Marble Falls council okays Main Street plan

MARBLE FALLS — It won’t be a quick fix, but city leaders are hoping a new committee formed by the City Council Monday can create a long-term plan to bring the Historic Main Street district back to prosperity.

The council unanimously approved forming a committee to oversee a master plan for downtown at Monday’s meeting, where officials also received an update on a county transportation plan from Burnet County Judge Donna Klaeger.

City Manager Ralph Hendricks said the master plan project — a spinoff from a recently approved city comprehensive plan — is designed to create a 20-year outlook for the Main Street district, which in recent months has seen multiple businesses fail due to the hobbled economy.

“This is a long-term project,” Hendricks said. “It’s looking 20 years out. You start with your goal at the end and work your way backwards. We probably should have done this 10 years ago, so we’re a little behind it, but we’re ready to move forward.”

The council’s vote came less than a month after leaders voted to deny a request by Main Street merchants to extend alcohol-sales hours to 2 a.m. each day, a switch from current rules that cut off the taps at midnight on most nights.

Main Street business owners had said the measure was needed to keep the downtown district financially viable, but some council members objected to what they termed an assault on small-town values.

After that vote, Mayor George Russell urged the creation of the downtown master plan as a way of directing growth and business along Main Street toward a successful future.

Hendricks said the plan could have other financial benefits.

“It’s difficult to apply for some of the grants that are available (for downtown development) when we don’t have a master plan,” Hendricks said. “This will enable us to apply for a lot more grants that we might not be qualified for right now.”

Hendricks said the committee’s work could take up to a year to complete, adding the group will be comprised of members of the former comprehensive plan committee along with city staffers, downtown business owners, entrepreneurs from across the city and residents.

The group’s meetings could begin in April, officials said.

In other action, Klaeger gave an update on the county’s transportation plan, which she said gives state highway officials a better idea about  which road improvements are needed in the county.

“The state comptroller has named Burnet County the fastest growing exurban county in the state,” Klaeger said, adding the anticipated growth could mean as many as 90,000 vehicles using area roads by 2035.

County commissioners are set to vote on seven proposed transportation plans during their meeting today, which could include projects such as a pair of proposed bypasses on U.S. 281 around Marble Falls and a road connecting FM 2147 and RR 1431 near Wirtz Dam in Horseshoe Bay.

However, the projects — which so far have no state funding — won’t be enough to fully cope with projected growth.

“The scary thing we’re looking at is, even if we did all these (road) projects, we’re not going to improve on congestion all that much,” Russell said. “So imagine what it will be like if we don’t do anything.”

Klaeger said the plan will give the Texas Department of Transportation a list of the county’s road priorities in the future.

“If and when funding becomes available, we will have our plan ready to go,” she said.

Two public forums will be held before the county’s final plan is adopted in June, Kleager said.

The next council meeting is 6:30 p.m. March 22 in council chambers, 800 Third St.

chris@thepicayune.com

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