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Elizabeth Pagano is the editor of the Austin Monitor.
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Travis County OKs agreement with Sunset Valley to hand over ETJs
Monday, April 22, 2013 by Elizabeth Pagano
The City of Sunset Valley will begin overseeing subdivisions in its own extra-territorial jurisdiction. The change essentially means that Travis County is handing over subdivision review in Sunset Valley to the city.
The move is a result of an agreement between the two jurisdictions. The City of Sunset Valley approved the arrangement on April 4, and the Travis County Commissioners Court unanimously voted in favor of following suit – solidifying an interlocal agreement this past Tuesday.
Under the agreement, Sunset Valley will have exclusive jurisdiction to regulate subdivision plats and approve related permits in its extra-territorial jurisdiction. The region will also have the sole authority to regulate subdivisions
Despite relinquishing this power, the county will still play a role in Sunset Valley development, explained Travis Transportation and Natural Resources Program Manager Anna Bowlin. Development permits will still be issued through the county, and the county will still review septic permits, and remain the floodplain administrator for the city.
Bowlin acknowledged that the area of the ETJ around Sunset Valley was quite small, as is the city itself. Sunset Valley is completely surrounded by the City of Austin, and measures 1.4 square miles in all.
Not everyone is happy about the switch. Dennis Dunn, who has been laboring to build an Olympic-caliber curling facility in Sunset Valley for the past two and a half years, asked the Commissioners Court to remove a grandfather exclusion clause that would send his plat amendment application to the city.
Dunn said that his submission of an amended plat application for the county triggered Sunset Valley’s request for the interlocal agreement. He asked the county to allow his application to move forward, saying that asking him to restart a process that had cost him $10,000 so far would be an “injustice.”
“For the past two and half years, we have been trying to get our business started on property located in the ETJ of Sunset Valley. It’s been a very difficult undertaking trying to understand who is in charge of what in the ETJ. It’s like trying to catch bubbles,” said Dunn. “We’ve spent $150,000 in Sunset Valley doing everything that they ask for. And yet, we have yet to get approval on everything.”
Dunn explained that he was told he would have to join his plats in order for his site plan to be considered by Sunset Valley. Then, when the city was notified by the county that he was in the process of doing just that at the county, “the interlocal agreement was the product of that, and was rushed through in less than three weeks,” according to Dunn.
Dunn pointed out that the city had been in non-compliance with state law since 2006, until he submitted his plat.
Clay Collins, who is a city administrator in Sunset Valley clarified that even under the current regulations, the county would not approve a plat without a city of Sunset Valley signature.
“It seems to me that there is a desire on the part of county staff and the city to expeditiously consider his request,” said Collins.
Though members of the Commissioners Court offered their sympathies, they ultimately determined that the most productive course of action would be to work with the city on the project to expedite the process as best as they could.
“One option we do not have, which it sounds like you’re asking us to pursue, we can’t cut Sunset Valley out of the process,” said Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt. “There is no statutory construct there for that. We either have a joint office — or we agree to have a joint office, we agree for the county to do it all, we agree for the city to do it all. We can’t cut Sunset Valley out.”
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