The Austin Chronicle

County OKs Rocky Creek

By Amy Smith, October 15, 2004, News

The Hill Country Coalition has seen the future, and it isn't pretty. The newly formed four-county brigade of community groups – which should soon make its official public debut – may be the largest grassroots organization to come along in recent history, and the timing couldn't be better. The group's formation is in direct response to a series of fast-moving development proposals flying out of the chute in what appears to be an attempt to beat the clock on several regional planning initiatives.

On Tuesday, Travis Co. commissioners approved a preliminary plan for a 486-home development along Hamilton Pool Road. Longtime landowner Rebecca Hudson has proposed a subdivision, the Rocky Creek Ranch, which would "cluster" homes on about half of the 468-acre spread and leave another couple hundred acres untouched. Hudson and her family would continue living on the property as well. Area residents and environmental representatives had asked commissioners to declare a moratorium on new developments in deference to the regional planning efforts under way.

Those efforts may well be for naught, however, with developers on a winning streak. Commissioners initially appeared to be leaning in favor of a moratorium, but switched their tone after emerging from executive session, voting 4-0 for the Hudson plan. (Commissioner Margaret Gomez was absent.) "I'm surprised and disappointed," Christy Muse, a Lakeway-area community leader, said after the vote. "When you accept a plan like this one, you're accepting a vision for more growth in the Hill Country."

Even with the county's blessing, the Rocky Creek project is still without a firm guarantee of surface water service from the Lower Colorado River Authority, whose board has not yet voted on a proposal to extend a water line along Hamilton Pool Road. The LCRA had originally proposed a water line that served more households in the area, but that was before two other Hamilton Pool development proposals dropped off the map, leaving Hudson with the only plan on the table. It's uncertain when the LCRA board will take action on the pipeline.

The fledgling Hill Country Coalition includes community organizations from Travis, Hays, Blanco, and Burnet counties coming together to form a single voice to address a range of concerns – sprawl, traffic, water quality, lake levels, and the destruction of the rural character of the Hill Country.

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