Eye on Eanes followup & Sunday 9/15 Searchlight event

Wednesday, August 28th 2013 Update
Residents of the Eanes School District gathered together with their neighbors and a host of new faces from the City of Austin to attend the most recent school board meeting. Agenda Action items XII B. Consider Ratification of First Amendment to Lease with Western Hills Little League and XII C. Approval of Second Amendment to Lease with Western Hills Little League brought out concerned citizens en masse.

During the Open Forum, one person after another came to the podium to voice the unchanged and unaddressed concerns for site of the proposed development by WHLL and its for-profit & not-for-profit. There were also surprise speakers who drove, from all over the City of Austin and from Pflugerville, to speak out against the use of this RHR site as a Mega-Sportsplex and encouraged the board not to amend the lease at this time. Rather, they urged them to look at all the alternative uses for this land and identify alternative sites for the complex.

The President of the Austin Astronomical Society came and spoke out in favor of the preservation of our dark skies and of her great concerns for their loss should this hilltop site be developed into a Mega-Sportsplex. The Founder of Please Be Kind to Cyclists came and spoke out in favor of safety and mobility of the cyclists who ride on RHR and for his grave concerns for their safety should the traffic exponentially increase on RHR with the construction of a Mega-Sportsplex at that site. A former Sam Bass Baseball League Board Member came and spoke out on the inherent dangers of placing a Tournament Hosting Sportsplex at this particular site and on what is the day to day reality of a Tournament Hosting site. Even, one of our favorite Austin celebrities came and spoke out in favor of finding the right site for a complex of this size and scale and for working together collaboratively to do so.

Despite data outlining the safety/traffic/water/environmental issues inherent to this site… despite a growing, visible and audible concern from across Central Austin for this issue…and despite a $5 million dollar offer on the table for purchase of the RH property by 2 local residents, an offer which proposed to use the land responsibly and to create an outdoor education site for Eanes (click here to see the offer)…The School Board voted 6-1 to support the amendments and carry on with their lease, Only Dr. Jones stood in opposition to the amendments and spoke out in favor of fiscal responsibility and accountability for the district.

What do the amendments mean?
No draft of the proposed amendments, to the Eanes-WHLL lease, was available for review prior to the meeting by the general public. The first opportunity, which was afforded to concerned citizens to review them, came at 9:05PM the evening of August 28th at the regular School Board meeting. In these amendments, Eanes ISD grants WHLL the new right to sub-lease the school property and the new right to operate a FOR-PROFIT business on same property. In return, Eanes ISD is awarded an illusory right to use the property during the school day when students are in school. It also abrogates Eanes ISD from any right to enforce the lease criteria, including but not limited to light and noise. (click here to see the amendments)

What is a Tournament Hosting Sportsplex?
Angie Goertz, a former Director of Publicity and Assistant Tournament Director on the Sam Bass Baseball Board, came to the August 28th meeting and spoke on Tournament Hosting sites. The 2011 Eanes-WHLL lease clearly includes wording which outlines the site and its proposed development to be used for Tournaments and Playoffs on the last page of the document (click here to see the original lease)

A tournament-hosting site is one that is utilized as much as possible because it is a commercial, for-profit, revenue-generating machine. According to Ms. Goertz in a one on one phone interview, “The minute they say Tournaments. That is a red flag to you. I don’t think you can comprehend the day to day reality unless you live it. They can tell you everything you want to hear, but the reality is they will not want to severely negate their ability to make money. So, if they say the lights will go off at 10PM, do you think that, after they market to hundreds of teams across Texas and the country, they will risk forfeiting their money by turning off the lights at 10PM and stopping the games so that pool play isn’t met by all the teams? They will do what is necessary not to cancel games. Games are rained out. There are delays all the time. They do not want to cancel. If they do, these select/travel teams will not come back. The facility will die on the vine. Out in Round Rock, I’ve seen games start at 2AM because of rain delays; softball is even more games because they have to get in 5 games per pool play. And, don’t forget, that there are ceremonies after everything. Do you think they are going to do that in the dark?”

Additionally, she says,”You need to know who they are marketing to. If it is select ball, that is big business. And, there is no reason to build a facility like this if they are not going to use it for Tournaments. Doesn’t make any sense. Also, you need to know if they will host Adult Leagues, Semi-Pro Leagues. That opens a whole other can of worms. Drinking, trash/littering, and later games. Baseball and softball are year-round sports and do not end at the youth level.

Finally, she said, “Do you we need something like this in Austin? Absolutely! Not this location. This is not the right place for it. You have to face the reality of the road.”

All in all, it was an eye-opening meeting! It was wonderful to see how many people care about what is going on in our little corner of Austin and how they are willing to come out and be counted. The good news about the amendments is that the Interlocal Agreement was not conveyed to the developers. For that, we are thankful.

Please stay at the ready as the permitting process continues in the City of Austin. And, please look outside your windows and from our back-porches this Sunday night, September 15th from 7:30-10:30PM as we host one more night of searchlights to wake everyone up and to see, just a small portion, of what will be happening to our dark skies should this Mega-Sportsplex be built as currently planned.
Picture of the anticipated area of impact by light trespass and noise pollution if the project is built.
   Above is a picture of the anticipated area of impact by light trespass and noise pollution if the project is built.

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