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Council seeks answers on Bull Creek purchase

Tuesday, October 14, 2014 by Jo Clifton

For citizens who want the city to buy about 75 acres of state land at Bull Creek Road and 45th Street, the most interesting part of today’s City Council work session agenda may well take place in executive session.

That is where staff may describe what they have found while researching ways to fund purchase of the property from the Texas Department of Transportation. In addition, city real estate staff will likely tell Council what they have found during their due diligence as Council directed back in September.

According to the Council agenda, the cost of going forth with the deal has grown from $28.9 million to $31.9 million. The extra $3 million is for “immediate repair and lease expenses” and for negotiation and execution of documents related to the purchase.

Although things do not look particularly bright for the Bull Creek Road Coalition — the group of seven neighborhoods pushing the city to make the purchase — John Eastman, chair of the coalition, did see one positive sign Monday.

Eastman said members of the group learned from Assistant City Manager Sue Edwards that TxDOT wants to be allowed to maintain the Department of Motor Vehicles on the property for at least the next three years.

Eastman indicated that the city would be willing to do that, including maintenance of the state office, if it can arrange the purchase. “So we thought that was positive, that TxDOT didn’t need to sell the property in the next few weeks,” he said.

“So maybe the simplest thing the City Council could do would be to ask for a year to work through the transaction,” Eastman continued, adding that “there is no deadline under state law.”

Eastman said he and other members of the coalition are most interested in flood and erosion mitigation, which he believes cannot happen unless the city purchases the property. He pointed out that this is an area where multiple houses were washed out in the 1981 Memorial Day flood. “The city just has to get in and do emergency stabilization just below the 45th Street bridge,” he said.

Asked whether he was concerned about a new Council not wanting to purchase the property, Eastman said, “If it is really a good deal for the city, it’s a good deal for the city, and that should be readily apparent to any Council.”

However, before that can happen, the current Council has to see a way to finance the purchase of land that will be more than parkland and flood control property. It has to have other features, such as commercial and residential development, that will provide a return on the city’s investment. Even co-sponsor Council Member Bill Spelman said, “I don’t believe that the city should buy that land with the proviso that it couldn’t be used for commercial purposes.”

Council Member Laura Morrison said Monday that the city could use the $4 million in park money that it will get for the sale of a quarry to Cedar Park. However, she did not know where the rest of the money will come from, and hoped that staff would put forth some fresh ideas at Council’s work session today.

 

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