Monday, May 13, 2013 by Charlotte Moore

Council denies petition for annexation by Hornsby Bend residents

High water bills, a dangerous road, and slow response to medical emergencies – that’s what some people who live in the Hornsby Bend area in Eastern Travis County say they deal with every day. It’s also why they’ve asked the City of Austin to let them hold an incorporation election paving the way for them to create their own city.

 

But in a 7-0 vote Thursday, City Council members said “no.”

 

The item was pulled from the consent agenda and council members listened while Thomas C. Fritzinger II, president of the Hornsby Bend Incorporation Committee, explained why nearly 1,200 people who live in the area signed a petition to have the opportunity to vote for their independence.  

 

The area in question includes several residential neighborhoods along FM 969 east of FM 973 within Austin’s extraterrestrial jurisdiction about 10 miles northeast of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. It also includes areas where there’s a possibility of future development along SH 130.

 

Fritzinger addressed City Council and laid out the reasons his group is asking permission to hold an incorporation election. He loosely read from a prepared statement, “For several years, we have been struggling as a community. Although our volunteer efforts have produced fantastic results – ranging from pass-through financing approval to expand FM 969, to more recent victories over our water provider – we still have a long way to go. Our single main road, FM 969, has an unbearably high accident and fatality rate. Our water bills are among the highest is the state, exceeding four times those in Austin in most cases. The medical transport response time is the worst in Travis County, and, even if we do get an ambulance, the closest emergency clinic is nearly twenty minutes away.”

 

By Fritzinger’s description, Hornsby Bend is “a predominately minority community whose average income level is close to the federal poverty level.” His committee hopes that by incorporating, Hornsby Bend will be able to procure and use federal grant money to establish an area clinic; use intralocal contracts with Travis County to improve Sherriff’s department services like road supervision and response time to accidents; issue franchises to reduce homeowner costs for propane, trash pick-up and recycling and the area’s notoriously high water bills; and have the ability to control zoning and what businesses move into the area.

 

“I intend to support the resolution disallowing annexation,” said Mayor Lee Leffingwell moments before City council unanimously denied consent to the municipal incorporation. City staff recommended denying consent on the basis that it believes the move would not be in the city’s best interests. Staff is also concerned about the proliferation of municipalities in and the erosion of Austin’s ETJ. The city also wants to hold onto the authority it has over development in the area.

 

Virginia Collier of Austin’s planning and development review department told city council members that annexation of the Hornsby Bend area was a “good distance away” and dependent upon how soon development progresses between the city of Austin and the unincorporated area.

 

Despite the city turning down the incorporation committee’s request, the group may continue to seek municipal incorporation by petitioning the City of Austin for annexation which would require a percentage of area voters and landowners. The city would then have six months after receiving the petition to annex the area. If it failed to do so, at that point it would automatically consent to an incorporation election.

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