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Developer angry over lack of Hays-Neiderwald agreement

Monday, June 9, 2008 by Jacob Cottingham

Hays County could be forced into arbitration with the City of Neiderwald if a remedy is not found for a developer. At the center of the dispute was the regulatory authority over the proposed Studio Estates, a 257-acre tract in the extra-territorial jurisdiction of Neiderwald, which Alaska resident and US Senate candidate David Cuddy wants to develop into movie studios and residences.


Cuddy and his attorney Terrence Irion, appeared during the citizen’s communication part of the Hays County Commissioners Court agenda to explain the obtuse permitting process the development has been forced to abide by due to the lack of an interlocal agreement between Hays County and Neiderwald.


According to a letter Irion submitted to the court via Pct. 3 Commissioner Jeff Barton, Cuddy has paid “more than $30,000 in plan review fees to the City of Neiderwald for review of his Preliminary Subdivision Plan and more than $20,000 in plan review fees to Hays County for review of his Preliminary Subdivision Plan.” An interlocal agreement between the county and city that would eliminate such duplicate fees is required under state law, Chapter 242, Local Government Code. Formerly known as House Bill 1445, the law requires a single set of rules and regulations governing subdivision plats.


Cuddy received a complete county review of his subdivision plan in December 2007, though has yet to receive approval on that plan and the proposed plat for the first section of the development.


The Commissioner’s Court heard from Special Counsel Mark Kennedy later in the day. Kennedy briefed the Court on the difficulties of dealing with smaller municipalities who publicly may want to take the lead but lack the staff to execute the necessary permitting approvals in a timely matter.


Commissioner Barton said that Neiderwald “(doesn’t) have much city staff. They have a part time staff, contract attorney, contract engineers. The developer rightly or wrongly is frustrated with the city… he’s paying more fees to Neiderwald than the county, and there’s no “one stop shop,” no 1445. And our problem is, with the very small cities, it’s hard to get the 1445 because they don’t have full time staff to focus on this.”


Kennedy told the court that arbitration is a potential “out” for the county, who could argue that Neiderwald staff is too small to be effective, thus giving the County full oversight. According to Barton, “it’s a little scary to us to leave all development review to (a small) city when we’re the ones providing law enforcement services, providing road maintenance, transportation planning, and interconnectivity of the streets. Yet, that city may be the one reviewing that subdivision and allowing or promoting something…that’s not really what we have in mind for those purposes.”


Despite the problems with Neiderwald’s responsiveness, the Court took no action on the item. Irion and Cuddy had been hoping to get their plan and plat approved by the County even though, Irion said, “The County Clerk cannot record our plat until Neiderwald has signed off. So it doesn’t get us where we want to be, which is an approved plat but at least it moves us along the process. We’ve been sort of stuck in the water since December.”


Irion said it was possible to file a legal order that could force the county into arbitration with the city. He also said that Cuddy had made a presentation to Neiderwald on Monday night. “Some of them appeared to have been unaware how much trouble the city had been giving Mr. Cuddy, but it hasn’t resulted in any action being taken yet. I’m going to push this. This is exactly why we have Chapter 242 of the local government code: to prevent just this sort of thing from happening.”


In an attempt to exert more pressure on Neiderwald, a city of less than 1,000 residents, Irion said, “I’m going to ask the Commissioner’s Court to put an item on the agenda next week to approve our plan. And I’m also going to ask that they put an item on the agenda to consider initiating the arbitration process called for under Chapter 242 local government code.” Currently the only city Hays County has such a Chapter 242 interlocal agreement with is Wimberley.

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