How One of Texas’s Fastest Growing Counties is Keeping Up with Development Needs
DURATION 3 minute read
Williamson County has continuously ranked among the fastest-growing counties in the United States. Sitting at the northern end of the Austin-metro area, Williamson County is projected to top 1.6 million residents by 2050 – nearly quadrupling its 2010 population of 442,679.
There are many complex infrastructure considerations for a county expected to grow at such an exponential rate. We recently visited with Williamson County Commissioner Cynthia Long to discuss the unique needs of Williamson County and the importance of planning into the future to ensure the infrastructure you build today will benefit your community for years to come. Commissioner Long and her team have developed a plan that addresses today’s transportation needs while planning for future mobility needs.
Looking at Long-Term Plans Through a Different Lens
Counties are often planning many years into the future. Beyond transportation infrastructure, counties are responsible for things like EMS, law enforcement, parks and the court system – to name a few. County officials must ensure available resources sufficiently accommodate their current and future residents while balancing priorities to make sure they plan for future needs.
“Striking the right balance between funding and the level of service citizens demand has been vital to our success,” Cynthia said.
As fast as Williamson County continues to grow, Cynthia and her team knew they had to take a different approach. The traditional county planning model was simply not capable of keeping up with rapid growth in Williamson County. As a solution, county leaders looked to create a “Forever Plan” that emphasizes understanding and future casting for the county’s needs so that adequate planning, focus and funding could be put into long term goals.
“A forever plan can be scary,” Cynthia said. “But it allows us to craft a blueprint of what the county will look like at build-out.”
Improving Existing Infrastructure vs. New Infrastructure Supporting Economic Development
Cynthia and her team know that maintaining existing infrastructure is just as important, if not more, than creating new infrastructure that attracts businesses and residents to Williamson County. Balancing the maintenance of existing infrastructure and the addition of new infrastructure is the key to meeting today’s needs while planning for long term success. County officials need to nurture strong relationships with the development community so that together long-term goals are realized.
“Our development community has embraced this approach,” Cynthia said. “We try to work our limited subdivision rules in a way that makes it friendly for developers while retaining the look and feel that attracts people to Williamson County.”
Why this Matters for Developers
Suburban counties surrounding large urban centers like Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio and Houston are projected to experience a growth rate greater than the state average with 27 such counties expected to double their population by 2050, per the Texas Demographic Center.
On top of this, we are already seeing a migration of the millennial generation from urban centers to more suburban areas like Williamson County – and you can expect to see more of it in the future. These counties will continue to grow and both county officials and developers want to see their communities continue to develop into a place that current and future residents are happy to call home for years to come. Williamson County’s collaborative approach to their Forever Plan will help them address the needs of their current residents while proactively planning for economic development in the future.
Be sure to check out Episode 7 of Texas By Design for more insight into how Williamson County is keeping up with the development needs of the growing community. You can watch the episode on YouTube or listen wherever you get your podcasts.