The Austin Chronicle

Naked City

Dripping Springs Gets Sued

By Amy Smith, November 8, 2002, News

The Friendship Alliance -- the voice of neighborhoods in northern Hays Co. -- has filed a lawsuit against the city of Dripping Springs, challenging the legality of two major development agreements. The lawsuit, filed Friday in Hays Co. District Court, seeks to have both agreements overturned, arguing that Dripping Springs, as a general-law (rather than home-rule) city, is prohibited from making such deals. The agreements concern Cypress Realty's planned development on the old Rutherford Ranch property, and MAK Foster Ranch's Belterra subdivision on the former Foster Ranch. Together, the two projects comprise 4,300 acres of Dripping Springs' vast, 75,000-acre extraterritorial jurisdiction.

The Friendship Alliance has long maintained that the Cypress and Belterra deals were brokered willy-nilly, with little public input or attention to long-range planning concerns. The projects could double the population of the ETJ, wreak havoc on road infrastructure, drain the region's water supply, and create additional burdens on already-overcrowded schools, the Alliance charges.

City Attorney Rex Baker, who brokered the land deals, and Mayor Todd Purcell insist that the agreements are legal. They say the contracts were needed to keep developers in check and to protect the environmentally sensitive terrain of the ETJ, where the city would otherwise have little oversight. To prove its point, the city retained the outside legal expertise of attorney David Brooks to examine the agreements and vouch for their legality. But the city, claiming attorney-client privilege, refuses to release Brooks' opinion. The state attorney general's office supports the city's position on that score.

In the long run, Alliance President Rob Baxter said the group hopes to achieve several goals as a result of the lawsuit, beginning with the creation of a comprehensive regional plan, which would meld with the big-picture plan coming together under Envision Central Texas.

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