By CASSIE MCKEE, Four Points News
While the Hudson Bend Incorporation Committee continues to move forward with plans that would allow the small lakeside community to incorporate as its own city and avoid annexation by the city of Austin, some Hudson Bend property owners are becoming increasingly vocal in their opposition to the effort.
Charles Gault built a new home in Hudson Bend in 2012 and has two siblings who also own property in Hudson Bend, one for more than 20 years. Gault said he opposes the incorporation effort primarily because he believes there is no imminent concern of Austin annexing Hudson Bend in the foreseeable future.
“This committee has decided to ignore the statement from Virginia Collier, Austin city planner, that Austin did not see annexing Hudson Bend for 30-40 years,” Gault said. “The committee has determined this as laughable and instead are purporting a 10 year timeline before Austin annexes Hudson Bend.”
Gault said the committee is also exaggerating the amount that property taxes would increase if annexed by the city of Austin.
“The committee is also purporting that, if annexed by Austin, our property taxes would increase by 40 percent when, in fact, the city of Austin impact on our property taxes would be just under a 27 percent increase for both City of Austin and ACC, and just under 22 ½ percent if the ACC tax assessment is not voted in,” Gault said.
While Alton Moore, the chairman of the incorporation committee, has said annexation would force property values to rise and make the community unaffordable for many residents, Gault said he sees no problem with rising property values. He said he is also not opposed to more upscale development coming to the community.
“Most people’s largest asset is the value of their home,” Gault said. “Why would anyone intentionally want to diminish or stifle the value of their single largest asset?”
Nathan Gibson has owned a home and lived in Hudson Bend since 2004 but says he never received any notice about the community meetings or any type of community survey about incorporation. He did receive an email asking for a donation for the incorporation effort but he says it was also lacking information.
“Later, I was at a friend’s house for a dinner party and all were very much opposed to the effort,” Gibson said. “We do not even have awareness of the majority of those involved, yet the (incorporation committee) is meeting with the city and making it appear to the media that there is broad support.”
Gibson said he finds it offensive that the committee has framed the issue as a choice between annexation versus incorporation, which he says is false.
“A more correct framing is status quo versus incorporation,” Gibson said. “I also take exception to any railroad job where the majority is unaware that it is even in the works, much less aware of the implications of more taxes and more restrictions.”
He said he submitted his comments on the Hudson Bend Neighborhood website but has not received a response.
Incorporation Committee moves forward
Moore, the committee’s chairman, said the committee was waiting on more information to determine whether or not to bring the matter before the Austin City Council for a vote. But feedback indicates that the five council votes in play would probably follow Austin city staff’s advice on the matter, “so we will not press the issue with them,” he said.
The next step will be to begin block walking to collect signatures on a petition to force annexation, Moore said. If Hudson Bend tried to force Austin to annex it, but the city council found it untenable, the community would be released from the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction six months later.
He said there are no plans to do a community-wide survey among property owners since the next step would be to gather signatures for a petition.
“Both a petition and a vote are fairly objective measures, and we trust in them completely,” Moore said.
In the meantime, the committee will continue to have both smaller and larger public meetings, as time and budget permit.
“(But) as momentum has grown, so has pushback from a faction of the local residents, and this was in evidence at our meeting at the Austin Yacht Club on Sept. 19,” Moore said.
But he said he continues to see strong support for incorporation and even spent a week personally visiting every business owner he could find to discuss the issue. He said the majority were very supportive of the effort.
“So on both the residential and business fronts, we have always seen plenty of support, once those in question have been acquainted with the facts of the situation and the law,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gault says he believes less than 10 percent of property owners have embraced the effort.
“The largest attendance at any one of the meetings held by this committee surrounding the issue of incorporation is 79 people,” Gault said. “There are over 1,200 property owners in Hudson Bend. Our goal is to make sure the will of the majority of property owners in Hudson Bend is known. Then and only then, if the support or incorporation represents the majority of the property owners, should the efforts of incorporation continue.”
Gault said he plans to develop an informative survey for all property owners as well as a petition to determine public opinion.