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Residents near Hamilton Pool up in arms about proposed RV park

Thursday, December 5, 2019 by Jack Craver

The Travis County Commissioners Court spent all morning Tuesday discussing a proposed RV park on Stagecoach Ranch Road in Southwest Travis County, near Hamilton Pool. The court still hasn’t come to a decision on the matter and will take it up again at next week’s meeting.

Just as they did for another RV park on Fitzhugh Road last month, county staffers proposed waiving certain platting requirements that are imposed on traditional subdivisions involving brick-and-stick homes.

Staff members have taken the position that while the county should treat RV parks as subdivisions, it doesn’t make sense to subject RVs to all of the same requirements, especially if there are assurances that the site will be used for camping or temporary stays, not permanent homes.

For instance, relying on water and wastewater standards included in state law, staff said that RVs can be expected to use about 40 gallons of water per day, compared to 450 gallons for a typical single-family home. Thus, an RV camp does not require nearly the same assurances in terms of on-site access to water and wastewater facilities.

Similarly, RV parks do not generate as many vehicle trips as conventional subdivisions, so staff concluded that the 80-pad site does not need to provide a second vehicle access point to the site. Typical subdivisions require secondary access for any development with more than 30 homes.

While similar exemptions for the site on Fitzhugh Road passed fairly easily last month, with only Commissioner Brigid Shea opposed, the Stagecoach Ranch Road project has garnered significant opposition from nearby residents. Twenty-one residents of the area came out to speak against the project, decrying insufficient evacuation measures and threats to the sensitive environment, particularly the groundwater that feeds nearby Hamilton Pool.

Angelica Reyes-Johnson was frightened at the prospect of having to “evacuate my family of four children, and of course a pet pig and chickens, out of Stagecoach Ranch Road behind 80-plus RVs.”

Others cast doubt on assumptions that RVs would consume significantly less water than typical houses.

“I’m not exactly sure how they’re getting those calculations,” said Bobby Levinski, an attorney with the Save Our Springs Alliance, which has expressed concerns about the impact of a campground on the surrounding sensitive environment.

In a letter to the court, Levinski said an alternative single-family development – which he suggested would likely yield 10 homes – “would be far less environmentally harmful than the proposed RV/tourist campground.”

It would also be very difficult for the county to enforce a restrictive covenant aimed at preventing RVs from taking up permanent residence on the property, said Levinski, who doubted county employees would periodically check up on the park to make sure vehicles weren’t staying longer than 180 days.

“It’s just not a good location for an intense development like this,” he said.

Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, who represents the area, said he did not want the park to serve as a site for permanent residences.

“We have learned in the last six weeks that RV parks have become living quarters and that is something … that we do not want these things to be,” he said.

Tom Johanson, who sold the property to the applicants, Sandra Bennett and Kristy Petree, accused opponents of lying about the extent of the project, particularly its proximity to nearby homes and Hamilton Creek. It is more than 1,000 feet from the creek and over 2,000 feet from the nearest house, he said.

Terry Irion, an attorney for the applicants, said it was inappropriate to subject RV parks to the subdivision process at all.

“You’re applying a different standard than you’ve applied to every other RV park,” he said.

County Judge Sarah Eckhardt replied: “With that argument, Travis County would never be able to progress to different standards ever. That is a specious argument.”

Eckhardt, frustrated at how long the conversation was taking, proposed delaying action on the item until another day.

“I can’t spend the entire Tuesday on one agenda item,” she said. “The business of the county would come to a flat halt.”

Photo by Darrell Miller made available through a Creative Commons license.

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