DS City Attorney Resigns

Dear FA Friends, Neighbors and Members,

The Friendship Alliance was originally founded and incorporated in 2001 to provide a collective voice and forum for concerned Northern Hays homeowners and their respective Property and Homeowners’ Associations (POAs & HOAs). We were moved to do this when some legal issues came to the attention of a few FM1826 POA & HOA board members, initially from Bear Creek Estates, Fieldstone, Goldenwood and Radiance. It turned out that our own government in Dripping Springs, which was then comprised of a considerably different City Council (whom we could not vote for or against) was signing Development Agreements (DA) that could not then stand the test of law. But being civil law, we could only change their approach by seeking recourse in court, since at the time, Dripping Springs was not willing to admit to any legal errors as it related to these incorrect DA’s. And these DA’s, since they were far reaching, long-term contracts between these new to the area large-scale developers and the city, became, to us in the FA, critical to all of our futures and truly emblematic of the need for principled and ethical governance.

By banding together, in a similar spirit to OHAN (Oak Hill Association of Neighborhoods), we felt a need and void could be filled and a voice gained. Time has born this out, with the FA suit settlement resulting in the rescinding and editing of the more offensive DA clauses, the passage of a city ethics ordinance, new subdivision regs, creation and acceptance of the Regional Water Quality Plan, election of two FA board members to the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, the appointment of an FA founder as Executive Director to the Regional Water Quality Plan and most recently, the appointment of our earliest counsel (in our early efforts to unravel the City’s behavior), Alan Bojorquez, as the new DS City Attorney. Mr. Bojorquez, who had come to our attention through recommendations by Mayors in Wimberley and Bee Cave, advised us initially and in time we, along with others, recommended him to the City of Dripping Springs.

To say that things have changed in Dripping Springs government, as it relates to those of us living in the ETJ, would arguably be an understatement. The leadership provided by Mayor Purcell, the present City Council and staff of Michelle Fischer and Ginger Faught has been commendable and should not be ignored, nor taken for granted.

From The Austin Chronicle

http://www.austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2005-07-29/pols_naked.html

“With surprisingly little fanfare, Rex Baker III – a real estate lawyer/investor, title company owner, and Hays Co. justice of the peace – resigned from his position as Dripping Springs city attorney earlier this month. Baker cited a hectic work schedule and added responsibilities as the reasons for his July 12 resignation. Neighborhood groups and outside critics had long questioned Baker’s multiple roles in a small town that saw its greatest growth spurt during his seven-year tenure as city attorney. Much of the growth continues to spring up in sensitive recharge areas of the Edwards Aquifer. Baker profited from the development boom, which left many taxpayers wondering if his development ties influenced his legal advice to the mayor and city council in approving zoning requests and development agreements. Baker always insisted that he was without conflict, and pointed to his position on the state bar’s Judicial Conduct Committee as proof. Should a conflict arise, Baker told the Chronicle in 2002, he simply recuses himself from the matter and another attorney steps in. This time, another attorney has stepped in to replace Baker altogether. He is Austin attorney Alan Bojorquez, who has served as special counsel to the city for the last two years. Baker now fills Bojorquez’s role as special counsel.

–Amy Smith

Where Water Quality Rights and Property Rights collide

Dear FA Friends, Neighbors and Members,

Presently, there is a bit of a Battle Royale raging in the Statehouse and in our local cyberspace, regarding Water Quality Protection measures and their affect on the concept of Property Rights. Before the Lege right now, particularly the Senate in the form of SB1647, are bills that will work to increase our taxes, provide taxpayer funded profits to developers and diminish our quality of life immeasurably, if allowed to pass.

This effort to crush our towns’ and cities’ abilities to protect groundwater supplies is being funded, in particular, by the recently debunked group, The Texas Landowners Conservancy. This is the group that made last Sunday’s front page of the Stateman in an article that clearly pointed out their origins, their real estate backed funding and their misleading name, “Texas Landowners Conservancy,” established to create a land steward brand indentity that is actally in direct opposition to their stated purpose and goals, which are the eroding of local authority over their right to develop, pollute the watershed and/or protect it at our expense and to profit handsomely at the public trough. Basically, they opine that any law requiring them to develop at certain science based levels of impervious cover in order to sustain an aquifer or watershed safely is a “taking.” This new definition of “taking” flies in the face of all historic interpretation of the US Constitution’s Fifth Amendment no matter how hard they try to convince us otherwise. They are also working to create law that will not only disallow our healthy regulation of their affects on the watershed, but will also cause cities to pay them for developing at less than 45% impervious cover. Since many subdivisions are already done at around 25% for simple marketing reasons, this means developers will be paid by us to do what they planned already anyway. This, on top of the profits generated by their sales and on top of the infrastructure improvements and tax increases we will see for new roads and schools associated with their developments.

Former Ag commisioner, Susan Combs takes a fallacious stab at this new Fifth Amendament theory in the editorial below, which is followed by a remarkably cogent rebuttal by Gene Lowenthal, a large property owner and development investor in his own right, who lives along Hamilton Pool Road. In between Ms. Combs editorial and Gene’s rebuttal are some quoted case law opinions from the US Supreme Court regarding this very issue. They clearly illustrate how Susan Combs and others, such as Lanny Counts of the Dripping Springs P&Z, are working feverishly to mislead us or they simply misunderstand historic legal fact. These efforts are aimed specifically at two recent regulatory efforts in the area, as Ms. Combs alludes to. One is the effort to make the LCRA responsible for the results of their pipelines and the stakeholder driven Regional Water Quality Plan. Both of these efforts have been suggested, supported and spearheaded by The Friendship Alliance. Ironically, Ms. Combs even points out that Water Quality rules didn’t matter so much while they were in the jurisdiction of Austin, but that any attempt to spread these legitimate concepts elsehwhere in the state must be met head on and defeated. She also notes, somewhat misleadingly and most likely out of context, that the Texas Supreme Court pointed out that Austin Water Quality Regulations were responsible for a 90% reduction in the value of land. What she fails to point out is that there are also parcels whose value argaubly increased due to these very same kinds of protections.

Please read on and make up your own mind.

And then Call Senator Wentworth (463-0125) and get him to promise to vote against these bills that are against Water Quality protection and his own constituents’ greater interests.

Rob Baxter

The Legislature Must Reaffirm the Constitutional Right of Just Compensation for Landowners

By SUSAN COMBS

Embedded in the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is a fundamental protection for American land and homeowners: private property cannot be taken for public use without just compensation. Public entities are entitled to take property when there is a demonstrable public good—examples include condemning property for use as road right-of-ways, new schools, flood control and the like. If private property is taken this way, the people who own the land are guaranteed a just compensation. In 1995, we passed SB 14 to accomplish that purpose.

As environmental regulations in some parts of our state have grown more stringent over the last two decades or so, the definition of what constitutes “takings” has blurred. We are now at a critical point where some types of environmental regulations are, in effect, takings, because they cause dramatic devaluation of private property. If such regulations are for the betterment of the general public, then the landowner who pays a dear price in loss of value should, under both our state and federal constitutions, be compensated fairly. Unfortunately, that is not the case in Austin.

In 1992, our Capital City’s electorate passed the Save Our Springs ordinance, a stringent anti-growth and land-use law labeled “water quality” protection. In addition, the city passed regulations over residents of the ETJ who couldn’t vote “for” or “against” the ordinance. Over the ensuing years, SOS, as it is widely known, has been used as a tool to prevent growth and devalue real property. SOS requires that many Austin-area developments not exceed 15 percent “impervious cover,” regardless of scientific evidence that clean-water standards can readily be met at higher percentages of build-out. SOS has been challenged all the way to the Texas Supreme Court, where it was ruled constitutional under Texas law. In that ruling in 1998, the Supreme Court noted that SOS was directly responsible for a 90 percent reduction in the value of land. By any reasonable person’s definition, that is a taking.

The bottom line: If it is constitutional for public entities such as the City of Austin to take private property for the public good, then the City of Austin should pay the landowners a fair price for that property. To no one’s surprise, the city is not rushing to write checks to anybody.

It was easy for the rest of Texas to ignore SOS—most of us thought it was just Austin being Austin and that this extraordinarily destructive law would never apply to the rest of Texas.

Well, take a deep breath Texas homeowners and landowners: SOS may be headed your way. There is a legislative effort underway which would extend SOS-type standards to a swath of Texas that encompasses 10 counties.

If a landowner decides to develop a piece of property, a river authority would have the authority to adopt impervious cover limitations on the land. Land that Texas families have been counting on to pay for their children’s college educations or for retirement will be devalued, virtually overnight.

Who will pay the landowners for this loss of value? A river authority? The counties where the farms and ranches are located? The sad truth is that no one is currently required to pay for this devalued land. The issue of paying landowners a fair price for “takings”—and of defining exactly what constitutes a taking—is front and center at the Legislature this session, as elected leaders debate a bill aimed at solving this problem. Our legislators have a chance to ensure that our right of just compensation is codified in Texas law. Sen. Todd Staples (R-Palestine) and Rep. Robby Cook (D-Eagle Lake) are both carrying legislation to clarify the definition of a taking and to ensure landowners are fairly compensated if their private property is taken by a public entity.

The Legislature has an opportunity to reaffirm a right we’ve all taken for granted: owning and enjoying private property. The time is now, and the stakes are great. Let’s preserve a value Texans hold dear: no taking of private property without just compensation.

The Hon. Susan Combs has served as the Commissioner of Agriculture for the State of Texas since 1999. She served two terms in the Texas House of Representatives and is a fourth-generation Texas rancher. She was the House author of the state’s private property rights legislation. EDITORS: For information on the bill, please contact Elizabeth Christian at echristian@echristianpr.com or call 512-472-9599. For comment from Commissioner Combs, please contact Allen Spelce at 512-475-1669.

FROM THE U.S. SUPREME COURT RECORD

DAVID H. LUCAS v. SOUTH CAROLINA COASTAL COUNCIL 505 U.S. 1003 (1992) U.S. SUPREME COURT Decided June 29, 1992

In this case, the opinion was written by arguably, the most conservative Supreme Court Justice of the last fifty years, Antonin Scalia. Justice Scalia delivered the opinion of the Court writing:

“The Fifth Amendment is violated when land-use regulation “does not substantially advance legitimate state interests or denies an owner economically viable use of his land….We think, in short, that there are good reasons for our frequently expressed belief that when the owner of real property has been called upon to sacrifice all economically beneficial uses in the name of the common good, that is, to leave his property economically idle, he has suffered a taking.”

Note that the majority determined that “all economically beneficial” value had to be taken from Mr. Lucas’s land before he was awarded a “taking.”

No one in Dripping Springs government or in the community is suggesting such, nor is this remotely happening to your land, or anyone’s land, for that matter.

In the same case, from Justice Blackmun, in the dissent, “Long ago it was recognized that all property in this country is held under the implied obligation that the owner’s use of it shall not be injurious to the community, and the Takings Clause did not transform that principle to one that requires compensation whenever the State asserts its power to enforce it.”

Another relevant case:

TAHOE-SIERRA PRESERVATION COUNCIL, INC., etal. v. TAHOE REGIONAL PLANNING AGENCY etal. Decided April 23, 2002

Justice Stevens delivered the opinion of the Court.

“The text of the Fifth Amendment itself provides a basis for drawing a distinction between physical takings and regulatory takings. Its plain language requires the payment of compensation whenever the government acquires private property for a public purpose, whether the acquisition is the result of a condemnation proceeding or a physical appropriation.

But the Constitution contains no comparable reference to regulations that prohibit a property owner from making certain uses of her private property.”

REBUTTAL FROM GENE LOWENTHAL

Susan Combs has written an inflammatory editorial on the collision between water quality protection and property rights, more specifically between impervious cover limits and the concept of “taking”. As an advocate for both water quality protection and property rights, I object to her inaccurate treatment of both topics.

Ms. Combs says that “SOS requires that many Austin-area developments not exceed 15 percent impervious cover regardless of scientific evidence that clean-water standards can readily be met at higher percentages of build-out”. On this matter she is dead wrong. I have spent the last 10 months as a member of the Stakeholder Committee for the Regional Water Quality Protection project, possibly the most comprehensive review of the available data, science and technology ever undertaken relative to protecting Barton Springs and the Edwards Aquifer watershed. The conclusion was abundantly clear: an impervious cover limit of 15% is an essential element of protecting the very sensitive recharge zone of the Edwards Aquifer. No amount of engineering can substitute for low impervious cover.

Ms. Combs is equally off the mark in the matter of property rights and especially takings. The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed its interpretation of the 5th Amendment in multiple rulings.

A physical taking is an event in which a governmental entity literally takes property by condemnation, for instance to locate a school. The original owner of the property no longer owns it. The Fifth Amendment requires that the property owner be compensated for his or her loss.

Restrictions on land use or intensity of development, in contrast to physical takings, generally are not to be treated as takings, since ownership of the land does not change hands. However, in extreme cases where restrictive ordinances have the effect of rendering property worthless, the Court has deemed the action as equivalent to a physical taking for which compensation is justified.

The current debate centers on the cases where the effect of a restrictive ordinance falls short of being equivalent to a physical taking. If an ordinance restricts development rights but doesn’t extinguish them, should this be considered a taking? If an ordinance reduces the value of a piece of property but not make it essentially worthless, is this a taking? The Supreme Court said no, but many within the development community are pushing hard to broaden the definition of taking for their own benefit.

Ms. Combs writes “As environmental regulations in some parts of our state have grown more stringent over the last two decades or so, the definition of what constitutes takings has blurred”. What she is really saying is that developer interests are organizing to blur and broaden the definition of taking as a strategy to overturn environmental regulations. They want to convince us that water quality protection measures should somehow be construed as takings so they can be compensated by the public for not polluting water. Political activists serving development interests are seeking a new class of entitlements.

Today we have all kinds of rules that potentially affect property values. We have zoning ordinances. We have setback ordinances. We have regulations requiring that land be dedicated for on-site wastewater disposal. Subdivision ordinances may require that right-of-way be dedicated to insure safe entry and exit from a development. The list goes on. Neither the Supreme Court nor any reasonable person would consider these ordinances as takings (but I haven’t asked Ms. Combs). Why should regulations designed to protect water quality be different from these other rules designed to protect public health, public safety and community property values?

In the case of a physical taking it is relatively easy to determine how much the property owner should be compensated. This is a routine exercise. In the case of the more mushy definition of taking advocated by developer interests, the exercise is difficult at best, and subject to abuse. The abuse will take center stage if proposed legislation is passed.

What is particularly odious about House Bill 2833 and its companion Senate Bill 1647 is their treatment of impervious cover limits. If these bills become law, then any ordinance limiting impervious cover to a level below 45% will trigger takings. For instance, if I am required by a water quality ordinance to develop at 25% impervious cover or less, I can file a takings claim and get compensated by taxpayers.

The outlandish thing about HB 2833 is its underlying assumption that someone who is required to develop at an intensity below 45% impervious cover must therefore be damaged and must be entitled to compensation. The bill makes no distinction whatsoever between commercial property within a city center, suburban residential property, or country estates. It brainlessly assumes that the value any tract of land is linked to the right to develop at 45% impervious cover or greater. This is arbitrary and dangerous.

Outside of city limits there are very few residential subdivisions that even approach 45 % impervious cover. In my neighborhood near the town of Bee Cave the typical residential subdivision is 20% or less. The developers here weren’t forced to do this. They chose to because they were responding to consumer demand for such amenities as large lots, open spaces and green belts. They calculated that low-intensity development was the highest and best use of their property.

What HB 2833 will do is treat future developers of such upscale residential subdivisions as victims if they happen to be in a community that limits impervious cover. If they play their cards right, they will be entitled to substantial compensation from the government for simply doing what they were planning to do anyway – – design subdivisions that the market wants.

HB 2833 will either compromise water quality by making impervious cover limits economically unfeasible, or it will enable a bogus definition of taking that can be easily gamed by developers to get taxpayer subsidies, regardless of whether or not they are actually damaged. HB 2833 is a perfect example of poor public policy and a new public trough for special interests.

Last updated on Monday, May 16, 2005 by billc

Moratorium extended

Dear FA Friends, Neighbors and Members,

In a striking and progressive civic gesture, the DS City Council, led by the votes of Santos Alba, Doug Philip and Joe Volpe, in a 3-2 tally, chose to listen to the common sense pleas of their staff, their Planning & Zoning Commission and us, their disenfranchised ETJ subjects. It is very encouraging to see the majority of the elected City officials take the bull by the horns and rather than succumb to the self-centered principles of market forces and real estate gain, instead heed the call of civic duty and responsibility to our futures. We cannot thank them enough.

This continued Moratorium will allow the City to finish the hard, ongoing work on their Subdivision Ordnance updates and also incorporate the results and recommendations of the Regional Groundwater Protection Planning Group, which they are sponsoring along with Hays and Travis Counties, the Groundwater Districts and CIty of Austin. This is welcome news indeed.

Rob Baxter

Last updated on Saturday, February 5, 2005 by Bill c for Rob B

Texas Land Trust Conference

A reminder to register for the February 24 – 26 statewide land trust conference (highlights and registration brochure attached).

Updates: * Friday night dinner and jawin’ time will be at a fun Austin venue — Stubb’s http://www.stubbsaustin.com/ 801 Red River. * Continuing Education Units approved: 7.5 hours MCLE and State Bar College; 16 Range Management units * Chad Shaw cshaw@katyprairie.org or 713/523-6135 is organizing the Young Leaders gathering on Friday prior to dinner at Stubb’s. Give him a call.

Let me know if you want more hard copy registration brochures or provide addresses (within reason) and I will mail.

See you Feb 24 – 26!

Carolyn

Carolyn Vogel Texas Land Trust Program Texas Parks and Wildlife Department 512/389-4779 carolyn.vogel@tpwd.state.tx.us www.tpwd.state.tx.us/tltc

http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/conserve/tltc/bulletinboard/

Last updated on Saturday, January 22, 2005 by billc

LCRA’s Plans for the Hill Country

What follows here is an LCRA Board Meeting report from the website noted below. The site is devoted to the Hamilton Pool Road Scenic Corridor Coalition folks to our north and reflects their concerns. Please read on and visit their site, if you have the time. Thank you

http://www.aimproductions.com/neighbors/lcraHillCo.html

LCRA’S HORRIFIC PLANS FOR HILL COUNTRY

Wednesday, September 15th, the LCRA Board met at their Buchanan Dam facility. There, they received reports from Manager Joe Beal and Water & Wastewater Director Randy Goss on staff recommendations for expansion in Western Travis County. They also did have some discussion, most of which seemed to be dialogues between individual Board members and Beal, who dominated and, to a large extent, manipulated the meeting with a deft touch. While waiting for the meeting to begin, (left to right) Mara Eurich, Randy Goss, Pam and Mike Reese, Gene Lowenthal, Christy Muse and I met informally outside. It was a good opportunity to question Randy about some of our burning issues. Here, he is on the phone getting an answer to Mike’s question about a proposed development upstream from his place. It seems that developer Mike Ridley is planning a “conservation development” upstream of Pedernales Falls State Park and wants to draw 30 acre-feet of water from the Pedernales River for “recreational use”. LCRA lawyer Madison Jechow informed us that the developer is going to have to get a permit from both the LCRA and TCEQ before he can do that. Christy knew about that development and said she had heard that they planned to use rainwater for household purposes there – something good, anyway. Madison also filled us in on water rights along Texas rivers and streams. According to Section 11 of the Texas Water Code, the state owns all surface water with this exception: Individual landowners with waterway frontage may draw up to 200 acre-feet af water from that waterway per year for personal use, including watering livestock. Wow! Try to imagine all the landowners along the Pedernales drawing that much water out for stock tanks – slurp, no river.

Inside, the meeting began with a presentation by Joe Beal and discussion of Board members’ feelings about the staff’s projections and recommendations for LCRA’s future. Beal talked about plans for “strategic investment” in infrastructure. This means creating systems that have more capacity than is currently needed, expecting payback in 20 to 30 years. An example Beal gave of strategic investment was “If we need a 24″ water line now, we would build a 60″ line” to accomodate future growth in the area. He said that the LCRA currently has “$300 million in facilities in the ground” and he hopes to get that up to a billion dollars worth by 2035 by adding on to existing systems and building new systems. He expects about $200 million of that investment to be with “no readily apparent way to pay for it now.”

Board members were asked to express their opinions on this and such essential policy issues as should the LCRA be in the retail water business and should they be developing and expanding systems in environmentally sensitive areas?

Among the members’ comments were: “We should be in retail only to preserve and protect resources”, “…no strategic investment until we are in the black” and “We should be cheaper, more environmentally sensitive and more customer-oriented than anybody else.”

Board member Charles Moser, of Brenham, said that the LCRA’s infrastructure installations “shouldn’t be ahead of growth” and “should not create economic opportunities” for developers to exploit the land (go Mr. Moser). Joe Beal responded that “any utility is causing money to be made off the land.”

Chairman Ray Wilkerson who, for the most part seemed in perfect sync with Beal, said that the organization should not do ‘”quiltwork” development but should also not be “entrepreneurial and creating cities.”

Rosemary Rust wanted LCRA expansion to be first to the south and east of Austin where “installation is easier and there is denser growth”. She felt that the planned western expansion was in an area that is too environmentally sensitive. Beal responded that “There is no reason to assume that environmentally sensitive development is money losing.” He said that “it can break even.” Throughout the discussion, Beal offered more than half the dialogue, responding to many of the Board members’ comments then, often saying something like “I’m just going to say this then shut up” or “one comment then I’ll stop” but he never did.

F. Scott LaGrone suggested a “freeze” on new systems until the board thinks that “the financial system is under control.” Beal challenged that idea vigorously (as he did with just about all the other comments that disagreed with his plans). Somewhere in there Beal also made the comment that the LCRA had only 6,000 retail customers and that the way to improve service to those people is “by getting a lot more customers.” This and other comments he made seemed to be at odds with opinions of several board members. When someone said simply “no mas”, Beal argued some more. He said that a moratorium would be “a draconian measure.”

Ms. Rust chimed in that the moratorium should be only on “strategic investment, or what I call water welfare.”

Joe Beal ended the morning session with his “summary” of what he claimed the board members had agreed upon. Buried within his litany of points was the untrue claim that the board “does not have a preference about expansion location even if it is over an environmentally sensitive area so long as it is good business.” One board member almost fell out of his chair at this statement but nothing was said to contradict it until, when Beal finally finished his “summary” (which actually seemed to be his own wish list), Charles Moser expressed some weak disagreement along with a desire to discuss the issue further. My observation was that there was substantial disagreement with that statement but board members were too polite, overwhelmed or hungry (hopefully not too wimpy) to make an issue of it at that time. The session was then adjourned for lunch.

After lunch, Randy Goss took the stage. His presentationt consisted mainly of projections into the future of western Travis County. He outlined the LCRA’s plan for destruction of our neighborhood in the name of protecting the environment. Joe Beal, of course, had his say during Randy’s pitch as well.

The dynamic duo referred to the plan to apply to the TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) for a CCN (Certificate of Convenience and Necessity) that would allow (in fact, require) the LCRA to be the sole water provider for the entire region. They made the case that they are the only organization that can properly protect the Hill Country environment and that the CCN would permit them to do that. How enabling 125,000 more people to live here would be protecting the environment is beyond this author’s wildest imagination but hey, they are the experts.

One of Beal’s notable (but hopefully not prophetic) quotes was “167,000 people are getting service from the LCRA and they are as happy as pigs in slop.”

But the spinmeister’s scariest pronouncement was his final word. In addressing the board about the planning processes going on, he talked about how the people will get the opportunity to decide their own fate, then contradicted that, saying “…so we’re gonna take this to the public and then bring it back to you and, hopefully, you will tell us to go for the CCN.” See, he thinks it’s a done deal. Ahhhrrrggghhh!

For a good report on some more of the details, here is what Pam Reese wrote about it: PAM REESE’S REPORT

The master plan for W. Travis County was presented to the LCRA Board today by Randy Goss. The news is worse than I was expecting.

There were 2 maps shown, one done by a consulting firm in 2001 and one just completed by LCRA with projected growth areas added. The maps- as far as where the pipe lines, plants, holding tanks, etc are located- are very similar. I requested copies of the maps from Randy, but did not get them. The LCRA is going to make this master plan available to the public in mid-October and we may not be able to get copies until then.

There are 4 phases to the plan to be completed in 20-25 years. Phase 1 includes extending the line out Hwy. 71 to the Pedernales and out HPR to Madrone Ranch. It will also go out both Crumley Ranch Rd. and Hwy.12 to 290. Later phases include a line from 71 through Ted Stuart’s property over to HPR. (This is past Hammett’s Crossing.) There will be a line from 71 through John Hatchett’s new tract to HPR. Eventually, the line will make a loop up through the Marble F alls/Burnet area. There are 3 new plants and multiple holding tanks planned.(John, you get a holding tank.) That is my best recollection of the maps. Ric and Mara, do you have anything to add?

Now, for the bad news. With this plan comes 45,000 LUE’s. At 2 1/2 people per LUE, this equates to 125,000 people in 30 years.They estimate there will be one LUE per 3 acres. The cost to the LCRA for building the master plan will be $225 million. (Note: During this 30 year period, they project a total of $355 million will be spent on new systems throughout the basin. A full 63% of their budget for new sytems will be spent on developing Western Travis County!)

Another point of interest is that although the Hudson development requires only a 12″ pipe, they will be putting in a 16-20″ pipe. Joe Beal calls this a “strategic investment”, meaning they are absorbing the expense of the larger pipe to allow for future growth. With this kind of thinking, I expect the number of people will be much greater than 125,000.

I have already begun my letter to the LCRA Board members. This Board meeting was unusual in that Board members had much more discussion. Several of them expressed concerns about the amount of money being spent on water and waste water operations. Apparently, they are losing money here and making up for it on the electric side. One board member (Rosemary Rust) wanted to know why they didn’t concentrate on the less environmentally sensitive areas south and east of Austin. Scott LaGrone questioned whether they should be in the retail water business at all- too much risk. This is an opportune time to write to the Board (here are their addresses). They are already questioning.

http://www.aimproductions.com/neighbors/LCRAboard.html

Sorry for all the bad news, but there was some good information that came out of the meetings: the LCRA has only a few systems with radioactive content in the water!

PRESS RELEASE October 31, 2002

PRESS RELEASE

October 31, 2002
Dripping Springs, Texas

The Friendship Alliance to File Suit against City of Dripping Springs for faulty Development Agreements
***************

PRESS CONFERENCE

Where: Dripping Springs City Council Offices
When: Friday, November 1, 2002 3PM

The Action: Seeking Declaratory and Injunctive Relief from the City of Dripping Springs to overturn two Development Agreements considered illegal in the opinion of The Friendship Alliance.

The Development Agreements: The Rutherford-Cypress and Foster-Belterra Development Agreements which cover two major developments encompassing 4300 acres in the city’s 120 square mile Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ), one of the largest ETJs in the State of Texas.

The Reasons:

  1. Lack of open and inclusive government
  2. Lack of City engineering oversight
  3. Violation of State Statutes and DS Planning and Zoning rules in creation of the Agreements
  4. 25 year term and transferability of the Agreements

The Impacts:

  1. Schools and taxes were not considered
  2. Roads, their safety and taxes were not considered
  3. 25 year terms illegally binding on future city governments
  4. Degradation of the rural character and quality of life
  5. Water availability, water quality, and run-off impacts
  6. Incompatibility with the CAMPO/Hays County Road Plan

During the past 18 months the City has approved new developments that will nearly double the existing population of the ETJ without the aid of a professional planner. Because of this, The Friendship Alliance seeks both short and long term solutions.

Short Term Goals

  1. The two development agreements declared null and void and then renegotiated before further work could be performed.
  2. A development moratorium on further plats.

Longer Term Goals

  1. Creation of a Regional Plan for the Dripping Springs area and integration of this with the Envision Central Texas plan.
  2. Upgrade the governance capability of Dripping Springs regarding the administration its 75,000 acre ETJ.
  3. Suitable planning and engineering capability enacted to fulfill the requirements of and ensure the conformance with future development rules.
  4. Compliance with the Austin Interlocal Agreement
  5. Elimination of conflicts of interest within the City Gov’t.
  6. Protection of the rural character of Dripping Springs
  7. Ample and connected open spaces
  8. Protection of the quality of our air and aquifers
  9. A safe and effective transportation system with planning that includes the county
  10. Continued excellent schools, but with comprehensive school planning in conjunction with the DSISD
  11. Reasonable and expected property tax rates
  12. Housing plans compatible with the rural character and transportation infrastructure
  13. Support for preservation of a viable agricultural sector
  14. Creating the ability to vote for residents of the ETJ in matters that affect their future

The City of Dripping Springs needs to complete the changes that will ensure the establishment of a comprehensive planning process. A process that includes broad citizen input, including those living in, and affected by the ETJ growth. DS should do so before continuing the negotiation and implementation of any more of these broad Development Agreements that will adversely affect the safety, health and welfare of these citizens.



Other information related to this headline:

Dripping Springs Sued Over Deals – Austin American Statesman – 11.2.2002


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Cypress Realty and Makar Development pull a fast one – maybe

Two developers were drinking champagne one evening in Austin. The first developer turns to the second and says, “George, I have a confession to make. I’m having an affair.” The friend just stares at him for a second or two, mouth wide open, before he can stutter out the words, “Oh my god. So tell me, who’s catering?” The first developer points towards the west, and exclaims – “Why, the City of Dripping Springs, of course.”

Does this joke sound too unrealistic? Can a City Attorney find love and happiness with two developers? According to the City of Dripping Springs and two questionable development agreements, it was possible.



Plans call for thousands of homes in Hays County

Mary Alice Piasecki Austin Business Journal Staff

The City of Dripping Springs has approved two separate development agreements that envision bringing thousands of homes as well as commercial development to more than 4,000 acres in northern Hays County.

Complete story in the Austin Business Journal.

An Alliance of Friends

by Amy Smith
(Original story at: Austin Chronicle on September 21, 2001)

A Baptist church, a Transcendental Meditation colony, and a Hindu temple are all landmarks within a few miles of one another along a stretch of roadway that cuts across the rolling countryside of northern Hays County. It’s peaceful here, but not as peaceful, certainly, as it was when Rae Smith was growing up in the Thirties. She learned the three R’s in the one-room wooden schoolhouse that served on Sundays as the Friendship Baptist Church. Back then, Bear Creek, a natural spring, ran year-round alongside the church, and parishioners would stand on the grassy banks singing, “We Shall Gather at the River” when one of their own was baptized in the clear, cold water. The creek is dry now, dammed by new subdivisions further upstream, and the Rev. Sam Shurtleff — Brother Sam, as he is called — relies on old-fashioned tap water to baptize folks, indoors, in a newer version of the church built in the late Sixties.

Like her spiritual neighbors, Smith, also lives along FM 1826, on the same land her father worked from morning to night. She is a lifelong member of Friendship Baptist. Until about 10 years ago, Smith could sit on her front porch without having to raise her voice to be heard above the constant whoosh of pickups and Suburbans. Even property-rights advocates like Smith long for the rural hominess that existed before a Central Texas explosion of growth began pock-marking the hilly landscape[….

Go to the full story:
http://www.austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2001-09-21/pols_feature3.html