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Lakeway marina fight goes to Travis commissioners

Monday, March 28, 2011 by Michael Kanin

The legal dispute over a potential Lake Travis marina near the City of Lakeway found its way into Travis County Commissioners Court on Tuesday. Though the commissioners were presented with the more narrow issue of whether to accept $20,000 from a developer for road reconstruction that would result from the project, the item quickly broadened to reflect court concerns about the appropriate use of submerged land.


“I just want to go on record as being adamantly opposed to the development of any underwater properties on the highland lakes,” said Pct. 3 Commissioner Karen Huber. “It was a glitch by law that occurred when the lakes were formed, and it’s problematic, particularly in the unincorporated areas.”


Still, Huber admitted that the court has little authority over that issue. “This is not a legal issue for us here … with the limited land use authority that the county has, we are probably going to end up issuing these permits,” she said.


There was also some question about whether $20,000 would be a sufficient sum. “We don’t know that $20,000 is going to be adequate,” said the county’s executive in charge of transportation and natural Resources, Steve Manilla. “We will take a look at the condition of the road … and if $20,000 is adequate, we would use that to make any repairs that are necessary … If it’s not adequate, we would place a note on the permit for the developer that he would be responsible, regardless of cost,” he said.


The issue came to the Travis court with a healthy backstory. Developers working under the collective name of Harbor Ventures, Inc. first sought to construct a marina on a piece of land off of Route 620 in western Travis County. However, a court ruled that deed restrictions limiting use of that tract to non-commercial ventures prohibited the construction of that project.


Susan Brown lives on a piece of land that would be affected by the marina. In court, she read from a letter penned by her lawyer, Randolph L. Jones, Jr. of Dallas-based firm Conner and Winters LLP. In it, Jones connects a member of the development team behind the original Harbor Ventures project to the current marina effort, called the Crosswater Yacht Club.


“(T)here can be no doubt that Crosswater Yacht Club is fully cognizant of the results of that case,” he wrote. “At least at the time of the respective formation of Harbor Ventures, Inc. in 1997, Crosswater Yacht Club, L.P. in 2006, and Crosswater Yacht Club Management, L.L.C. in 2007, Mr. Rand Forrest was one of the two directors of Harbor Ventures, one of the two managers and the President of Crosswater Yacht Club Management and was a general partner of Crosswater Yact Club, L.P.”


A lawyer for the project insisted that earlier court rulings had nothing to do with his client’s current efforts. “Crosswater Yacht Club, L.P., and Crosswater Yacht Club, L.L.C. were not parties to the litigation that Ms. Brown referred to,” said Daniel Bitting of Scott, Douglas, & McConnico.


County Judge Sam Biscoe tried to focus the court on the matter before them. “We don’t know what the amount (for the road repairs) might be: It could be zero, it could be 30, 45 (thousand),” he said. “But our policy – and I guess the law – requires the developers to cover the costs.”


Assistant County Attorney Tom Nuckols suggested that the best way to deal with the issue at hand might be a formal contract. “The device we’ve used before that sounds like it may be appropriate here is a road contract,” he said. “Concurrent with (the) issuance of the permit, the applicant … signs an agreement that says here’s the plan for restoring the road to the same condition it was before (construction) happened.”


The court decided to hold off on any action until after attorneys for the litigants have their next court date. That date is set for Tuesday, March 29.

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