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Planners split over Villa Muse ETJ release request
Thursday, February 14, 2008 by Austin Monitor
Members of the Planning Commission could not reach a decision Tuesday night on whether to support a request from the developers of the planned Villa Muse film studios and mixed-use complex to release their project from the city’s extra-territorial jurisdiction. The commission split 4-4 on the request, sending the item on to the City Council with only a recommendation that the Council seek creative ways to make the project work.
While the Commission did not support the release of the project from the ETJ, it also did not oppose it. “We kind of expected this,” Hiten Patel with Villa Muse told In Fact Daily. “We went into this process understanding what the policy document was from the city….and within the confines of the actual policy, these boards really don’t have a lot of latitude. The reality is we don’t fit.”
The city’s policy for releasing land from the ETJ generally requires it to be surrendered to the jurisdiction of another municipality, and that is not what Villa Muse is seeking. “It’s not an unexpected outcome. We’re excited about going into the next phase with the city staff. The City Council’s resolution did ask the staff to ask, ‘How does it work within the ETJ?’, so we want to understand that as well.”
City staffers recommended against relinquishing regulatory control over the land in northeast
Commissioners also brought up concerns about the provision of emergency services and utilities, construction within the flood plain, and water quality controls. A majority of the project site is within Austin Energy’s service area, although a small portion is could be served by the Bluebonnet Electric Co-Op. Water and wastewater would be provided by the Manville Water Supply Corporation and the Hornsby Bend Utility District. Travis County Sheriff’s deputies would handle law enforcement, and fire service would be provided by Travis County ESD 12 (known as the Manor Fire Department).
Most of the commission’s questions focused on the amount of time the project would be outside the city’s jurisdiction and the need for making a decision by March 6. “I’m also concerned about recouping the cost if we release this land… at some point later on, after it’s been paid off, we could obtain it back…but at what cost would that be? I do like the concept,” said
The developers are requesting a guarantee that their project not be reannexed into the city for at least 30 years. The development’s financial advisor, Patel, said that time frame was necessary to allow the developers to repay the cost of financing their own streets and infrastructure. Those roads would be financed by issuing long-term bonds, and payment on that debt would effectively add more than one dollar to the tax rate paid by property holders within the development. Combined with the school taxes for the Del Valle ISD,
“If the City of
Commissioners also objected to the speed at which they were being asked to make a recommendation. Developers want an answer from the City Council by March 6 in order to satisfy their outside investors. “I think this is something that most citizens of
Market conditions within the film industry are spurring the rapid development of the ground-breaking multi-media studios, according to one expert not affiliated with the project. “I’m afraid I’m actually responsible for the push on this timeline,” said
“The status of these other states is growing in an exponential way,” he said. Hudgins also warned that
That status, said representatives of Villa Muse, spurred their quick action on their multi-billion dollar project. “We’re losing business to
Commissioners were enthusiastic about the project, but reluctant to endorse a special exemption for the developers. A motion to recommend that the Council deny the request in accordance with the staff’s recommendation failed on a vote of 4-4, with Commissioners Perla Cavazos, Saundra Kirk, Jay Reddy, and Dave Sullivan supporting the staff’s position. An opposing motion by
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