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Rep. Green, Austin not

Friday, April 13, 2001 by

Close to agreement on bill

Bradley promises Buda a new bill on Tuesday

Developer Gary Bradley and Hays County Rep Rick Green (R-Dripping Springs) continue to move forward on HB3644, the bill to create a taxing district on the Spillar Ranch in Hays County. The original legislation provided for the district to use 25 percent of district revenues for environmental protection and 10 percent for promoting education in Hays County. However, as critics noted, the bill would have subordinated those payments to “payments of bonds, notes or other obligations.”

Last night, Bradley told a crowd of 40 to 50 people gathered for a “town hall” meeting in Buda that State Senator Ken Armbrister (D-Victoria) next Tuesday would introduce a modified version of the bill. But unlike Green’s measure, which the Austin City Council opposed, (see In Fact Daily, April 6, 2001) the new proposal for the district will eliminate many of the provisions that had scuttled the first measure, HB 3644. That would mean no power of eminent domain, no ability to issue bonds, and no ability to build roads, he said.

According to Bradley, the new measure would only allow the special district to collect a tax on visitors to the proposed hotel and resort. “It would create an entity to collect that tax, and that’s all it does. It has no other powers other than to collect the tax and distribute it.”

That distribution would be to the Hays Consolidated ISD and the Hays CISD Education Foundation (of which Bradley is a board member). Last week, Austin Mayor Kirk Watson called for any district tax revenues to be split between the public schools of Hays County and Hays County and the City of Austin for environmental protection and parkland purchase and maintenance.

Bradley faced some pointed questions from members of the audience over environmental concerns, traffic and density of development, but overall felt the meeting went fairly well. “It went a little better than I expected. The questions were pretty sophisticated, and I appreciated how courteous people were to me.”

However, some of the other entities involved in the original measure have rejected the idea of being any part of the equation.

The Hill Country Conservancy’s Board of Directors sent a letter to Green yesterday to inform the legislator that they want to “withdraw from any association with HB3644.” The conservation organization had been designated earlier as the recipient of money for environmental protection and mitigation in the proposed district. Gary Valdez, president, and Robin Rather and David Armbrust, vice presidents, signed the letter, which states, “We greatly appreciate your efforts to find funding for the environment and education, two of the most pressing problems in Central Texas; however, we are uncomfortable with the collateral issues relating to this bill and the controversial nature of the dialogue. Therefore, we ask that you not include or reference our organization in any future meeting, correspondence or discussions relating to this matter.”

Also Thursday, Green and Austin Mayor Kirk Watson exchanged letters that show the issues surrounding the legislation are far from being resolved. Green sent a letter to City Council aides and others who attended the stakeholders’ meeting called by Green on Tuesday. The letter says, “We were able to work through nearly all of the issues and made a tremendous amount of progress towards making this very positive opportunity a reality . . . I am thrilled to have the steady and experienced hand of Senator (Ken) Armbrister guiding this legislation and look forward to working through the details with you and other stakeholders over the next few weeks. You should be receiving a copy of the new legislation within a few days.”

Jim Camp of Hays County was one of the stakeholders attending Tuesday’s meeting. He’s a member of the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) Board of Directors. He said he wondered why Bob Randolph, Bradley’s attorney, led the group’s discussion on how to change the bill so that it would be more acceptable to stakeholders. Camp said the legislation is a matter that should be decided by the City of Austin and Bradley only. “It does not involve (the district). We shouldn’t be stakeholders.”

Camp said even if the legislation enacted this year suits the city, “Who’s to say that two years from now another legislature couldn’t add eminent domain?” The power of eminent domain would give the district authority to condemn land for building roads, one of the biggest threats to the aquifer.

Watson responded to Green’s letter with a letter of his own in which he says, “I do not support the proposal that you made on Tuesday. I believe my proposal continues to provide the best way to support the Hays Consolidated Independent School District (HCISD) and protect the environment. For a variety of reasons, I do not believe it is appropriate to hold these noble goals, which I know you support, hostage to the creation of a public financing mechanism for a private developer of land in the region’s most environmentally sensitive area.”

The mayor concludes by reminding Green that the legislator has previously stated that he would not move forward with any bill without the agreement of all parties, including the city. The contract between Bradley and the city, which was signed last March, states that “No part of the Land shall ever be included in, and the Bradley Parties agree, with respect to the Land, to never seek or allow the formation of, a county development district, road district, municipal utility district, or other type of planning, taxing, development, or other special district which could be formed on any part of the Land or of which any part of the Land could otherwise be included in unless the prior written consent of City is first obtained.” (See In Fact Daily, March 14, 2000)

Aquifer board worried about

Cypress Realty district bill

Rep. Green carrying this bill also

Members of the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) decided Thursday to form a subcommittee to meet with Rep. Rick Green’s (R-Hays Co.) staff, and the attorney for Cypress Realty to express District apprehensions over Green’s legislative proposals.

House Bills 3641, 3644 and 3629, sponsored by Green, were all points of concern on Thursday’s BSEACD board meeting agenda. However, “only 3641 is in our district,” General Manager Stovy Bowlin said. That piece of legislation could create a Water Control and Improvement District (WCID) with taxing authority and the ability to supersede existing water quality controls.

Attorney Bill Dugat, advising the board, said the proposed WCIDs would have taxing authority, an elected board of directors and power to mandate water controls in the City of Austin’s extra territorial jurisdiction and other municipalities. Land in the city’s ETJ would be immune from annexation if it falls within a WCID, he said. The WCID would have its own authority and “be basically able to do its own thing,” he said. It would be independent of usual subdivision controls, not be curtailed by the county or any other authority, and “have fee authority as well,” he added.

Cypress Realty is involved with the development proposed on the old Rutherford Ranch in a southern precinct of the district’s jurisdiction.

Board President Craig Smith said Green’s bills are not only an increased threat to the Edwards Aquifer, but also shut out public input. “It seems to me that this bill (HB3641) certainly has the ability to complicate our job,” he said.

Board Member Jack Goodman said he wanted to meet with Green’s staff to discuss the proposed legislation. “This thing just kind of popped out of the blue,” he said. “I’d like to know how much knowledge the general public has on this bill,” he added.

Smith then suggested forming a subcommittee to express the District’s concern to Green. “The Legislature is barreling ahead like a freight train and they’re not going to wait on us,” he said. Smith also told the board to be prepared to have a special meeting before the next scheduled meeting on May 10 in order to grapple with the issue.

Dugat said he found no “legal conflict between provisions” in the proposed legislation and the status quo, but was certain “it could have a practical effect on the district.” Smith stated it would have a physical effect on the aquifer and Dugat agreed, noting such effects on the aquifer could trigger legal conflicts.

Noting that the WCID bills “fall pretty close to home,” Smith asked if the board wanted to take further action at this time. No, Bowlin said, “We’re doing pretty good maintaining the status quo.” But he cautioned that with only 50 days left in the current legislative session, things would happen quickly.

Board Member Jim Camp, Bowlin and Goodman will serve on the subcommittee.

Dunaway says West Austin

Still ripe for new office space

Developer building on Bee Caves Road

Austin’s downtown office market may be overbuilt, but there’s still room for more such development in West Austin, says Gordon Dunaway. Dunaway, who spoke to In Fact Daily from his Dallas office Thursday, said he’s building a 60,000-square foot building next to the County Line Restaurant on Bee Caves Road.

The building will be two stories, with one level of underground parking, he said. The developer agreed that certain parts of the Capitol City are overbuilt, adding, “There’s still a market for small and medium-sized tenants in West Austin.”

Dunaway feels “very comfortable” building in West Austin because he has done so before, he said. He said he even plans to open an office for himself in the new building. After 10 years of involvement in the Austin development scene, it’s time to add an Austin office, he said.

Dunaway is better known as the developer of Rainey Place, a luxury condominium project on Town Lake, at the foot of Rainey Street, and for his attempt to interest Rainey Street residents in selling their property to him en masse. That project is over, at least for the time being, but Dunaway expects to get the final city permit on the condo project and break ground shortly. He said prices on the 76 luxury units range from $260,000 to more than $3 million. “We’re still awaiting a few more presales,” before starting construction, he concluded.

©2001 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Happy Birthday! . . . If you’re one of those few we can expect to be wandering around City Hall today, stop by Council Member Beverly Griffith’s office and wish a happy birthday to Griffith’s assistant, Toye Goodson . . . ARC to honor Naishtat . . . The ARC of Texas will be honoring Rep. Elliott Naishtat (D-Austin) at its 2001 Leadership Award Reception beginning at 7 p. m. next Wednesday at the Four Seasons Hotel. Naishtat is being honored for “his significant contributions to people with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities.” For more information, call 454-6694 . . . Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau can give itself a pat on the back . . . Figures released by the Texas Department of Economic Development show the number of hotel room nights sold in the Austin/San Marcos area was up 4.1% in 2000 compared to the previous year, generating a revenue increase of 20.4%. That's the highest in the state.

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