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Commission recommends SERs for Vaught Ranch development

Thursday, November 20, 2008 by Jacob Cottingham

The Water and Wastewater Commission voted 6-1 last night to recommend extending water and wastewater service to a controversial development on Vaught Ranch Road. The property owner proposes a development that would include a gas station and underground tanks on a lot that sits in Austin’s Extraterritorial Jurisdiction and in the Drinking Water Protection Zone.


The 2222 Coalition of Neighborhood Associations has been staunchly opposed to the 6,600 square-foot development that would be located on Vaught Ranch Road, off FM 2222 and west of Loop 360.


Carol Torgrimson of 2222 CONA told the commission a gas station so near to West Bull Creek was a concern of the neighborhood group. “Our homeowner association has spent a great deal of time and money protecting West Bull Creek from damage from other developers… and we are very dedicated.” She cited potential leakage from underground tanks as a primary concern along with traffic safety and runoff.  Torgrimson also brought up the fact that the Environmental Board rejected the developer’s plans and said that the development would not be allowed under the city’s rules. She also cautioned, “We will be intensifying our campaign to get City Council to disapprove the SERs.”


Dowe Gullatt, an attorney representing the developer, GSVR 2222 LLC, told the commission that his party would be asking for a postponement of the issue at today’s City Council meeting. He said they wanted to work on some building issues, speak with the developer and meet with the neighborhood group.


Gullatt countered Torgrimson’s assertion saying that the site plan documentation had cleared all comments except for the SER, implying that it could be built under county or city rules. He did agree that the city wastewater system was more environmentally sound than an on-site septic system. “What this is all about is land usage. They don’t like the idea that my client would like to put a service station on it.”


He described the project as having 19 percent impervious cover. He said his client had retained a consultant to advise them on the site plan. Gullatt said the consultant advised that there was room on the site for a septic system. 


Another attorney for the developer, Kevin Flahive also spoke about a feasibility study that had been conducted which he said allowed for an on-site well and wastewater. Since then, he said they decided they “would like to go forward and seek city services,” citing the benefits of long-term maintenance. He said the site plan did not show a septic system and thus could not be approved by Travis County. He also said that they were not asking for any variances.


Torgrimson told In Fact Daily she believes the developer would not have put the money and effort into obtaining water and wastewater SERs if they were not extremely important to the project.


When asked by Commissioner Chien Lee about the subsurface gas tanks, Flahive said there were no proposals to monitor the groundwater if it were not required by TCEQ – whose regulatory arm also covers subsurface tanks. He also said that the developer had not received permits for the tanks.


City Environmental Officer Pat Murphy also spoke to the commission about the staff recommendation. “It obviously poses an environmental concern to us, a fuel facility right next to Bull Creek, and if that were the question before us, that’s something we would likely not be recommending but we have no authority to address that issue.” He said they looked at the development through the metrics of its water usage in the area, and because it met current watershed regulations, they recommended it.


After the vote, which was in favor 6-1 with Commissioner Gwen Webb dissenting, Torgrimson told In Fact Daily, “We’ve always anticipated that it would be hard to get them… their job is to look at it from a different perspective; they’re looking at it from a very narrow set of criteria, so I wasn’t surprised.” She said she was not disappointed in the vote and said, “I expect City Council to be much more receptive to the issues that we’ve raised and understand the impact of the development and take that into consideration… it’s only their approval that matters.”

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