights like this are not new in the com­mu­nity.

Sweet said the chain ac­quired the land for pos­si­ble fu­ture devel­op­ment, but it has yet to set a timetable for when con­struc­tion could ac­tu­ally be­gin. She said the com­pany has looked all around the area and the cor­ner is ideal.

“From a re­tail per­spec­tive, it’s a great lo­ca­tion, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing this is a fu­ture in­ter­est for us and we be­lieve there will be con­tin­ued growth along that cor­ri­dor,” Sweet said.

Nearby res­i­dents dis­agree, ar­gu­ing nearly any other cor­ner along Ron­ald Rea­gan — where the city an­tic­i­pates much fu­ture growth — would be bet­ter.

“Peo­ple that had an open field be­side them now see a re­tail struc­ture coming, and I un­der­stand why they don’t like it,” Ca­gle said.

Mag­gie McLen­ing, who has writ­ten let­ters op­pos­ing the zon­ing change on be­half of about 50 area res­i­dents, said Trop­i­cal Storm Her­mine in 2010 quickly filled the por­tion of Brushy Creek that runs

be­tween her home and the pro­posed site. The flood changed the land­scape of that tract, she said, and though Her­mine brought the worst flood she’s seen, McLen­ing said the creek rises quickly and can spill be­yond its bor­ders two or three times a year.

She and other res­i­dents fear that flood­wa­ters from Brushy Creek could po­ten­tially rise to the pro­posed store’s park­ing lot and gas sta­tion, po­ten­tially car­ry­ing con­tam­i­nants back into the creek and then into the Ed­wards Aquifer. They also say they don’t be­lieve that two-lane FM 2243 can han­dle the traf­fic the store could at­tract.

“This should be about suit­abil­ity of zon­ing for this site,” McLen­ing said. “Things like flash flood­ing and traf­fic is­sues are out of their con­trol.”

H-E-B has submitted re­quests for a traf­fic anal­y­sis of the in­ter­sec­tion from the Texas De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion, which main­tains FM 2243, said Chris Bishop, a spokesman for TxDOT.

H-E-B came into pos­ses­sion of the roughly 8- acre tract af­ter a July land swap with Wil­liamson County. In re­turn, H-E-B gave a 5-acre tract near the in­ter­sec­tion of Texas 29 and U.S. 183. The Wil­liamson Cen­tral Ap­praisal District showed the land H-E-B ac­quired as worth $578,710 — com­pared with the $338,957 ap­praised value of the land the county re­ceived. County spokes­woman Con­nie Wat­son said the county’s own ap­praisals showed the tracts were equally val­ued, and the county needed the tract it ended up with for a right of way for road­work in the area.

In Novem­ber, Le­an­der’s Plan­ning and Zon­ing Com­mis­sion rec­om­mended that the City Coun­cil ap­prove a zon­ing change to al­low for the H-E-B, de­spite pleas from sev­eral res­i­dents to deny the re­quest. The com­mis­sion called for at least 100 feet of wooded, nat­u­ral buf­fer be­tween the store and the neigh­bor­hood. Con­tact Ben­jamin Wermund at 246-1150. Twit­ter: @Ben­jam­inEW

Mark Mat­son / For aMer­i­Can-states­Man

Mag­gie McLen­ing and her neigh­bors are con­cerned that runoff from a pro­posed H-E-B park­ing lot and gas sta­tion will pol­lute Brushy Creek. The creek rises quickly and can spill be­yond its bor­ders two or three times a year, she says.

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