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John D. Harden

Mixed support

Profile image for By John D. Harden / Staff Writer
By John D. Harden / Staff Writer

Justin council approves Bishop Gardens, stalls on bigger development

JUSTIN — Developers of two separate apartment projects vied for a vote of support from the Justin City Council during a Monday night meeting, but the council voted to support only the smaller development.

Council members voted 4-1 in support of moving forward with negotiations with Bishop Gardens, but they tookno action on the second and larger development, Villas at Justin.

Both developers had agreed to help cover the cost of a new wastewater lift station, which officials say is needed to support the projects and additional development. The city’s wastewater system is already at full capacity, and up to $600,000 in improvements are needed to handle additional development, a consultant has told the city.

Council member Lisa Westkaemper cast the sole vote against the Bishop Gardens project, saying the council should request an in-depth plan that outlines any impact the development might have on the city.

Mayor Greg Scott said it’snot a done deal, even though the council voted to support the project.

“We’re only approving support for one over the other,” he said.

The Villas at Justin had been proposed for construction on 18 acres near the Bishop Gardens site. The council briefly discussed the possibility of using the 18 acres as potential sites for future commercial and retail development, even though it’s zoned for residential development.

The vote to support Bishop Gardens is a change of tune for the council, which originally had its eyes on negotiating with the Villas at Justin.

Bishop Gardens is an 80-unit apartment development by Herman & Kittle Properties that would sit just north of a few fast-food restaurants and west of another residential community on 14 acres at the corner of Hardeman Boulevard and FM156.

AMCAL Multi-Housing Inc. is the developer of the Villas at Justin and had proposed about 180 units.

Many residents and council members at the meeting voiced preference for the smaller development, saying it was more in line with the image of Justin they want to maintain. The change didn’t sit well with the Villas at Justin developer.

“That’s very unfair — 180 units on 18 acres isn’t a large community,” Donna Rickenbacker with Marque Real Estate Consultants told the council. “We spent time and dollars, real dollars,mayor, to secure the support from the city.”

Council member Conrad Jimison said the decision was based on what the whole community needs.

“The real issue comes down to what’s best for Justin,” Jimison said. “The more rooftops and the more people equals economic development.”

The council spent most of the meeting answering questions from many residents who expressed interest in the projects.

City Manager Ashley Stathatos said there’s a need for more residential development but that the city doesn’t have the wastewater infrastructure to support it.

“We’re at capacity,”Stathatos said.

And city officials said there’s a major need for new infrastructure.

According to state data, Justin has about 3,000 residents and is projected to continue growing. Statecensus data projects the city’s population will cross the 5,000 mark by 2020and then 8,000 by 2030.

Talks of adding a new lift station and making improvements to the city’s infrastructure have been ongoing.

The city recently hired consultant Pacheco Koch to evaluate the city’s lift stations and pumps. According to the company, the price of all the improvements needed to improve wastewater service ranges between $100,000 and $600,000.

JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @JDHarden.