620 Widening Project
An RR 620 Overlay Zoning District is being developed in the City of Lakeway as a planning strategy to manage the anticipated impacts of the planned expansion of Ranch Road 620. The expanded and reconfigured RR 620 will generally be as shown below with six through lanes, raised medians, right and left turn lanes at certain intersections, and a shared use path on each side.
TxDOT is understandably focusing on the engineering aspects of the project as a regional transportation corridor. The City of Lakeway is currently conducting a complementary study to take a broader view of the project’s transportation, economic, and social impacts with a particular emphasis on the City. The expected work product is a RR 620 Overlay Zoning District to mitigate the negative impacts and manage the positive impacts of the road expansion.
The project is part of a larger TxDOT project to expand RR 620 along its full extent from US 183 in Austin to SH 71 in Bee Cave. Within Lakeway, the area for the RR 620 Overlay Zoning District is defined for the commercial properties fronting the project.
Existing Typical Cross Section
Future Typical Cross Section
The TxDOT schedule is dependent upon the availability of funding and so cannot be set with certainty, but if all goes as anticipated construction is planned to start in late 2027 and last for 18 months.
The overall long-term city vision as detailed in the Comprehensive Plan is for Lakeway to preserve, protect, and enhance its character as a premier suburban community. As it is currently configured, RR 620 falls short of the Comprehensive Plan goals in many respects. Within this context, the changes imposed by the RR 620 project will have positive and negative impacts in the immediate term, short term and long term which must be addressed.
Immediate Impacts & Goals
The immediate term is defined as the period leading up to the start of construction and the construction itself. The key physical impacts are the direct effects of the expanded right-of-way. Key policy impacts are the issues faced by grandfathered legal non-conforming properties and by established businesses which are currently in conformance with all regulations which will be made non-conforming because of the RR 620 project. For some properties, including non-conforming properties which were developed before being subject to City of Lakeway regulations, bringing the property into conformance with the current code may be physically impossible because of site constraints.
The immediate-term goals of the RR 620 Overlay Zoning District are to update the city code to accommodate the road expansion, to smooth the process for properties to come into conformance with the code, and to smooth the process for properties which must continue in a legal non-conforming status.
Short Term Impacts & Goals
The short term is defined as the period immediately after all construction is complete. The key physical impact is the new configuration of RR 620. The end result will be improved traffic throughput at the regional level, but a significant change in the character of the corridor at the local level to be more of a barrier between the east and west sides of Lakeway and potentially less supportive of local access.
The primary goal of the RR 620 Overlay Zoning District for short-term impacts is to ensure that the city code is supportive of the anticipated land use changes, enables them with minimal need for variance requests, and maximizes the flexibility of the City response to businesses impacted by the RR 620 project. A secondary goal is to take advantage of the disruption as an opportunity to resolve non-conforming uses.
Long Term Impacts & Goals
The long term is defined both in terms of time and in terms of scope. The time period goes beyond the completion of construction to address the full impacts of RR 620 reconstruction, with an expanded scope that includes the changed context and the implementation of the Comprehensive Plan. In the long term, the RR 620 project is an opportunity to implement the goals and actions of the Comprehensive Plan.
Related Comprehensive Plan Goals
The Comprehensive Plan has a high level vision and defines general goals for the city rather than specific projects. In contrast, the TxDOT RR 620 project is a specific project which focuses on the technical needs of the corridor. The long-term goals for the RR 620 Overlay Zoning District are the middle ground between these two which supports and enables them while at the same time is more proactive in exploring and addressing the related issues. This approach will not detail specific projects, but will look ahead to potential projects and then ensure that the supporting framework of city code and procedures are in place to enable them. In doing so, this approach will be specifically guided to implement the relevant goals and actions of the Comprehensive Plan.
- Enhance gateways into the city for a sense of place and branding.
The RR 620 project can build on the community image by establishing a design theme with a consistent vocabulary for the corridor streetscape, including the design of the shared use path, signage, street furniture, and retaining walls. A goal for the RR 620 overlay zoning district is therefore to define a community image and the specific treatments desired for the corridor. Coordination with TxDOT may allow some implementation of streetscape and gateway designs as “local government projects” during construction, while other elements may be developed by the City in the short-term and long-term
- Strive for the highest and best land use on RR 620.
- Review and update ordinances to maintain character while increasing revenue.
- Consider more dense mixed use development along state highways.
- Consider locations that support higher density and traffic access.
- Consider development of areas which already have infrastructure.
- Create distinctions in the commercial zoning code for better-defined districts.
- Always consider mobility and connectivity.
Several goals relating to wise land use point to the need to address the long-term period with the RR 620 update. Some of the goals refer to long-term redevelopment, so this has to be balanced with the need to preserve existing businesses in the short term.
- Develop backage roads along the RR 620 corridor.
- Connect gaps...between neighboring communities.
- Explore alternative access routes...and safe routes to schools.
Goals for mobility and connectivity need to consider being retrofitted to the existing transportation system and urban structure. Physical updates in the short term are one aspect of the solution; code updates to allow for preferred redevelopment in the long term are another aspect.
- Evaluate a program to address sidewalk and Shared-Use Path needs.
- Encourage the use of greywater in new development, particularly with the RR 620 expansion.
Sidewalks and shared-use paths are part of an active transportation system that is largely absent from Lakeway. Defining an excellent shape for this system means not only its physical condition, but its extent, connectivity, and safety. A transportation system form pedestrians and bicyclists has the additional need to be pleasant and convenient for recreational use as well as for transportation.
Greywater and other types of green infrastructure could be a useful way to partially mitigate water quality issues for properties where it is physically impossible to come into full compliance with current regulations.
- Review sidewalk needs.
- Address gaps between green spaces as an interconnected network.
- Prioritize connecting city corners when RR 620 is expanded.
The definition of community facilities can be expanded to include smaller spaces such as pocket parks and gateways. The short-term disruption and long-term redevelopment caused by the RR 620 expansion is an opportunity to define more spaces and to connect them into a continuous city-wide system.
- Determine the types of commercial development that best benefits the city.
- Research the city attributes that attract desirable businesses.
- Consider ways to use Hotel Occupancy Tax revenues to draw guests to hotels.
This Comprehensive Plan goal is linked to Goal 3: Ensure Wise Land Use, particularly the provision to strive for the highest and best land use in the RR 620 corridor. A goal for the RR 620 overlay zoning district is therefore to define the desirable commercial activities for the corridor, determine the corridor attributes that support and attract them, and develop the overlay zoning district to support those attributes.
The planning reports for the RR 620 Overlay Zoning District are designed to identify the impacts of the road expansion, anticipate issues which will affect the corridor and the city, and develop strategies to mitigate the negative impacts and capitalize on the positive impacts. The reports are also intended to be an intermediate step in implementing the Comprehensive Plan - while the Comprehensive Plan is very high level and long term for the entire city and the TxDOT plans for the RR 620 project are very focused on actual construction, these reports are to establish the detailed vision and goals and the city code context to proactively manage and promote the RR 620 project.
The schedule for developing the RR 620 Overlay Zoning District plans on taking about 20 months to complete the study, the updates to the existing zoning code, and the code for the new overlay zoning district. There are 5 overall tasks in the study:
Report #1: Corridor Inventory and Anticipated Impacts is the introduction to the corridor and to the planning reports. It defines the study corridor and defines the Impact categories:
The report details the physical impacts of the road expansion and the new building setback line on each of these impact categories.620 Project Intro: Introductory presentation describing the road expansion project and the 1st planning report.
Corridor Inventory and Anticipated Impacts: 1st planning report
Appendix A: Sites with Major Impacts: Maps of individual sites showing the expanded right-of-way and 40' building setback lines.
Appendix B: Summary of All Impacts by Site: Table listing the impacts for all sites in the six impact categories.
Appendix C: Types of Monument Signs & Building Signs: Pictures of signs as examples of the different types of conforming and non-conforming signs.
Appendix D: Sites with Master Sign Packages: Pictures of multi-tenant centers with samples of building signs which are internally consistent or have a Master Sign Package.
Inventory Map: Map showing the current right-of-way and corridor features.
Physical Impacts Map: Map showing the expanded right-of-way and physical impacts.
|Report #2: Issues, Constraints, & Opportunities focuses on the regulatory impacts of the road expansion. Understanding the regulatory impacts is necessary to build a RR 620 Overlay Zoning District code that is consistent and that minimizes the need for variances and Special Use Permits (SUPs). The key components of that understanding are to detail the issues, constraints, and opportunities that are entailed in both the corridor expansion’s physical impacts and the status of compliance with existing city code. |
Issues, Constraints, & Opportunities: 2nd planning report
Appendix E: Sites with Non-Compliant Features: Maps of individual sites showing the physical impacts together with the regulatory impacts and detailing which impact categories are non-compliant with current code, shown both before and after the road expansion.
Appendix F: Summary of Impacts & Compliance by Site: Table listing the impacts and code compliance status for all sites in the six impact categories.
City of Lakeway Resolution 2023-06-20-06: Resolution defining the city's approach to retaining grandfathering for impacted properties
Regulatory Impacts Map: map showing the expanded right-of-way, building setback line, non-compliant features.
|Report #3: Corridor Themes & Gateways is essentially a side step in the project to define what the streetscape and context will look like. Comprehensive Plan goals related to the city theme, gateways, and city branding will be a part of this study.|
|The first part of Report #5 will collate the physical and the regulatory impacts of the road expansion and then to develop an RR 620 Overlay Zoning District code for the short-term. The focus will be to develop the portion of the code that will guide businesses during the construction period and minimize the number of Special Use Permits and variances required. |
Report #4: Concepts of Redevelopment will address the long-term goal of redevelopment to the highest and best use. This task will not propose any redevelopment projects, but will explore potential projects as a way to define the characteristics of the RR 620 Overlay Zoning District so that the new code is fully supportive of desired long-term development.
|The second part of Report #5 will be the final step to collate the impacts, the desired city themes and corridor context, and long-term redevelopment, and then to develop the RR 620 Overlay Zoning District code for the long-term. The new code and any updates to other municipal zoning code will be the final products for this study. |
Report #4 has not started.
Physical Impacts of the RR 620 Expansion
Although the percentage of corridor features which is impacted by the road expansion is generally small, the number of cases requiring variances or special use permits is daunting if the current process is followed. One of the main goals of the RR 620 Overlay Zoning District is to develop a regulatory process that will accommodate the impacts without overwhelming property owners and the city.
The expansion of the RR 620 right-of-way will have direct impacts from the additional land needed for the two new lanes, turn lanes at intersections, shared-use paths on both sides, and new water detention basins.
The physical impacts on the corridor are detailed in Report #1, and will vary: The impact on buildings vary according to how much of the building is taken, the angle and orientation, and the existing use which is lost.
Parking spaces have minimum required dimensions, so a road expansion which takes vnen a small portion of a space in effect takes the entire space. The orientation of the lost spaces may also impact the configuration of the drive aisles and driveways.
Driveway throat length is an operational requirement to allow room for cars to navigate a parking lot without interference. The impact of a loss of throat length will vary depending on the configuration of the driveway and parking lot.
Impacts to impervious cover and detention ponds are closely related. The chief variable in the impact is whether the road expansion takes permeable or impermeable land.
Impacts on monument signs which must be re-located depend on whether there is a suitable location for the new sign, its elevation and distance from the road, and any landscaping or structures which block the view.
Regulatory Impacts of the RR 620 Expansion
About half of all parking lots in the corridor have less than the number of parking spaces required by the code
The expansion of the RR 620 right-of-way will also cause impacts in relation to the existing zoning regulations, compliance status, and grandfathered non-compliant uses. These regulatory impacts are detailed in Report #2 and, like the physical impacts, will vary according to the location and context. The most pressing issue with the regulatory impacts is that even when a grandfathered status is technically lost, the City position is not to revoke grandfathering solely due to the RR 620 widening.
The impact on buildings are mostly from the 40' building setback line.
While the physical impacts on driveways considered only the direct impact on throat length, the regulatory impacts must also consider features which are not directly impacted, such as width, spacing, signal spacing, and number.
Impacts to impervious cover and detention ponds are closely related. The chief issue with water quality is that it is a technical issue in addition to a regulatory issue.
Monument signs which must be re-located lose their grandfathered status and must come into compliance with the code. This may require a redesign of the sign including its size, materials, colors, and lighting. More importantly, in order to fulfil its purpose for advertising and wayfinding, a sign must be visible and legible from its new location.
A review of the physical and regulatory impacts of the RR 620 expansion demonstrates that the various impact categories of buildings, parking lots, driveways, impervious cover, detention ponds, and monument signs are all interrelated and must be considered together. Since for some impacted properties code compliance may be physically impossible, the new RR 620 Overlay Zoning District may consider ways to allow trade-offs in the code so that, if an impact cannot be totally avoided or recctified, it can be mitigated - recognizing that the best possible compliance may not be technically total compliance.