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On third try, Commissioners Court approves controversial RV park near Hamilton Pool

Wednesday, December 18, 2019 by Jack Craver

For the third time, about two dozen residents who live on or near Stagecoach Ranch Road came to plead with the Travis County Commissioners Court to block plans to build an RV park that would accommodate up to 80 vehicles.

After twice delaying action on the Bentree RV Resort, the court finally opted to approve the subdivision recommended by county staff. However, the court also voted to require that the developer conduct a study to assess the availability of groundwater on the property and widen the portion of Stagecoach Ranch Road between the RV park and Hamilton Pool Road before it can develop the property.

The groundwater study is aimed at concerns about depleting water resources in the sensitive environment, while the road improvements are in response to complaints from neighbors about the road not being wide enough to accommodate RVs, particularly in the event of an evacuation.

“In the event that something comes up with this groundwater availability finding that is problematic, obviously that’s going to come back to the Commissioners Court,” said Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, who represents the area.

Commissioner Brigid Shea reiterated the concerns she has voiced about a lack of secondary access to the site. The growing risk of wildfire due to global warming “has heightened our responsibility not to repeat the sins of the past,” she said.

“I know we’ve done as much as we can to improve it,” she said, explaining her opposition. “I still don’t want us putting people in harm’s way and it feels to me like we are with this project.”

The project would have been approved administratively if not for a request by Daugherty to hold public hearings in response to the public outcry from neighbors. Representatives of the applicants have said blocking the project would likely prompt a lawsuit.

County staff only recently proposed subjecting RV parks to the subdivision process, but determined that each RV slip should not be treated the same as a stick-built house in a number of matters, such as water supply regulations.

County Judge Sarah Eckhardt emphasized that the property owner was not benefiting from special treatment.

There was likely some confusion because the court was voting on granting the RV park an “exception” to the county’s platting regulations, she said. In fact, RV parks have never been subject to platting rules because they are not viewed as residential developments.

“There’s nothing nefarious going on here,” Eckhardt said.

A number of residents protesting the development said the owners had misled them about their plans for the property; that their plan was not for RVs but for tiny homes.

Speaking to a reporter as they waited for the commissioners to return from their lunch break, Sandra Bennett and Kristy Petree, the property owners, said they had been clear about their plans from the beginning.

They argued that neighbors were opposing their project based on misperceptions of RV parks, mistakenly viewing them as mobile home parks for low-income residents. The people using this site, they said, would be vacationers, not permanent residents.

Indeed, the property owners agreed to a restrictive covenant with the county that will prohibit any RV from staying on the property for more than 90 days at a time, although opponents of the plan have expressed doubts about the county’s ability to enforce the rule.

The court voted 4-1 to approve the subdivision.

Photo by Trey Perry [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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