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Reporter’s Notebook: Decker Golf saga continues

Monday, April 20, 2015 by Austin Monitor

Decker Golf proponents want Pool to recuse from issue . . . Two Colony Park neighborhood leaders who believe that the Decker Lake Golf development would benefit them and their neighbors have called on City Council Member Leslie Pool to recuse herself from participating in committee meetings during which the proposal is being considered. Pool said she is asking the hard questions that Austinites want their leaders to ask. Barbara Scott, president of the Colony Park Neighborhood Association, and Margarita Decierdo, president of Colony Park/Lakeside Community Development Corporation, chastised Pool in a lengthy email for her “partisan and biased position” on the proposal. Decker Lake Golf LLC is seeking a 50-year license agreement in order to develop two PGA-class golf courses, a clubhouse, meeting space, driving range and related amenities on 735 acres of undeveloped land at Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park. If Council finally approves the proposal, there would be four 10-year extension options, stretching the license agreement to 90 years. Scott and Decierdo were complaining in particular about Pool’s remarks at the April 13 meeting of the Council Economic Opportunity Committee. At that meeting, Pool attempted to introduce Brian Rodgers to the rest of the committee to give testimony against the project. Rodgers, a well-known activist, had compiled a lengthy report calling into question the economic benefits of the project. He “does not live in our community nor has he ever participated in any of our community meetings when we were planning the development of the 208 acres of the Colony Park/Lakeside areas,” they wrote. “Rather than to seek out the community and residents who have lived there, who have raised their children there, you choose to side with this person because he emphatically opposes the project as you do. Not once have you reached out to our community.” Scott and Decierdo were particularly opposed to Rodgers speaking because they and other members of their community who support the project had not been able to address the new Council. The previous Council closed the public hearing on the matter Nov. 20. Committee Chair Ellen Troxclair would not allow anyone to comment because the matter was not posted for public testimony. On Wednesday, however, several members of the community, as well as Rodgers, were allowed to address the Public Utilities Committee of the Council. That committee passed the matter on to the full Council without a recommendation. Contacted for comment, Pool said, “It’s our responsibility to ask questions about privately owned projects on public lands. Questions have been raised about the financials of the agreement crafted by staff that deserve answers – not just for Council, but for all Austin residents.” Pool is the chair of the Open Space, Environment and Sustainability Committee. She intends to hold a hearing on the Decker Golf proposal at the committee’s April 29 meeting. Although she did not say so, it seems clear that Pool has no intention of recusing herself or stepping away from the matter.

Water Resource panel postponed due to lack of a quorum . . . The first meeting of the Austin Integrated Water Resource Planning Community Task Force has been postponed from April 21 to May 5 at Waller Creek Center due to a lack of a quorum. So far, City Council Members Don Zimmerman, Ellen Troxclair, Sheri Gallo and Ora Houston have not appointed representatives, meaning that the task force currently consists of only seven members. Two of those members were unable to attend the originally scheduled first meeting. Council established the task force in December to develop an Integrated Water Resource Plan to address the city’s water scarcity issues. Council began discussing its appointments to the task force in early February, when Austin Water Utility Director Greg Meszaros expressed optimism that the utility would be able to begin integrating the plan by the end of the year. Ongoing quorum issues, however, could delay that timeline. Task force liaison Danielle Martin told the Austin Monitor on Friday that, once the group begins to meet, its agendas and backup materials will be available online.

Pressley, Casar prepare for election lawsuit . . . Attorneys for Laura Pressley, City Council Member Greg Casar and Travis County got together behind closed doors Thursday for Pressley’s deposition. Pressley, who sued Casar after losing the Dec. 16 runoff by 1,291 votes, contends that there were errors in the machine tabulations, that some folks were allowed to vote who should not have and that others failed to vote because the Highland Mall polling place was closed. Chuck Herring, who represents Casar, and Sherine Thomas, who represents Travis County, agreed that it would be fine for an Austin Monitor reporter to attend. Not so fast, said Pressley’s lawyers, David Rogers and Mark Cohen. Cohen is a new addition to Pressley’s team. Herring was hoping to get information from Pressley that would help him with his argument that the suit is baseless and should be dismissed before a trial. Pressley’s attorneys complained during a break that she could not answer many questions, because they have not yet received documents from Travis County. Expect Pressley’s attorneys to produce a new amended petition this week, as ordered by Judge Dan Mills. Once they have that, Casar’s attorney will draw up a new motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook items were contributed by Jo Clifton and Elizabeth Pagano.


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