Recent Projects

Coalition to Purchase LCRA Utilities

WaterMr. Howell organized a coalition of communities, districts, water supply corporations, cities and counties in early January of 2010 in response to the threat of the Lower Colorado River Authority’s (LCRA) intention to auction their water and wastewater facilities to Investor Owned Utility Companies. This Coalition formed a development corporation, the Coalition of Central Texas Utilities Development (UDC), in order to focus the coalition’s efforts to obtain their systems and in response to the LCRA’s requirement that there be one entity to act on behalf of the Coalition for the bidding and purchase of over $300 million in facilities.

The UDC was successful in splitting up the bid package for the purpose of purchase by individual communities. Leander , for instance purchased the Sandy Creek Water Treatment Plant, which is it’s current source of treated water. The largest system, The West Travis System, which serves west Travis County and northern Hays County, required both a complex “installment” purchase agreement, and a negotiated settlement of a four year old rate case between the LCRA and the City of Bee Cave, West Travis County MUD’s No. 3 and No. 4. A Public Utility Agency was created to accept the ownership and operation of the WTC System and recently, through a successful bond sale, performed on it’s first ownership purchase requirement, as per it’s agreement with the LCRA. The UDC’s efforts with the LCRA’s bid/auction process spanned the last year and, although successful with 80% of the systems, is in an ongoing negotiation to keep the systems in the control of the customers, for the remaining systems.

Leander TransportationCity of Leander Transit Oriented Development

Mr. Howell was the Urban Design Officer (UDO) for the City of Leander and managed the development, administration and code enforcement for the Leander TOD and SmartCode. (See following project description in Recent Projects). As the UDO, Mr. Howell worked directly with landowners and developers to implement the vision and infrastructure of this unique development effort. There are over $18 million in public/private construction efforts in progress, that benefit the City and the Leander TOD. Mr. Howell also worked through the creation of a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) for the purpose of providing funding options for the public utilities and facilities within the TOD. He acted as program manager and liaison for the TIRZ, both with the TIRZ Board and the City Council.

Efforts relative to the development of the TOD include:

  • Rail StationDiscussions and negotiation with TCEQ on delegation of the Edwards Rules for the City of Leander; interface and liaison with the Central Texas Regional Mobiliity Authority (CTRMA) to assure vital connectivity and compatibility with the design vision and urban character of the TOD with this developing toll road.;
  • Interface and liaison with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) for all connections with State and Federal roads and administration of a $4.03 Million grant through STP MM funds allocated to the TOD from Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO);
  • Interface and Liaison with Williamson County for both their participation in the TIRZ (at 50%) and other roadway and drainage efforts and inter-local agreements, including a $4 million contribution to an important east-west arterial within the TOD; and
  • In working with the community to develop a Vision and Comprehensive Plan for the City of Leander
  • Facilitate negotiation with the Lower Colorado River Authority for a 50 year supply of water.

This is an employment contract that functions as a part-time position and also includes tasks that may be assigned by the City Manger.

Leander Transit Oriented Development

Conceptual RenderingThe City of Leander, Texas retained Mr. Howell as part of Gateway Planning Group, provided program management to assemble a consultant team to perform the initial analysis and final creation of the Leander Transit Oriented Development District.  Gateway Planning Group and Capital Market Research and Texas Perspectives worked to identify the potential for a specialized development area at the nexus of major federal, state and county highways. An economic analysis of an urban plan, at this juncture, indicated that the city, county and state would realize a minimum of twice the value of that which would be developed if left to circumstance. This Phase I was funded jointly by the City and Capital Metropolitan Transit Authority (CapMetro). Then, Gateway Planning Group with Placemakers, Pate Engineers and others began a design process (funded by the major landowners) that included an eight day charrette with stakeholders, 5 months Ground Breakingof negotiation and numerous public meetings which culminated in the adoption of the Leander SmartCode and Master plan for the Transit Oriented Development district (TOD) which encompassed 2300 acres. This led to the creation of a Tax Increment Financing district (TIF) which would reimburse developers within the TOD for construction of major infrastructure and enhanced designs. The City and Williamson County both participated at 50% in this TIF. Mr Howell is now serving as the Urban Design Officer for the TOD.

Awards: Best Planning Effort 2006 – Envision Central Texas

Best Form Based Code – National Award – International Form Based Code Institute

RGK Ranch

Mr Howell acted as project manager and designer of a 1500 acre conservation development in west Travis County. This development plan included almost 1600 home sites and over 100 acres of mixed use with over 55% open-space. It also created a buffer between the planned development areas and steep slopes, realizing a substantial setback from 100 year floodways and sensitive slopes.

City of Elgin Rail Station

Mr. Howell with the Gateway Planning Team completed an opportunity analysis for the City of Elgin. This effort identified development opportunities for the area west of Elgin (subsequently called Elgin Station) along the Capital Metro rail line. The possibility of rail service has raised the question of how best to position Elgin for not only the rail service but also how best to take advantage of the service when it arrives. A comparison of current trends in development, to a more dense mixed-use approach was made. An economic analysis of the differences was then performed. This effort demonstrated a doubling in taxable valuation if a plan, at a minimum, if a mixed use plan was implemented in the area. This increase was realized even if rail service was not provided for years to come.

Brushy Creek Trail

Mr. Howell was the Brushy Creek Trail Program Manager for Williamson County, Texas. This project created a major recreation and trail system, capable of spanning over twenty miles of a major tributary to the Brazos River. It winds through over six jurisdictions which include: Williamson County, the City of Austin; the City of Cedar Park; the City of Round Rock; Fern Bluff Municipal Utility District; and the Brushy Creek Municipal Utility District. Through the coordination effort, all jurisdictions passed resolutions of cooperation and planning in the implementation of this landmark project. Preliminary work included establishing design guidelines for the Trail that addressed standard cross-sections, safety criteria and emergency response facilities, drainage criteria, bridge and railing criteria, etc. Plans for over $8 million in improvements have been constructed with connections to surrounding jurisdictions and their trail and recreation systems.  In July of 2000 the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission awarded Williamson County with the first Regional Parks and Recreation Grant of $750,000. This was the first regional grant of its kind.

Award:   National Trail Register

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