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Frustrated commissioners bemoan lack of authority over Lakeway marina

Thursday, April 7, 2011 by Michael Kanin

On Tuesday, the Travis County Commissioners Court approved a set of construction permits for a Lakeway-area marina. The move came with some hesitation on the part of the court, which lamented its inability to dictate land use in its jurisdiction.


Pct. 2 Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt offered a familiar refrain. “We don’t have the authority to prevent incompatible (land uses),” she said. “We are attempting to get such authority from the Legislature but the prospects aren’t great.”


Despite the court’s protestations, the marina remains a contested project. A web of legal action between a handful of area residents who oppose it and the developers behind the effort, the Crosswater Yacht Club, has yet to be settled.


On Tuesday, resident Susan Brown read a statement from her attorney, Randolph Jones, to the court. In it, Jones notes that a jurisdictional issue is currently under consideration by the court and reminds commissioners that “as of this time, there has been no ruling.”


The issue stems from a previous legal action brought by Brown and two others against an earlier team of marina developers, Harbor Ventures. In that case, the neighbors argued successfully that the marina was bound by a deed restriction limiting commercial development in the area – and could therefore not proceed with construction (see In Fact Daily, March 28). Brown argues that the new group, Crosswater, is essentially the same as the old one and that it should thus be subject to that ruling.


Crosswater maintains that it is not the same organization that Brown originally sued and that it is working on a different slice of land. They argue that these facts should make them not subject to the previous ruling.


Should District Judge Gisela Triana-Doyal’s side with Brown, the court could then decide whether the previous suit could be enforced against Crosswater. If Triana-Doyal rules against Brown, however, Brown could still file suit against Crosswater.


Either way, Travis County officials were caught in a tough spot. With no authority over the regulation of land use in their jurisdiction, they found themselves debating the merits of a roadway construction agreement Crosswater had agreed to. “We have to do what we have to do when it meets our regulations,” said Pct. 3 Commissioner Karen Huber. “When it’s appropriate I will move approval of this roadway agreement … But I am adamantly opposed to this project.”


In the end, only Pct. 1 Commissioner Ron Davis voted against the agreement. “There’s no way in the world I can support this motion … I just can’t go there,” he said.


The agreement passed with the support of all other commissioners and County Judge Sam Biscoe.

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