Category Archives: Posts

June 2018 – This is Not Over yet

Common Sense: It’s not so common anymore

And, that’s a shame.

Despite having site plan applications rejected now by both City of Austin (COA) and Travis County (TC) staff reviewers twice in under a year, the developers continue to put forth, for public consumption in local newspapers, the distorted notion that all is well and according to plan with their proposed project on River Hills Road (RHR).

And, despite having a clear and consistent understanding of the COA/TC rules and regulations for acceptable use of the River Hills Road tract of land, the developers continue to put forth, for public consumption, the distorted notion that construction is a foregone conclusion and that the majority of neighbors have signed off on the project a long time ago.

Let’s take time here, to review just some of the facts, to highlight how far from common sense this has all deviated:

Fact 1: Within the last 11 months, the developers have submitted and resubmitted site plan permit and project applications to both COA and TC in total 4 times. All, either rejected or not approved.

— COA: August 16, 2017, the application was rejected by the Case Manager review, Planner 1 review, Environmental review, Water Quality review, Drainage Engineering review, and Electric review; and on February 5, 2018, the application was again rejected by the same entities. Please click on this link and scroll down to the bottom of the page, underneath “Folder Attachment,” to find the fist and second sets of comments (then can be found under “Update 0 Master report” and “Update 1 Master comment report”).

—- TC: In both September 2017 and March 2018, both project applications were not approved.

—- The staff reviewers abide by rules and regulations; rules which were created to protect native topography, critical watershed areas, and limited natural resources for the many citizens of Austin and to promote structural integrity and compatibility with the land.

Fact 2: The proposed project site is located in the ETJ of the City of Austin, which requires approval by both COA and TC reviewing entities. COA site plan applications and TC permit/project applications must adhere to clear and consistent development codes.
When they fail to do so: the applicants may:

—- Revise their development plans to meet acceptable standards.

— Withdraw their application.

—- Ask to be the exception to the rules and seek out variances through governing Commissions.

This last option would allow them to circumvent official staff recommendations and best practices and to bypass standardized governmental codes/ordinances.

Fact 3: This isn’t their first rodeo. The first time that the developers targeted the RHR location for proposed construction of a sports complex was not so long ago.

Following the appearance of a sweetheart lease deal between Eanes ISD (EISD) and the developers in 2011, the developers submitted their first site plan/permit applications to COA and TC staff for review in 2013, and the applications were rejected.

Despite both proposed projects (then and now) differing in scope, the site and its inherently complex topographic and environmental issues remain the same. The site hasn’t changed. It wasn’t right then, and it’s not right now. Click here for the original COA comments.

Fact 4: EISD issued an RFP for the sale of its 86+ acre tract of land on RHR in 2014. And, in 2015, the 86+ acre tract changed ownership. As part of the negotiated purchase of the tract of land on RHR, the buyer was reportedly encouraged to cooperate with the sports complex developers and their requests.

Fact 5: As a consequence of the above, at closing in 2015, the buyer:

— Transferred ownership of approximately 15.6 acres out of the River Hills tract to the developers, without cost.

— Donated $2 million dollars to EISD to complete upgrades and improvements to EISD fields and $250,000 to the developers.

Secured signatures of support from 10 people as follows: 7 homeowners (2 spouses from each of 3 households and 1 individual homeowner), 2 individual HOA board members (one from Rob Roy and one from Seven Oaks), and the CFO for the buyer of the RHR property from EISD. Those 10 people also signed an Agreement Concerning Use of Property (“Agreement)” at closing in 2015.

Subsequently, one of the signatories sold her property and moved away, and both HOA members left their positions.

Fact 6: 10 People Do Not a Majority Make. Particularly in a county with over 1 million residents and 400,000 households. Please click here for more information.

Fact 7: There is such a thing as a free lunch. From 2015 to present date, the developers have neither paid to purchase the RHR land nor have they paid property taxes on it. They are identified by Travis CAD as non-profit and thus receive full tax exempt status EX-XV.

Fact 8: And, potentially, the free lunch may come with dessert. In a meeting with constituents, Commissioner Daugherty of Precinct 3 indicated that he is open to allocating funds from the 2017 TC bond to this private project, after the construction of bond-identified TC sport complexes already on the docket. Should this happen, the developers would have paid nothing to acquire the land, nothing in property taxes, and potentially little to nothing in construction costs.

Fact 9: Opposition to the construction of this sports complex on RHR has not diminished with time. The multitude of substantive issues that concerned and touched many people across Austin, in 2011, continue to propel them forward in 2018.

Fact 10: River Hills Road is a two-lane, narrow, winding road with 90 degree turns, blind curves, no shoulders, and one entrance and exit directly onto Bee Caves Road (BCR) with a short suicide lane of BCR for those turning left onto it. And, for those entering the neighborhood from BCR, RHR has a dangerous stacking condition due to the sharp right turn.

Should this be constructed, the high safety risk for those traveling to, from, or on RHR will be substantially increased: especially considering the complex’s anticipated year-round (362 days) and long hours (7am-10pm) direct use and additional revenue-generating rental to adult and youth groups outside of the 12 Fields Foundation.

Fact 11: River Hills is an International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) designated Dark Sky Place. 1 of only 4 Dark Sky Friendly Developments of Distinction in the entire United States of America.

Fact 12: The intended site of the RHR sports complex sits on a hilltop with a peak elevation of 766 feet mean sea level.

— It is encumbered by steep slopes and surrounded by valleys with Lake Austin below.

— The proposed site of the RHR sports complex is directly across from Emma Long City Park and sits 274 feet higher than the park.

Fact 13: The proposed site of the RHR sports complex is topographically situated in the perfect spot for elevated exterior field lighting (with proposed poles up to 90 feet high) to create a lighthouse effect. This functionally moots any “dark sky friendly” lighting fixtures installed to prevent light trespass and pollution.

Fact 14: The proposed site of the RHR sports complex is part of the water supply rural watershed and is situated yards away from Lake Austin and Cuernavaca Creek. The watershed replenishes the aquifer and supplies drinking water, water for agriculture, water for recreation, and habitat water to the local flora and fauna.

​Fact 15: Things upstream inevitably flow downstream. Especially from a hilltop

— Things that would be required to grow the fields, maintain the fields and perpetuate their usage 362 days/yr

— Things that would be associated with any large gatherings of people attending or participating in tournaments, in games, in other related events

— Things that would be associated with septic systems used for such crowds.

— After reviewing just some of these facts, it is clear that common sense is not dictating the developers’ decision-making here. And, that’s a shame.

The expiration date for the current COA site plan application is June 21st, 2018, and we will know, by or before then, what’s the next move by the developers and will keep you posted. In the meantime, we will send you additional facts each week on why this site is just not right for the proposed usage.


WNA Supports its Neighbors – More at Stake (October 5th, 2014)

Why is there a land run on eco-sensitive sites in Travis County?

In May 2014, CAMPO opened the FYs 2015-2019 STP-MM Call for Projects. In response, the City of Lakeway resurrected an idea, that according to the Austin-American Statesman July 4th, 2014, had died nearly a quarter of a century ago. Under the encouragement of Lakeway City Council Member Joe Bain, who was driven to this idea after facing traffic trying to attend a Round Rock Express Baseball game, the City of Lakeway proposed building an elevated 6-lane toll road that would cross Lake Austin, bisect two nature preserves, including land owned by the Nature Conservancy, and divide pre-existing residential neighborhoods. They requested $3 million dollars be allocated to do a feasibility study of this $750 million dollar proposed project. CAMPO voted, on June 9th, in the affirmative to put that proposal on its auxiliary list for long-range transportation plans and further review prior to final approval.

Quickly, our fellow neighbors banded together to address the issue and created a STOP THE TOLL ROAD committee. The committee is comprised of residents from both Sienna Hills and Barton Creek West as well as individual land owners along Bee Caves Road and residents of Bee Caves. And, at CAMPO’s September 8th meeting, they spoke out against this proposed expressway.

The project, should it move forward, would traverse through many existing residential neighborhoods, require a new western bridge over Lake Austin, traverse Water Quality Protection Lands, bisect areas designated in the Habitat Conservation Plan, and run through areas designated in the City’s Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan. It would not, however, sit anywhere inside the jurisdiction of the City of Lakeway.

It is discouraging to see which projects are being considered in our County these days. First, the mega-sportplex is proposed to be built atop the foothills of our hill country on land known to be environmentally sensitive with endangered species habitat. And, now, an elevated toll road is being proposed to bisect lands already under conservation plans.

With both come mass traffic on Ranch to Market (RM) 2244, a road designated by the City of Austin as Hill Country Road Corridor with a Scenic Vista (Ordinance 25-2-1103/1101). With both come lights at elevated heights polluting our previously pristine dark skies. And, with both come large scale environmental compromise of eco-sensitive sites.

Why are these sites being selected? Why are our elected officials, from the local school board to the County, not responding with a decisive “No” to proposals that are at odds with common sense and environmental protection? The answer is unclear.

What we do know is that the foothills of our Hill Country have a very unique and multi-faceted ecological footprint. And, our land, water, and skies are finite resources; they cannot be duplicated once eliminated. There can be no mitigation, retrospectively offered, that will be sufficient enough to repair the damage proposed to be done. That is why we are coming together now. Together, we are stronger. Together, we make a difference.

It is with deep appreciation for our neighbors’ pro-active efforts, to oppose this project and to protect these environmentally sensitive lands, that the Westlake Neighborhood Alliance recognizes and supports their hard work.

Please take a few moments to learn more about the STOP THE TOLL ROAD committee and how you can participate before it’s too late. Visit their website, or you can click here to send an email for more information. Public comments to CAMPO are very important. Monday, October 6th at 12 PM is the deadline for concerned citizens to let CAMPO know their thoughts. Please see website.

Thank you.

Eanes August 27th, 2014 School Board Meeting – Be there – Topics: Conisderation for sale of River Hills property tract + moving Sports MegaPlex forward

The Eanes school board has recently approved a new version of the plan for a sports complex on the district’s River Hills Rd. site, and the developers state that they will move forward with the permitting and approval process in the near future. This plan, as we understand it, will include 8 sports fields, all with bright field lighting. This plan has essentially all of the same issues as their original plan released almost 4 years ago and has done little to address community concerns about harsh lighting and noise, traffic and safety, environmental issues and the overall scale of the project within a residential neighborhood.

Additionally, EISD is contemplating selling the River Hills tract in the near future. Any sale would apparently take place with the 50-year lease to the sports leagues in place, without having resolved the neighborhoods concerns about the project.

We have continued to offer alternative solutions for over a year now that we believe are better for the school district, the sports leagues and the community. We have offered our support for a four-field plan on River Hills with other fields to be built on the Baldwin tract and other school sites. We have reaffirmed our offer of over $1,000,000 to help pay for building these fields.
This solution gets the leagues all the fields they are looking for while making improvements to EISD property that benefits the community, all at no cost to the district.

Please join us at the upcoming Wednesday, August 27th school board meeting. Things are happening now so your participation is important!

We will be there. Will you?

Date: Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Closed session: 6:30pm

Open Session: 7:30-10:00pm

Located: In the Board Room of the S. Don Rogers Administration Building at 601 Camp Craft Road (near Westlake High School).

Thank you.