ROUND ROCK — The $447 million bond package for Williamson County roads and parks on the Nov. 5 ballot has received widespread praise from those who say it is needed to handle growth.
But a small group of residents in the eastern part of the county oppose it, saying the growth threatens their rural way of life.
County officials have said that, if approved, the bonds will not raise the tax rate because of the increased revenue the new growth is bringing, and because the bonds won’t be issued all at once.
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"The continuous improvement of transportation will impact the quality of employment opportunities in the future," Tony Moline, president of the Cedar Park Chamber of Commerce, said at a news conference Tuesday in support of the bonds. "Many of us believe transportation is the key to growing Williamson County," he said.
Also taking part were members of the chambers of commerce from Cedar Park, Georgetown, Leander, Liberty Hill, Pflugerville, Round Rock and Taylor.
Tia Rae Stone, president of the Taylor chamber, said one of the bond proposals, the construction of a bridge on FM 3349 over U.S. 79, would help improve access to a new industrial park, the RCR Taylor Logistics Park, that is served by railroads.
The proposed bond package, with $412 million for roads and $35 million for parks and recreation, also has drawn support from a political action committee called "Citizens for Safety Quality Roads and Parks." Many of the donations to the PAC are from engineers and builders.
But some residents in eastern Williamson County said they are opposed to the bonds because they include segments of a proposed Southeast Loop that would arc northeast from Texas 130 south of Hutto to U.S. 79 about halfway between Hutto and Taylor.
Diane Naivar, whose family lives on a farm off FM 3349, said officials have told her they need 3 acres at the front of the farm for the loop. Taking away those acres, which include a well and two barns, "puts the road at my front porch," she said.
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Lucas Evans of Hutto is against the bonds because the proposed Southeast Loop would cut close to his home, which he said has some of the biggest trees in the county, and would pass over a part of Brushy Creek that has old-growth trees.
Even if approval of the bonds does not raise the tax rate, their passage will eventually hurt property owners, said Dana Boehm, a veterinarian and farm owner in eastern Williamson County.
"Our property value is going up because of all the development and roads being punched in our direction," said Boehm, who has established a Facebook page against the bonds called "Road Kill."
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The bonds’ supporters say they are needed to handle the growth in the county, where the population is expected to increase from an estimated 570,803 this year to an estimated 989,247 by 2035, according to county figures.
Some of the biggest projects in the proposed bond package are building a northbound frontage road from U.S. 79 to Limmer Loop near Hutto and buying right-of-way and adding lanes to a 2.3-mile stretch of Sam Bass Road from Wyoming Springs Drive to RM 1431.
The parks projects in the bond include trail extensions, adding restrooms to River Ranch County Park, which is between Leander and Liberty Hill, and to Southwest Williamson County Regional Park near Leander, plus putting in restrooms with showers at the RV park at the Williamson County Expo Center in Taylor.