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Huber says land management is her biggest priority

Wednesday, July 15, 2009 by Austin Monitor

Travis County Pct. 3 Commissioner Karen Huber, the newest member of Commissioners Court, spoke for the first time to the South Austin Democrats at Casa Garcia’s on Tuesday evening. She told the influential group of political donors and organizers that her top priorities were responsible growth and water management.

 

Huber began her talk joking that her staff, composed of longtime Democrats, should assuage any fears that she isn’t a party faithful herself, calling her staff, “people who can be sure I toed the line the right way.”  However, when discussing the county’s legislative priorities she wasn’t above taking some Democrats to task when it came to land management and county authority.

 

Huber said she has “long believed water would halt our economy before congestion,” and said the county had fought hard to get legislation passed that would allow the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District to annex a portion of Western Travis County. She said the cost of annexation would have been roughly $120,000 while implementing a new Groundwater Conservation District—as state law requires—could cost taxpayers around half a million dollars. She pledged to continue to work on watershed issues and promised to work more closely with the LCRA and the city of Austin as it developed its comprehensive plan.

 

She said that the economic slump has provided a “silver lining” in which real estate development had slowed enough that it provided a window of opportunity to meet with developers and solve existing conflicts before they get worse. “If we don’t get it now then I don’t know how we’re going to sustain our growth,” she said. Huber brought up the case of Tecolote Farms, an organic family farm near Manor and said that the depletion of the farm’s wells was a tragedy. However, she said the county’s East Metro Park wells were not responsible for dry wells and pointed out that nearby municipal wells were now running dry.

 

Huber pointed out that the “fragmentation” of state laws and limited county authority “frustrated” efforts to manage land and resources, especially in the unincorporated parts of the county. She said a divide between rural and urban leadership in the state contributed to a lot of these problems. “We still have a lot to deal with in our own party when it comes to county land use,” she said.

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