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Commissioners take strong stand against floating marina

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 by Elizabeth Pagano

The Travis County Commissioners Court not only approved a resolution against a proposed floating development on Lake Travis at Cypress Creek cove, they voted unanimously Tuesday to approve stronger language against the prospect after establishing their legal authority over the development.


Commissioners approved the recommendation that the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) prohibit construction of marinas that do not have road access. They also added language that clarified that such developments do not comply with the applicable international fire code requirements.


Commissioners also voted unanimously to send written notice to the developer, notifying them that the marina is subject to the county’s subdivision and commercial structure regulations. They will be sending a similar letter to the LCRA, letting them know their authority will apply to this, or any other similar development.


“What it boils down to is when you subdivide property in Travis County for commercial use or residential habitation, either way, you must submit to the regulatory authority of Travis County for floodplain, storm water, transportation infrastructure, and fire code,” Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt told In Fact Daily. “So, they need to submit to us for all of our authorities.”


Eckhardt said that both LCRA and the county had authority over the area. This means that on the county’s end, the ultimate approval of the plat would come to the commissioners court as part of a public process.


“The fact that there’s water on top of some of the land, in the form of a lake, is just academic,”   Commissioner Karen Huber told In Fact Daily. “You’re looking at a thousand people, maybe, that may inhabit this and all the services associated with it – it’s like a subdivision. So it needs to fulfill requirements that are obligatory in servicing the subdivision.”


Commissioners voted 4-0 to approve both the resolution, and direction to staff. Commissioner Ron Davis was absent.


Earlier John Durham, assistant fire chief for Travis County Emergency Services District No. 6 Lake Travis Fire Rescue, confirmed the fact that the proposal was not in compliance with international fire code requirements.


According to county executive Steve Manilla, the project proposed by developers Brian George and John Shipley would consist of 203 slips, 60 personal watercraft ramps, and four restroom facilities. Those who spoke against the development pointed out the size of the marina, noting that it would be over one-half mile long.


Last year, county commissioners supported a ban on floating habitable structures on Lake Travis after a proposal from Shipley.


If permitted, the development would be the largest marina on Lake Travis, and as proposed would have no roadway access. “This one is being designed so that, even when the lake level is high, you have to catch a boat out to it,” said Manilla, who explained that raised concerns about emergency services to the marina.


Durham said that he had performed a test run with the fire boat and that under ideal circumstances, it took 15 minutes. He said that managing an evacuation from the proposed development would present “an extreme challenge.” He also said that they had only one fire boat.


“If you know anything about the spread and propagation of fire, particularly wildfire, 15 minutes can be an eternity,” said Durham. “We are very concerned about a development like this.”


Earlier in the day, people opposed to the development flooded the court. They warned of the potential danger to their homes and those who might live on the lake. They also explained the potential impact the development might have if everything went according to plan, in that it would limit access to the lake for residents and visitors alike.


Those gathered asked the commissioners to intervene on their behalf, and expressed frustration about the closed-door approach that the Lower Colorado River Authority seemed to be taking.


“The LCRA told us that there would be no public hearing on the matter, that it would be decided administratively with the only appeal going to the executive director of the LCRA,” said concerned resident Charlie Betts.


“At this point, to understand what the impact these types of facilities have on your constituents, on property owners all around the lake, and in the county… (and yet) the jurisdiction lies with an unelected board and in administrative procedures. That’s somewhat disappointing,” said Betts. “It’s very much appreciated by your constituents in that area, and probably more broadly, that you are taking the time to advise the LCRA of your concern.”

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