Tag Archives: austin mega-complex




Despite upcoming ruling, appeals process to leave legality of lease uncertain for years

Austin, Texas – October 9th, 2013

The proposed River Hills Sports Complex would place a huge sports facility on the top of a hill in a quiet neighborhood. In addition to creating unprecedented light and sound pollution over a widespread area that includes some of the areas most scenic hill country, Lake Austin and Emma Long Park, it will expose residents and participating children to dangerous traffic conditions. Although originally advertised as “just for the kids,” the Complex is facilitated by an inappropriately generous Eanes Independent School District (EISD) lease, which provides extensive flexibility to host Adult Leagues and Tournaments and exempts EISD from any responsibility of monitoring or enforcing lease restrictions and property conditions.

In addition to the lawsuit currently being held in Travis County District Court, over 50 people in the area have filed a complaint with EISD over the lease. Regardless of the outcome of upcoming rulings, the appeals process is likely to leave the legality of the lease and the status of the project uncertain for years.

The lawsuit and preliminary hearing being heard in Travis County District Court:

A preliminary hearing on the lawsuit was held last week on Wednesday, October 2, 2013 in the Travis County District Court. The lawsuit was brought by a group of area neighbors against Western Hills Little League (WHLL) and EISD in April 2013 over their lease of school property for the proposed development of the River Hills Sports Complex. According to the petition filed with the court, EISD is required by Texas law to utilize school land for a school purpose. The use of EISD’s school land for the construction of a for-profit, adult-use, recreational sport complex is not an educational purpose, does not advance EISD’s mission as established by the Legislature, and therefore is not, under law, allowed. Furthermore, the petition claims that the lease terms amount to a sweetheart deal for WHLL, were obtained under highly questionable circumstances and should result in the lease being null and void.

EISD is claiming sovereign immunity as a defense in this case. Sovereign immunity is a legal doctrine by which the sovereign or state is granted legal immunity from civil suit or criminal prosecution claiming that the ”sovereign is exempt from suit (on the) practical ground that there can be no legal right against the authority that makes the law on which the right depends.” It alleges that it functions above the law because it makes the laws. It is a historical concept predicated on the maxim that the King can do no wrong. While claiming sovereign immunity for itself, EISD goes on to disclaim the rights of the plaintiffs. It claims that they do not have standing as citizen taxpayers to the district and are not uniquely damaged by the lease, despite their proximity to the proposed complex. It additionally complains that the plaintiffs have failed to exhaust their administrative remedies prior to going to court.

The judge intends to rule on certain limited issues regarding the case in the next week or so. It is anticipated that the party that does not prevail in this situation will likely appeal the rulings in another process that could take up to 18 months from the date of appeal. At that point, depending on the outcome from the courts, the case could proceed back to District Court and be set for trial to determine the propriety of issues surrounding the lease and its legal status.

A Second Path to Justice:

EISD, in August 2013, passed a Second Amendment to the WHLL lease. The Second Amendment grants WHLL the right to sublease the property, the right to conduct revenue-generating activities on it, and the right to provide services to non-EISD groups or organizations. It effectively expands not only the nature of the Complex but also multiplies its activity. The Second Amendment goes on to refine and grant the privilege of preferred status to WHLL so that they may buy the property should the district decide to sell it. Lastly, in an earlier amendment, EISD agreed to redraw the lease boundaries in a manner more favorable to WHLL and increased the leased property by 1.8 acres for no additional compensation. These collective amendments have functionally created a new lease between the parties and have subsequently opened the lease to further scrutiny and potential legal action. WNA estimates that over 50 area residents have recently filed formal administrative complaints with EISD about the WHLL lease. They are complaining about many issues and have asked that the lease be ruled void at this time.

These administrative complaints are first heard at the school district level and go through the district’s hearing and appeals process. If the complaint is not resolved at that level, then it can be appealed to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) in a process that could take an additional 6 months from the date of filing with that agency. Once the TEA process has been complete, the case would be filed in the District Court system and its appeals process, potentially resulting in several years passing before the final status of the lease is actually determined.

Bill Moriarty, President of WNA says, “We represent nearly 1,000 area residents, and our organization has complained to WHLL and EISD about issues with the land lease for over two and a half years. WNA supports the legal action our residents have taken in the district court as well as the recent action taken by over 50 concerned citizens through the administrative complaint process. We know frustration with this proposed project is building every day and that the district and WHLL have not been responsive to the issues that we’ve raised, but we encourage everyone to be patient and to keep letting your voices be heard. EISD and WHLL need to know that we are in this for the long haul because we truly believe this is in the best interest of our neighborhoods and in the best interest of the Westlake community”.


Two years ago, EISD granted a controversial 50-year lease to Western Hills Little League to develop a 50-acre Sports Complex on land that was being held by the district as a potential school site. The property is located on top of a hill 1.1 miles into a quiet western Travis County neighborhood with no nearby commercial development. River Hills Rd. is the only access road to the tract, and it is a narrow, two-lane road with no shoulders in most areas and many blind 90-degree curves. The intersection leading to the site does not have a traffic signal and is dangerous because of the speed of traffic on Bee Caves Rd. and a nearby hilltop that blocks the view of the intersection.

Mr. Moriarty explains, “In addition to issues with the lease, we have voiced our strong concerns about traffic safety issues, environmental issues, adult usage of the “Youth” complex, light and noise issues, and the for-profit nature of parts of the project. WNA has commissioned a traffic study to analyze the traffic from the sports complex, and it projects that traffic back-ups will exceed one mile, block emergency services to residents, and cause the throngs of sports visitors to be exposed to a dangerous left turn at an intersection without a signal. We have asked for a full traffic signal at this intersection, and at this time, we understand that TxDot is considering half-measures that are unsuitable and potentially dangerous solutions.”

Mr. Moriarty goes on to add, “This project is huge, and it’s not in the right location. To place a high intensity use facility, with a parking lot the size of a Wal-Mart, including twelve active sports fields and a 60,000 square foot indoor complex, on property with extreme access issues is irresponsible. Most regional sized complexes like this one are located next to major road corridors to safely handle the traffic.”

Ed MacInerney, an area resident, says “Residents in our neighborhoods have been very supportive of youth sports over the years. However, this proposed development has too many issues. The Sports Complex will create huge traffic safety issues as well as environmental and water quality issues. Recently, there was a serious accident when a car and a motorcycle collided on one of the blind curves near the proposed sports complex site. This is a dangerous road and will only be made worse if the complex is built at this location. We have asked the developer to provide solutions, and we simply haven’t gotten any.”

Norbert Wangnick, a resident of Seven Oaks agrees adding that “There are over a dozen nearby subdivisions that will be negatively impacted if this development goes in. Other neighborhoods, even off of Loop 360 and the other side of the lake are realizing the significant impact that comes from putting a huge sports complex with bright ball field lights and loudspeakers on a hilltop. Most people don’t realize this site is only a few hundred yards away from Lake Austin and is directly across from Emma Long Park. We have voiced our concerns about light and noise pollution to WHLL for over two and one-half years to no avail. Furthermore, attempts to limit the use to area children have been rejected – apparently in hopes of hosting adult leagues and large regional tournaments.”

Much better alternative locations are available. Lewis Talbert, another area resident says, “Western Hills challenged us to find an alternate site for their fields, and we have done that. We have recommended that they consider another EISD property, the Baldwin Tract, which is just a couple of minutes west on Bee Caves Rd. It’s larger, with better topography and is located next to a commercial area that has excellent, safe access for high traffic volumes making it much safer for families going to and from the complex. The School District has indicated a willingness to consider this site. Our residents are committed to working with the various youth organizations in hopes of finding a better solution that works for the entire Westlake Community.”

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About the Westlake Neighborhood Alliance:

The Westlake Neighborhood Alliance (WNA) is an association of nearly one thousand nearby residents who are actively opposing the Commercial-Sized, For-Profit Complex known as the River Hills Sports Park. Our diverse groups of residents live in neighborhoods along both 2244 and 2222 including River Hills, Canyon Oaks, Seven Oaks, Rob Roy on the Lake Section One, Rob Roy on the Lake Section Two, Rob Roy, Rob Roy on the Creek, Lake Hills, Estates of Carriage Crossing, Wood Island, and 2222 CONA.


Westlake Neighborhood Alliance

William Moriarty, President
Phone 512-422-3731

Not responsible for typographical, technical, or descriptive errors. This e-mail can be distributed in its original form, complete and without any modification, alteration, insertion, or anything else that would make this different from the original intent.
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Sports Lighting 101 – Why River Hills Road is Not the Right Site for Proposed Complex River Hills Sports Park



Question: What determines the design of a sports field/stadium lighting?

Answer: Criteria, which determine the design of a sports field, include type of sports field, class of play, level and age of players (adult vs. youth), spectator capacity, orientation and topography, location, field size and width of sideline, and sufficient controls to satisfy contingencies. All of these factors and more contribute to the design.

Question: What determines the height of a light pole?

Answer: Location of the poles in relation to the field determines the height. For adequate illumination of soccer and baseball fields, they are typically 60-70 or more feet tall. However, field size, light level required, fixture type all play a role in determining the height of a light pole.

Question: What determines the number of light poles on any given field?

Answer: Depends on the size of the field. According to one local sports lighting company, there are typically 4 poles on a high school football or soccer field, 6 poles on a high school baseball field, and 4 poles on a little league level field.

Question: How many light fixtures are there on a single pole?

Answer: According to WHLL president-elect Chris Ellis, the lights at the Westlake High School practice fields will be indicative of the lights on the sports fields over on River Hills Road. At the High School, the Football Field has 7 poles with 12-15 light fixtures, the Baseball Field has 6 poles with 6-18 light fixtures, and the Multi- Sport Practice Field has 6 poles with 10-20 light fixtures.

Question: What determines the wattage or brightness?

Answer: Most commonly, sports light fixtures use 1500 watt metal halide bright white bulbs. Each light pole will generally contain from 3 to 16 fixtures depending on the application. The brightness will be a function of the lumens from each fixture, the number of fixtures and the observer’s distance from the fixtures. For example, many in the area currently can see the Lake Travis football stadium lights from time to time. The brightness is the inverse square of the distance from the lighting. So, to observers in Rob Roy, the same lights on the River Hills site, which is about 1 mile away, would appear 49 times brighter than those at Lake Travis, 8 miles away ((8-1) squared).

Question: Why is field lighting so problematic on this site?

Answer: The River Hills site is very unique in that it is located on two hilltops with over 200 feet of steep slopes around it. This hilltop elevation creates a lighthouse effect, resulting in bright lights and amplified sound traveling unobstructed in all directions. WNA estimates the area of potential impact to be approximately 20 square miles.

Question: Can the negative impact of field lighting be mitigated by using the “latest technology”?

Answer: Sport lighting today uses shields connected to the light fixture that can reduce “glare” that comes from looking straight into a light. It also allows the lighting fixture to direct and concentrate the light towards the field. However, the light is the brightest and most concentrated at the source, which in this case is near the top of each light pole. This light, once it exits the fixture, will be plainly visible, very bright and completely unobstructed.

Question: There are several sports fields in the area that have field lighting. What is different about them?

Answer: There are not many lighted sports fields in the Westlake area for good reasons. Sports Complex lighting can have a significant negative impact to area neighborhoods. Other sports complexes generally have a significant buffer to residential areas, are adjoining commercial areas, are not used 365 days a year, do not have 8 lighted fields clustered together, and are not located on a hilltop where the impact of bright lights and amplified sound is unobstructed.

Question: What should we look for when lights are going in?

Answer: According to the same sports lighting company, the lights go in very quickly. One day you see a flag on the ground, the next they are in.


We have asked for WHLL’s Lighting Plan for over two years now and have gotten nothing from them. We believe they know the impact will be huge, and therefore, they are reluctant to provide the area neighborhoods with any plans. We know how quickly they can put the lights in, so the time to act is now.


The following are the elected officials who will be responsible for approving the permit for the site plan and allowing, ultimately, a virtual lighthouse on a hilltop on River Hills Road:


County Judge
Samuel T. Biscoe – sam.biscoe@co.travis.tx.us

Precinct One, Ron Davis – ron.davis@co.travis.tx.us

Precinct Two, Bruce Todd – Phone: (512) 854-9222
Mr Todd’s Executive Assistants:
Loretta Farb – loretta.farb@co.travis.tx.us
Peter Einhorn – peter.einhorn@co.travis.tx.us
Joe Hon – joe.hon@co.travis.tx.us

Precinct Three, Gerald Daugherty – gerald.daugherty@co.travis.tx.us

Precinct Four, Margaret Gomez – margaret.gomez@co.travis.tx.us

Dr. Nola Wellman – supt@eanesisd.net

Dr James “Kal” Kallison, President at kkallison@eanesisd.net

Rob Hargett, Vice President at rhargett@eanesisd.net

Dr. Colleen Jones, Secretary at colleenjones@eanesisd.net

Ronna Martin at rmartin@eanesisd.net

Beau Ross at bross@eanesisd.net

Mike Frost at mfrost@eanesisd.net Ellen Balthazar at ebalthazar@eanesisd.net

Refer to The Case Number for the Filing of Application for Administrative Approval of A Site Plan SP-2013-0069D in your email.



Press Release: Lake Austin Neighborhood Opposes Western Hills Little League Sports Mega-Complex ‘River Hills Sports Park’

For Immediate Release:
Contact: Steve Wiener- 512-626-4025 / stvwnr@aol.com

Lake Austin Neighborhood Opposes Western Hills Little League Sports Complex

The Western Hills Little League (WHLL) has signed a long-term lease with the Eanes Independent School District (EISD) to develop a large-scale sports complex in the midst of Lake Austin residential neighborhoods. Substantial opposition and concern has arisen among area neighbors with regard to the potential environmental, traffic safety, water quality and financial impacts to the neighborhood and local governments.

The proposed sports complex is wrong for this location.

  • The proposed sports complex is huge; 51 acre with over 800 parking spaces.
  • This site is in the middle of single, family neighborhoods with unsuitable access to safely accommodate the significant traffic increases that will result.

The topography of the site is not conducive to the development of the proposed facility, which includes 4 soccer fields, 8 baseball fields, 4 tennis courts and a large gymnasium.

  • An earlier feasibility study for EISD notes the topography of the site will require substantial cuts and fills to prepare the site for construction of large, flat surfaces needed for ball fields and parking lots. Significant governmental variances will be required.

Portions of the proposed site are habitat for endangered species and include critical environmental features.

  • An environmental assessment undertaken for the district reported three critical environmental features on the site as defined by the City.
  • The assessment noted that portions of the site were habitat for endangered species. The proposed sports complex would require extensive clearing, potentially damaging or destroying the habitat.
  • EISD’s engineering reports indicate that this tract is in the Critical Water Quality Zone of the Colorado River. The tract is within a Water Quality Transition Zone and Upland Zone. Storm water run-off from the site discharges into area creeksand subsequently into Lake Austin, the source of drinking water for the City of Austin and several water districts.

WHLL is planning to operate the Sports Complex year-round from 6 am to 10:30 pm.

  • WHLL has indicated that the Sports Complex is expected to be open every day of the year, including holidays. WHLL will not agree to any limitations for use on the site for youths only.
  • This schedule is more appropriate for a facility located in a commercial area, rather than a low-density, residential neighborhood.
  • Light and sound pollution will negatively affect neighborhoods that have been in existence for decades.

Existing roads are inadequate to support the additional traffic.

  • The proposed site is one mile into the middle of a residential area. There is only one access road to the site, River Hills Rd., a narrow, winding road, with no shoulders or turn lanes and one which has numerous tight curves with very limited site distances.
  • The school district’s consulting engineers reported in 1995, as part of a feasibility study for a new school on the site, that the site needed significant road improvements to safely handle expected traffic increase. At peak traffic periods, the Sports Complex would generate thousands of additional vehicle trips on River Hills Road.
  • Currently, there is no signal at the intersection of River Hills Road and RM 2244. Signalizing this intersection is problematic from a safety point of view because of the limited sight distances on RM 2244 that result from the hilltop just west of the intersection, and the significant traffic flow at 60 mph on RM2244.
  • From a cost point of view, rationalizing the intersection would be very expensive because of the need for property acquisition and substantial cut and fills required.

The Proposed Sports Complex model is not right for this site or this community.
The site limitations described above suggest that the proposed sports complex is not appropriate for this site or this neighborhood. A sports complex of this scale may be suitable for a relatively flat, suburban or rural tract of land, with compatible neighboring land uses, good roadway access, and waste water collection and treatment capabilities. The River Hills site has none of these attributes.