Monday, August 8, 2011
These comments were presented during the citizen’s comment period at the August 8 Commissioners Court session.
Today there’s going to be some respectful mythbusting!
There is still lingering confusion about the role that Rep. Mark Strama played in the failed bill that would have annexed land under the jurisdiction of the proposed Central Texas Airport to the Cottonwood Creek WCID #3 in Travis County.
Since the beginning of the Legislative session, Strama’s staff has explained that creation of the bill was facilitated through his office as a ‘courtesy’ that would be offered to anyone requesting assistance in drafting possible legislation. Somehow this legislative ’service’ was misinterpreted as pro-active support and a myth quickly surfaced that the Representative was going to sponsor the bill.
In reality, Rep. Strama never took a position. In part because legislators are reluctant to meddle in another district’s business . . . especially concerning a contentious issue. In part because staff research quickly revealed substantial deficiencies in the project.
There was a collective sigh of relief when the Legislative session ended and no one had stepped forward to sponsor the bill. This gave rise to the myth that the issue is dead until the next legislative session. NOT SO! While the legislative approach is the easiest and therefore most desirable to developers, it is not the only way to create a MUD or WCID.
Last week I talked to the TCEQ to learn a little more about the process. Title 30: Chapter 293 of the Texas Administrative Code describes the TCEQ’s role in the formation of water districts. Texas Statutes: Chapter 51 details requirements for WCIDs and Texas Statutes: Chapter 54 details those for MUDs. Generally, the application process seems to require filing a petition to appropriate agencies and entities, a timely Public Notice in the local paper and consent from local entities including the affected county and/or city. Be prepared. This is not easy reading.
So we are anything but free and clear until 2013. Vigilance is especially warranted now that airport interests have acquired the Falcon Seaboard property. Either a MUD or WCID spearheaded at that location would not bode well for the county’s future.
Judge McDonald, you have stated publicly that any MUD-related activity would “require a public meeting”. Should one of these non-legislative options arise, the citizens of this county are going to hold you to your word and we will expect this Court to do more than rubberstamp such a proposal.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
SB1257 died quietly in the House Land and Resource Management Committee at the end of the legislative session on May 31. The slight possibility that the bill would be amended to other legislation just before the close of the session never materialized.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Hegar, intended to place restrictions on the annexation of non-contiguous land across a county line. The Commissioners Court of the annexed county would have been responsible for the decision. In Bastrop County, putting the Commissioners in charge would have been a bit like the proverbial fox guarding the hen house.
This bill was drafted specifically because of a push by developers of the controversial proposed Central Texas Airport project to annex land in Bastrop County to the Cottonwood Creek WCID #3 in Travis County. Annexation would allow developers to issue bonds to recoup cost of airport infrastructure..
While this bill was well-intentioned, there were glaring omissions. No provisions for citizen notification and participation were included. Neither was there any language to protect city authority should the land in question be within their ETJ.
So we’re back where we started before all the SB1257 hoopla. Hopefully, the strongly worded joint letter sent by Sens. Hegar and Watson to the Board of Directors of Cottonwood Creek WCID#3 will ensure that airport developers do not run roughshod over this county and its residents with a backroom deal.
Monday, May 9, 2011
Selected comments regarding the proposed Central Texas Airport’s permit application to the USACE are posted below. Some of these documents were obtained through a May 11 FOIA request to the USACE. Others were secured independently prior to the FOIA. Only selected documents are posted. A more detailed discussion of the responsive comments is available at USACE FOIA factoids
Concerned citizens by location
Cedar Creek 1
Cedar Creek 2
Cedar Creek 3
Cedar Creek 4
Cedar Creek 5
Cedar Creek 6
Cedar Creek 7
Elgin 2 (USACE)
Elgin 2 (TCEQ)
Monday, April 25, 2011
These comments were presented at the April 25th Bastrop County Commissioners Court Citizen’s Comment session. Additional comments were made during the discussion of agenda item #21 regarding the USACE permit application for work on the CTA.
On Tuesday I attended the Senate Natural Resources Committee Public Hearing on SB1257. This bill filed by Sen. Hegar addresses the issue of annexation of non-contiguous land across a county line - a scenario which came up recently regarding Cottonwood Creek WCID #3 in Travis County and the proposed Central Texas Airport. The intention of this bill is to safeguard that the County being annexed would have a say in the matter.
While it’s commendable that Sen. Hegar (and Sen. Watson) have been rather aggressive on this issue - as evidenced by their March 2 joint letter to the Cottonwood Creek WCID #3 Board of Directors - this bill may not offer the protection intended . . . at least in Bastrop County.
Considering the less than stellar judgment that this Court has exhibited to date on the Central Texas Airport, the language in this bill that gives the commissioners of the county in which the land to be annexed is located the sole power to consent by order or resolution to the proposed annexation is quite troubling. Would the Bastrop County Commissioners stand up and say “NO!” or would it be another rubberstamp to a reckless and unneeded project?
The two speakers at that Hearing - Mike Talbot, the Bastrop City Manager, and myself - had similar concerns about shortcomings in the bill’s language. The City would like to ensure that its authority in the ETJ is not compromised and I suggested that there be a provision for open, public participation perhaps in a public hearing, before any decision was made by the Commissioners. I am hoping that the language of this bill will be amended to include additional protections when it gets to the Senate floor.
It is unfortunate that there was not a greater grassroots presence at that hearing . . . opportunities like this should not be squandered. But there is still time to call Sen. Hegar’s office and request that language be added to this bill to ensure the citizens of this county would have a voice in any annexation decision. All the information you need to do that is posted on the StopCTA.info website. Please make that phone call today!
Should SB1257 become law in its present form, this Court’s integrity will be on the line to honor Judge McDonald’s repeated promise that a public forum would be called if the creation of a Municipal Utility District was ever under consideration. We will be watching closely.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
These comments were presented at the Senate’s Natural Resources Committee Public Hearing on April 19, 2011. In addition to StopCTA, Mike Talbot, Bastrop City Manager spoke. A representative from Bluebonnet was acknowledged but did not speak. All other interested parties were MIA. Pretty pathetic . . .
Thank you for considering HB1257. I would especially like to commend Sen. Hegar for taking an aggressive stance with regard to the issue of annexation. The citizens of Bastrop county welcome any and all restraints on unscrupulous developers looking for creative ways to work the system.
However, it is rather troubling this bill stipulates that the County Commissioners have sole power to grant or deny an annexation proposal. Please understand that to date, the Bastrop County Commissioners have exhibited less than stellar judgment with regard to the proposed Central Texas Airport. Specifically, no opportunity for citizen input or public discussion on the merits this project was ever offered. Instead the people of the County who would be affected by the airport development were totally excluded from the process - a rather unforgivable political blunder that residents of the County will not soon forget.
More transparency, not less, concerning projects that would have significant impact on a County’s future is needed to ensure that the democratic process remains intact.
This bill would be greatly improved if some mechanism for citizen participation, perhaps in the form of a public hearing, were required prior to a final decision. Without an open debate on the merits of an annexation proposal, backroom deals like the 381 Agreement with Carpenter & Associates will continue to be the norm.
So while this bill is headed in the right direction, it falls a little short in its current form. Hopefully, some citizen protections can be added.