Victoria officials say infrastructure planning critical for growth
BY MELISSA CROWE - MCROWE@VICAD.COM
Feb. 23, 2013 at midnight
Updated Feb. 23, 2013 at 8:24 p.m.
With growth comes challenges, particularly with infrastructure.
For a city as old as Victoria, balancing much-needed repairs to the city's framework with the demand for new streets, pipes and projects is a delicate act.
The Perryman Group's study on Victoria suggests the city and Golden Crescent region will experience economic growth at a pace exceeding most parts of the country.
City Manager Charmelle Garrett said those results indicate more than economic growth. They signal the need for critical planning for future development.
Garrett said the city cannot stay neutral on growth: either it's positive or negative.
"We're constantly trying to look out as many years as possible," Garrett said.
Assistant City Manager John Kaminski, who previously worked in the planning department for 25 years, said the benefits of planning and this report are far-reaching.
"It's not just benefiting the city, it's benefiting everybody," especially taxpayers, Kaminski said.
He said it is about identifying the needs and having a way to meet them.
"You're not putting something out there 20 years before it's needed," Kaminski said. "It's more cost-effective when you plan out those improvements and changes."
Historically, Victoria's growth has been slow, if not flat-lined. Before 1990, the city did not implement much planning, Kaminski said.
"We had some master plans but not a lot of aggressive planning going on," he said. "Since that time, all these plans have been developed and updated to reflect what we've seen so far and what we're projecting for growth."
Garrett credits that shift in philosophy to the forward-thinking leadership during that time of former city manager, Denny Arnold, and the former mayor, Gary Middleton.
In 1983, the city created the planning department and in 2000, implemented the capital improvement program, which prioritizes infrastructure repairs and development.
The city created master plans for water, wastewater, thoroughfares and drainage, all to help determine land development needs, Garrett said.
"The biggest challenge is paying for it," she said. "The growth occurs before the revenues catch up with it."
Public Works Director Lynn Short said funding for infrastructure typically comes from the half-cent sales tax, property tax or revenue from water and sewer.
However, the city has opened public-private partnerships for infrastructure, including traffic signals or the recent quiet zone project partnership with The Remington apartments.
Kaminski said the city also has a cost-sharing reimbursement program that was recently used with the Tuscany subdivision. For example, if a development needs a larger water main, it puts it in, and the city reimburses it for the difference.
Kaminski said the only tool the city has to steer growth is by installing services - water, sewage, drainage and roads - through the annexation program.
"We can't determine what's going to grow where," Kaminski said. "We don't regulate land use, but we can make infrastructure capacity available in areas that we feel are efficient."
The industrial park on Lone Tree Road was created in an effort to attract industry, and the city is continuing to invest in those type of developments, Short said.
The city is also planning to extend Ball Airport Road eastward, which will open that area to more development. However, it is not yet prioritized on the capital improvement program.
The Zac Lentz Parkway overpasses at Salem Road and Mockingbird Lane, constructed by a Texas Department of Transportation partnership, will open east Victoria to more development and make traffic travel more efficiently, Garrett said.
"We're just trying to see around the corners," she said.