Election 2000

Chronicle Election Coverage

Just Off the Green

Television ads and the City Council's endorsement weren't enough to persuade voters to let go of 400 acres of parkland on the shores of Lake Walter E. Long for a $65 million luxury golf resort. The city was prepared to offer $4 million in incentives to the resort development, hoping to trigger a tide of residential and commercial building on the prairie land of far East Austin. Voters were asked to approve Prop. 3 on Tuesday's ballot to permit the city to lease the land.

But the measure fell about a point shy of victory, leaving the development team regretful that it didn't move more quickly to pitch its proposal to the public. The prospective developers spent about $200,000 on ads and direct-mail fliers, but those didn't appear until after the early-voting period had begun. "It's a complex issue, with some built-in suspicion factors," said project spokesperson Howard Falkenberg. "We didn't get started early enough to overcome those." Opponents of the lease argued that development around Lake Long will happen whether or not the city leases dedicated parkland to benefit a golf resort developer.

Larry Beard, who headed the resort venture, said that without a major, high-end project to boost the economic potential of the lake region, he's not sure whether East Austin will emerge as a viable subdivision any time soon. Beard, who is also a lead partner in the nearby Heritage Crossing development, a 1600-acre project that he says would include everything from apartments to luxury homes, says he'll now have to re-evaluate whether to move forward with the project. "I don't know if the marketplace dictates that at this time without the [Prop. 3] catalyst to help kick it off," said Beard. "I'm not sure that you're going to have a subdivision of a significant size ... given that there's been no successful track record thus far."

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