Tag Archives: river hills road




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

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Let them know by E-Mail too! Stop this ‘ River Hills Sports Park ‘ Mega-Complex!

Your voice matters and by emailing the EANES School Board members and attending School Board Meetings – you will make the difference!

WHLL is continuing to press for approval for the Megaplex, and is apparently pressing the Eanes ISD board for changes to the contract which will make it easier for them to gain zoning approval. However, on Tuesday the board received a letter of interest regarding the purchase of the land for $5mm on terms that would ensure the land would be developed into a neighborhood or held as a nature conservancy.

We would like to encourage the board to (a) not further entangle themselves by modifying the lease, and (b) fully consider other alternatives for the land.

Would you please take a few minutes and send an email by Tuesday, August 27th to each of the EISD board members? A draft message is below. Feel free to modify it into your own words if you wish, or cut and paste it as is.

If you don’t mind posting a comment below to let us know you’ve sent emails to the board, that would be great so we can keep track of how heavily the board is being contacted. Also, please tell your friends in the area who you think are concerned about this issue too.

Thank you very much for your help.

Below are the e-mail addresses for the EANES School Board and the draft message:

Rob Hargett, President at rhargett@eanesisd.net
Beau Ross, Vice President at bross@eanesisd.net
Dr. Colleen Jones, Secretary at colleenjones@eanesisd.net
Dr. James “Kal” Kallison, Past President at kkallison@eanesisd.net
Ellen Balthazar at ebalthazar@eanesisd.net
Mike Frost at mfrost@eanesisd.net
Ronna Martin at rmartin@eanesisd.net

SUBJECT: No Sports Megaplex. Consider alternatives.

Dear Mr/Ms/Dr___________

Do not proceed with the Sports Megaplex. Do consider alternatives.

I live within the Eanes ISD, and do not support the proposed River Hills Sports Megaplex project. The Megaplex is completely out of place for our community, extremely detrimental for the environment, and wastes a valuable asset at a time when EISD has a $4.5mm operating shortfall.

I understand that the board is contemplating changes to the Megaplex contract to address complaints raised about the appropriateness of the lease, and possibly to help the Megaplex get zoning approval. Agreeing to such changes is a significant, deliberate decision to support the Megaplex, for which I would hold the current board members accountable.

I also understand that the board has received an offer to purchase the land for $5 million under terms that are favorable to the district and with restrictions which would ensure the land is developed in a way consistent with the surrounding neighborhoods. The board owes it to EISD students and taxpayers – as well as to the surrounding community — to fully explore selling the land for an appropriate use.



Eye on Eanes; Need You at Next School Board Meeting *August 28th*

9201 Scenic Bluff Drive
Austin, TX 78733
Come en masse to Voice Your Opposition To the Proposed Mega-Sports Complex at River Hills and Its Many Environmentally Damaging, Water/ Light/and Sound Polluting, Traffic and Safety Endangering, and Highly Fiscally Irresponsible Complications

Come Charged with Your Facts and Your Concerns and Sign Up to Speak CALL TO ACTION NOW! The School Board’s vote to amend the lease with WHLL is on the table and if passed, would serve rapidly to expedite and facilitate the permitting process for the commercial development of the Mega Sportsplex. It is a CRITICAL TIME in the permitting process. The developers will be present to push their agenda forward. The time is NOW to come forward and be counted among those Austinites for environmentally and fiscally responsible development. It is your tax dollars they are planning to give away.

Your presence counts, and your voice matters!

Show up at next week’s school board meeting!

AND, EMAIL YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS TODAYClick Here for Ready to send/prepared draft letter and board member email addresses.

Our deepest thanks and appreciation to all those who came out to support our efforts at the June 26th Eanes ISD regular board meeting. It was a long meeting that ended well after 10:00PM.

After closed session with legal counsel, the School Board postponed the vote to amend the lease tabling it for an unspecified future meeting.

In spite of the vote postponement, Citizens of Travis County, from both sides of Lake Austin, filled the seats at Bridgepoint ES cafeteria to hear what our Eanes ISD School Board had to say on the matter of Action Item D on the agenda, calling for consideration of lease and amendments with Western Hills Little League for Real Property on River Hills Road, and to voice their concerns for the proposed development of a Mega-Sportsplex on Eanes-owned property.

Concerned parties spoke at length on the issues of the extensive light pollution and the loss of our Dark Skies, noise pollution reverberating throughout the area and across the Lake to Emma Long Park and the surrounding residential neighborhoods, construction/chemical/fertilizer runoff and resultant pollution not only to wells but also to 2 WCID’s and Lake Austin, loss of endangered species habitat, unsafe road conditions, unsafe access, hazardous traffic conditions, and money mismanagement by the district in these trying fiscal times.

Requests were made by Eanes residents, prior to the meeting, for access to the backup documentation to this Action Item D. No documentation was provided.

The school board met in closed session to discuss Texas Government code551.072-Deliberation Regarding Purchase, Exchange, Lease, or Value of Real Property.

During the Open Forum, Concerned Citizens of Travis County spoke against the River Hills Mega-Sports Complex proposed development.

The first speaker urged the school board to take unprecedented steps to protect irreplaceable natural resources in the foothills of our Hill Country, to designate 50 acres of the River Hills property as an Eco-Preserve so that they may serve as an Outdoor Education Site, a.k.a. A Green School, and to be leaders in the fields of Ecology and Environmental Education so that children today can learn to be the Environmentally Responsible leaders of our future.

The second speaker outlined the fiscal deficits facing Eanes right now, encouraged more responsible fiscal behavior, and put forth an immediate offer to purchase the Eanes owned River Hills property with the intent for responsible development including but not limited to land earmarked for outdoor Eco-education.

The third speaker discussed Eanes failure to provide open records regarding Action Item D from the June 26th meeting to present day and the many legally questionable aspects of the lease with WHLL, including but not limited to the school board’s abdication of the power to enforce any of the lease items as well as the origin of the original RFP.

No vote to amend the lease was undertaken at this time. It is still pending, and the proponents of this development are sharing with their constituents that they believe the time is now for the vote. MARK THE DATE FOR THE NEXT SCHOOL BOARD MEETING!