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Travis County reluctantly approves RGK subdivision

Wednesday, March 25, 2009 by Jacob Cottingham

Travis County Commissioners reluctantly approved a revised preliminary plan and final platting for a small portion of the controversial RGK subdivision on Tuesday. The commissioners had no choice to approve the subdivision, which was grandfathered in under older, less strenuous water quality laws.


Commissioners had tried to negotiate with the developers of the project, but Commissioner Pct. 3 Karen Huber, for one, did not feel like the landowner had acted in the best interests of the community. She read aloud, “It grieves me greatly that Travis County is facing final approval of this subdivision today, because I believe it is seriously detrimental to the people of Travis County, and it is solely for the mercenary benefit of this landowner.


“This property owner has repeatedly sent a message through his consultants,” she went on, “that he does not intend to develop this property but just wants to protect the fiduciary interests of his heirs, and he’s just going by the numbers. He’s doing what is within his legal rights to maximize his property value. But is this action morally right and responsible to the citizens of Travis County? No.”


The proposed 1,509-lot subdivision is along Hwy 71 on 1,596 acres between the Sweetwater Lazy 9 and West Cypress Hills developments.


In 2007, area residents fought the preliminary plan approval out of concern for the effects on water quality and traffic safety. But the commissioners were legally obligated to approve the plan.


Huber told the court the plan for RGK was rushed through before new interim development regulations were put in effect. By getting the plan in before that deadline, it allowed the owner and development planner to avoid water quality regulations.


Ultimately, Huber and Commissioner Pct. 1 Ron Davis abstained from voting, forcing Commissioner Pct. 2 Sarah Eckhardt to literally pinch her nose, lean back and vote in favor of the revised plan and final plat. She explained that as much as she didn’t like the project, the court was legally bound to proceed or risk a lawsuit that Eckhardt said they would certainly lose.

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