Thursday, November 11, 2010

Council slows takeoff

Bastrop council slows airport takeoff
November 10, 2010

Tuesday the Bastrop City Council signaled a go-slow approach to developer requests aimed at speeding ahead with a proposed industrial-business park centered on a private general aviation airport west of town which has drawn bitter criticism from area residents for more than a year.

After hearing from almost a dozen critics and listening to a brief presentation by representatives of developer Carpenter and Associates of Austin, the council retreated for just over an hour behind closed doors to discuss “economic development negotiations” with the Carpenter group.

At the end of that executive session the council approved without dissent a stance which said the developer proposals “in their present form” cannot be accepted, that the city’s review process will take far longer than the 30 days suggested by Carpenter, that the city’s review will include “full, rigorous” public involvement and that no financial incentives are under consideration.

The council approach, as explained by Council Member Julie Hart, includes a requirement that the development group also agree to pay any consulting and related fees the council deems necessary. The city will select its own legal and other consultants with the developers paying the tab, she suggested.

James Carpenter, the general manager of the development group, did not attend the Tuesday session, but representatives said the project will boost the tax base of the Bastrop school district and create an estimated 10,000 jobs over the next decade. Carpenter holds options to buy some 1,500 acres stretching southwest from the intersection of FM 1704 and FM 969 to near the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort and Spa on Texas 71 west of Bastrop.

The development group wants the city’s consent to annex the area to an existing Water Control and Improvement District and support for additional laws next year when the Texas Legislature meets beginning in January. The city’s support in these areas is critical because the property is part of Bastrop’s legal extra-territorial jurisdiction.

Over the past month, critics of the project have repeatedly called for more public involvement and more environmental impact studies of the proposed project.

“This is a process. It will take some time,” Bastrop Mayor Terry Orr told the crowd at Tuesday’s council meeting. “We can hold public hearings (on the airport issue). Our job is to learn the concerns of the people.”


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