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Environmental Board rejects service extension in Bull Creek Watershed

Monday, September 22, 2008 by Mark Richardson

Saying the development was too great a threat to the Bull Creek Watershed, members of the Environmental Board voted last week to reject a Service Extension Request for water and wastewater to the Vaught Ranch Road development on RM 2222.


If the project is built as planned, it would be a three-story mixed-use structure with a convenience store and gas station on the first floor, and a restaurant and other businesses on the upper floors. According to city staff, the service extension requests for both water and wastewater service come with an automatic request to be annexed into the city. However, staff said there are no plans for the area to be annexed in 2008.


The SER went before the Environmental Board, which could only consider the project’s impact on water quality in the area, because of the possible impact on the Bull Creek watershed. It will also go before the Water and Wastewater Commission and City Council.


The gasoline station that would be part of the convenience store was the major sticking point for the project’s opponents.


“The area next to the gas station will drain directly into West Bull Creek,” said Carol Torgrimson, liaison for the 2222 Coalition of Neighborhood Associations. “It is far too dangerous to have it there when it could easily drain right into the city’s Lake Austin water supply. We are asking you to recommend against the SER… We think it is a potential environmental disaster.”


When a couple of board members began to express other objections to the development, Chair Dave Anderson reminded members that the board’s only legitimate interest in the case was from an environmental standpoint.


“We don’t want to get into dictating land use,” he said. “But we do have a concern where the city is being asked to take part in an activity that is detrimental the environment.”


Board Member Phil Moncada said he was extremely concerned about a gas station being put in that area.


“We need to evaluate what impact it could have on the Bull Creek watershed and the city’s drinking water supply,” he said. “It will drain into Lake Austin, which is only a mile away.


Board Member Mary Ann Neely noted that support for the city water service would trigger annexation for the site, which is not in the city’s ETJ.


“That will trigger zoning for the property,” she said. “Can we work to deal with the gas station through zoning?”


City Environmental Officer Pat Murphy said that the city cannot annex a property and then use zoning to control its land “We can’t use zoning to take away an entitlement,” he said.


Board Member Jon Beall said he also had environmental concerns about the proposed restaurant on the site.


“We’re not capable of judging at this point if they will have a large enough septic system to handle their waste,” he said.


Moncada moved to recommend against the water and wastewater SER requests for the development. The board voted 4-0 to deny the request, with members Mary Gay Maxwell and Rodney Ahart absent.

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