As motorists drive west from Belton into Killeen — just past the welcome sign — what should they see at the city’s easternmost entrance?
That’s the question city leaders and residents will ask themselves as the final piece of a 103-acre “gateway project” at Rosewood Drive and Interstate 14 is decided in the coming weeks.
The project, which will largely pave over a stretch of grass running on both sides of the four-lane Rosewood Drive, has already been halfway mapped out, with an apartment complex coming to the road’s western frontage and commercial lots lining both sides.
The last major question is, what will happen to the 50 acres of land off the eastern frontage — and an answer may be coming soon.
In a notification letter sent to surrounding homeowners this week, the Killeen Planning and Zoning Commission scheduled a public hearing Monday to rezone the remaining 55 acres to include a wide-range of housing and business uses, including townhomes, duplexes and single-family homes. In addition, the concept plan would include a “neighborhood business district” use intended for businesses that provide a direct service to surrounding homes.
The commission postponed that hearing late this week, Killeen Director of Communications Hilary Shine said Thursday, as the city and commission are still in the process of negotiating the concept plan for the development.
While the exact plans are still unknown, the notification letter did provide some clue on how the Rosewood project will flesh out and compliment what has already been decided by the Killeen City Council.
According to the original notification, two companies tied to Killeen real estate broker Jim Wright sought to rezone 55 acres of the eastern portion of the Rosewood project to a “planned unit development” — a catch-all zoning that allows for mixed development.
The parcel’s current business zoning prohibits the development of residential housing, but a PUD would free the developers to mix commercial and residential use as well as green space.
However, that original notification letter, which was sent to landowners within 400 feet of the development, was pulled as city staff and the developers tinker with the details.
“The developer subsequently asked the case not be placed on the agenda to work out some questions,” Shine said. “Staff will re-notice when it is ready to move forward.”
Following the commission’s recommendation vote, the council would be required to approve the rezoning request.
Like any PUD, there is some room for flexibility in the development’s design, with the catch that a concept plan must be provided to the city prior to rezoning approval. Some of the zoning requirements that are subject to change in a PUD include lot setbacks, facade improvements and street width.
Among the zoning concepts the developer intended to include were single-family housing, duplex lots and townhomes, which are uncommon in Killeen. Another seldom-used designation is the “neighborhood business district,” which would be slightly more restrictive for possible businesses. Among the industries that would not be allowed are movie theaters, gas stations with more than four pumps, bowling alleys, auto repair shops and hotels, according to the city’s zoning code.
Structures also cannot be higher than 25 feet tall, according to the code.
The lengthy road to filling out the Rosewood project began in May, when the Killeen City Council approved a land-use adjustment setting the table for the development.
The council voted 5-2 on May 23 to approve the 103 acres as “Planned Development” after some council members expressed concern over the uncertainty of the project’s outcome. Council members Shirley Fleming and Steve Harris voted against the adjustment.
City planner Tony McIlwain said at the time the land’s developers — KNC Associates — envisioned the parcel as an “upper-scale development,” with commercial and residential use. The underlying zoning for the land was for commercial use only.
The next step was taken without council approval, when the planning commission approved the platting of commercial property on the east and west frontage of Rosewood, with plans to add residential uses farther away from the road.
The commission unanimously approved the plat June 4.
On Tuesday, the council approved the latest stage of the project, a rezoning request for a 216-unit apartment complex on the far western edge of the project that will include around 15 acres of green space.
The complex, which includes nine multifamily apartment buildings and a clubhouse, is set to occupy a 31-acre plot west of Rosewood Drive and directly adjacent to a single-family residential neighborhood along Acorn Creek Trail. Sixteen of those acres would be developed, while the remaining 15 acres would be used for green space and trail connectivity, according to a city memo.
The apartments would be accessible by two private drives that empty onto Rosewood and generate an additional 1,436 car trips per day, according to city estimates.
Council members Rivera, Debbie Nash-King, Hugh “Butch” Menking, Gregory Johnson and Mayor Pro Tem Jim Kilpatrick approved the request in a 5-2 vote.
Harris and Fleming again voted in dissent, with Fleming saying she was concerned the three-story complex would not have elevators installed.
To address that concern, Pedro Quintero, who represented the complex’s developers, said the complex would offer apartments for disabled and elderly residents on the bottom floor, meeting American with Disabilities Act requirements.
With the complex’s approval, the entire western frontage of the project was effectively decided, with the only questions remaining on what businesses will occupy Rosewood’s commercial frontage lots.
During Tuesday’s public hearings, three residents expressed concerns over increased crime and traffic on what one resident called the “Rosewood raceway.”
However, until the development is built, it’s unclear what exactly the impact will be on the four-lane thoroughfare.
According to the city’s most recent figures, there was a daily average of 7,871 cars that passed over a traffic counter on Rosewood just south of Interstate 14. The peak morning hour showed 1,543 cars pass, while the peak evening hour showed 1,426 cars pass.
The apartments alone will feed an additional 1,436 car trips per day onto Rosewood, according to City Planner Tony McIlwain. With more commercial and residential development, more cars emptying onto Rosewood would be expected, but there are no exact figures yet.
On Tuesday, Rivera, who said he lives near the area, blamed ineffective traffic lights at the Rosewood/I-14 intersection for frequent collisions that have plagued the road and was unconcerned about adding the new traffic.
“My complaint is Rosewood has no traffic problem; it has a light problem,” Rivera said. “It is incredible how bad it is.”
Another concern for the development is a lane-wide concrete median that runs down Rosewood with a single median break for turning. If the development utilizes that median break for the complex’s entrance, it could mitigate concerns about turning left out onto Rosewood.
Another option would be installing a traffic light at the entrance to the complex, but both city staff and Quintero said that infrastructure would be considered after a full traffic impact analysis study is conducted once the complex is constructed.
The planning and zoning commission will consider the rezoning request for the 55-acre plot at a future meeting. The date has yet to be determined.
Following the commission’s vote to recommend or not recommend approval, the council will discuss the item at a future workshop session and then hold a public hearing and vote on the item at a following meeting.
If the council votes to approve the request, the developer would be required to bring any major changes to the development’s concept plan back to the council, but routine platting and permitting would only face planning and city staff scrutiny.