City Plans for Webberville Land Cause Big Stink
Austin may use 2,800 acres of undeveloped land owned by Austin Energy for industrial purposes
But with the ink still drying on this week's draft council resolution, designs for an eco-industrial park – which could house landfill, recycling, and composting facilities, as well as interrelated "green-collar" waste diversion businesses – are well under way. "All the planning from the very beginning has been for an eco-industrial environmental area," Lumbreras said. The property is seen as key to "providing needed public services in the city's desired development zone," he said, couching the city's motivations as a means "to control our destiny" when it comes to long-range waste planning. Such a facility is consistent with the city's climate protection and zero-waste goals, he said, but "the city has no intention of accepting waste from outside Austin or Travis County" at the site. If council passes the resolution, Lumbreras said, another six to 12 months of environmental analysis will take place. A master plan could later be drafted, he said, which would look at maximizing "synergies" between all the site's identified uses – i.e., a possible solid-waste site/waste-treatment plant twofer.
"For three years, I've been saying publicly that this is their plan, and they've denied it," said Webberville Mayor Hector Gonzales. If no such industrial schemes were at work, the actions of late represent "a lot of nonplanning," Gonzales said. He went on to articulate fears that an industrial site could depress land values, harm groundwater, and possibly scare off the anticipated 1,100-acre, $1.5 billion Villa Muse mixed-use development, planned less than a half-mile from the tract. Gonzales claims industrial uses are inconsistent with Webberville's development plans and that historical and natural features within the parcel merit preservation. Webberville has repeatedly offered to buy the land back.
Travis Co. Commissioner Ron Davis, whose Precinct 1 includes the tract, bellowed over the phone that the plans are "a clear slap in the face to constituents in Precinct 1, who are sick of getting dumped on" and are proof that East Austin/West Austin "divisiveness" still continues. Following last week's report, Davis said he sent a letter to council urging it to delay action until the Commissioners Court could address the issue. "This [week's] item is doing exactly what I asked them not to do. The community is outraged, and I feel like I've been slighted."