By CASSIE MCKEE, Four Points News
Residents in the lakeside community of Hudson Bend, which is adjacent to Steiner Ranch, want to incorporate and form their own city, preventing future annexation by the city of Austin.
“We want to avoid Austin’s high tax rates and burdensome regulations,” resident Alton Moore said. “We cannot escape many of the regulations, since almost every square foot of Hudson Bend is covered by the Lower Colorado River Authority, and we are not looking to trash the environment, but only to avoid the big-city takeover, which would inevitably force property values up, and would make this area unaffordable for many of us to continue to live in.”
The first step in the process is to convince the Austin City Council to release the community from Austin’s extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ). A committee of residents known as the “Hudson Bend Incorporation Committee” sent a letter to the City of Austin on June 2, requesting to be released from the ETJ.
“Although change is inevitable, we believe that with reasonable zoning plans in place, we can manage this change appropriately, while still preserving the local culture which we all bought into here, and do not want to lose any time in the foreseeable future,” the letter stated.
But the group received a response back from Austin city staff on July 21 to the effect that they oppose releasing the community from their ETJ.
Hudson Bend Incorporation Committee is not giving up. It recently hired an attorney and will continue lobbying Austin’s mayor and city council members to vote to release the community from their ETJ in the near future. They will also meet with the community’s County Commissioner on August 12.
In the meantime, the Hudson Bend Incorporation Committee is beginning to raise money for the effort. Moore said the cost of an uncomplicated incorporation is $10,000-20,000. Another lakeside community, Volente, incorporated as a city in 2004 with just 250 residents. Moore said Volente residents raised $45,000 for their incorporation.
“With 3,300 residents, we figure that we can do at least that well,” Moore said.
Through these efforts, if the city of Austin votes to release Hudson Bend from the ETJ, then Hudson Bend will need about 90 days to prepare for the next regularly scheduled election in either May or November, Moore said.
Hudson Bend background
Hudson Bend was first settled in the 1850s, and now has a population of about 3,300. Moore said the community has a long history of keeping its distance from Austin.
“The people here feel that living in the county is best, but, given the choice between being taken over by Austin and forming our own city, they prefer to form our own city,” Moore said. “This contributes to the great sense of community which one can sense from the residents here.”
The topic of incorporation first began gaining momentum at a community meeting several months ago. Moore said the more residents learned about incorporation, the more supportive they became. A community meeting held on May 28 drew 79 residents who listened to several invited speakers, including Jess Fields from the Texas Public Policy Foundation, who spoke on the concept of “liberty cities,” small cities with limited government.
River Place example
They also heard from River Place HOA President Scott Crosby, who spoke about River Place’s experience of being annexed by the City of Austin. Crosby said the River Place community is very unhappy about its water rates, which have increased dramatically since being annexed. They have even filed a lawsuit against the city. He said the community should’ve fought harder prior to annexation.
“I think our community was very passive,” Crosby said at the meeting. “They’re just now realizing what it all means to them. When they see water bills this summer, they’ll finally wake up and realize we didn’t have it so bad as an independent community.”
Crosby said River Place residents could expect to see bills that are two to three times what they were paying the Municipal Utility District.
“For example, a person using 30,000 gallons will pay 2.94 times what they paid to the MUD -$136.80 vs $406.89, assuming the wastewater was 8,000 per month,” Crosby said.
The Hudson Bend Incorporation Committee plans to have weekly or bi-weekly meetings and will use Facebook, Nextdoor and email to communicate with residents. At this point, Moore said their biggest obstacle is getting out of the city’s ETJ.
“If they don’t release us, then we can challenge the contiguousness of their current city limits in court, or try to force them to annex us, which they may find untenable, in which case we would be free six months later,” Moore said. “Or they might annex us, in which case we would fight them based upon how unhappy many people are with their services.”
For more information, residents can visit www.hudsonbend.com.