By Kim Steele
Killeen Daily Herald
HARKER HEIGHTS - A proposed $9 million gated townhouse development has caused a stir among some of its potential neighbors, and the project's developers are taking their case to the public.
"We thought it would be prudent to meet with the entire community," said Chris Doose, vice president of operations for BlueWater Assets in Killeen. "We highly encourage people to come out. We are very eager to listen to what they have to say and get feedback."
BlueWater Assets and EV Studio Texas of Copperas Cove are planning the luxury development, called The Enclave, which will feature 112 high-end rental units on a seven-acre site on the north side of Verna Lee Boulevard, just east of Farm-to-Market 2410.
To hopefully quell public concerns before seeking city approval, the developers are hosting a town hall meeting Monday night to address questions about traffic, noise, lighting and property values.
Doose said the development site, which is under contract, will be purchased if building plans are approved by the city's Planning & Zoning Commission and City Council.
The developers expect to create hundreds of local construction jobs, with as many as possible going to local subcontractors. Of those, said Doose, he is committed to making sure at least 20 percent are owned by minorities, women and veterans. "No private developer does that," he said. "But to us, it's another sustainable way to help businesses grow in this area."
Harker Heights City Manager Steve Carpenter said city staffers sent out notices about the planned development to potential neighbors and has received numerous concerned calls in response.
"The town hall meeting is the developer's opportunity to show what the project will look like and sell his concept to the people," said Carpenter. "He'll have to do the same to the city. We've been pretty strict with him so far and have told him what we wanted, and he has complied."
Need for apartments
Carpenter said there are only two large apartment complexes - Lookout Ridge and Lion's Run - in Harker Heights. An increasing number of young professionals will be moving into the area with the opening of Seton Medical Center Harker Heights, which projects hiring about 500 skilled employees the first year.
"The developer has told us he wants to improve the quality of life here and appeal to these young professionals," said Carpenter. "My position is there's a place for quality multi-family developments in the city, with the key word being quality. They have to add to the quality of the community."
Increased street traffic is one of the main concerns about the proposed development.
Doose said there will be only one entrance to the development, other than an emergency entrance, and it will be lined up with the entrance across the street to the proposed Whitten Track subdivision.
That way, said Doose, the city can study the four-way intersection on Verna Lee Boulevard and decide whether to install stop signs or traffic lights.
He said about 2,800 cars travel Verna Lee each day, and The Enclave is expected to increase traffic by about 200 vehicles.
Three nearby homeowners are concerned about noise generated by the proposed development. Doose said the developers plan to plant a 25-to-40-foot barrier of shrubs, trees and plants between the project and nearby homes, as well as an 8-by-8 limestone wall to separate the buildings.
"The trees and undergrowth will act as a noise filter before any sound even gets to the wall," said Gene Dane, architect with EV Studio Texas. "Once the noise gets there, the wall will do a wonderful job of dampening any sound. What we're proposing is far above and beyond city ordinance and shows how eager we are to work with everyone."
Lighting issues were another concern of nearby residents. Doose said the proposed project will have no lights higher than 7 feet, with the tallest ones mounted on buildings and covered with lenses that project the light down. Illumination in the parking lots and driveways will consist of 3-feet-tall, ground-mounted lights that filter downward.
Doose said some neighboring homeowners were apprehensive about their property values with a rental development nearby.
The developer said he thinks the planned multimillion-dollar project will increase surrounding values, especially with the quality of the materials used in building it and his commitment to sustainability.
The buildings' exteriors will consist of 50 percent stone cut from local quarries, 30 percent stucco and the remainder of lap siding.
Townhouse interiors will feature natural light filtered in through open floor plants, as well as granite countertops, ceramic floors, stainless steel appliances and high-efficiency windows and doors.
The proposed development has estimated rental prices from $800 to $1,200 a month, for townhomes ranging between 650 and 1,150 square feet.
Dane said the townhome complex will feature a community building with a fitness center and yoga studio, and an outdoor pool will be situated nearby.
Other amenities include designated walking trails, large green spaces, a pond and native Texas landscaping. Recycled and renewable materials will account for a large portion of the completed project.
About 150 new trees and about 400 native shrubs will be planted. As many original trees as possible will be saved, said Dane, and those that can't will be shredded into mulch and placed around the property. The trails will consist of recycled crushed granite.
Contact Kim Steele at kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7567.
If you go
BlueWater Assets of Killeen and EV Studio Texas of Copperas Cove are hosting a town hall meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at the Harker Heights Activities Center, 400 Indian Trail, Harker Heights.