By LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News
The Steiner Ranch Master Association board took a step this week to support Travis County’s proposed permanent road connecting Steiner’s Flat Top Ranch Road to RM 620 between Mansfield Dam and Steiner’s main entrance at Quinlan Park Road.
An email sent to Steiner residents on March 5 shared that a majority of the seven-member board took a vote and decided to back the implementation of the permanent route F. This does not mean the decision for this road is final but is giving the county feedback from one board, which represents Steiner residents as the main homeowners association.
But many in the community strongly disagree with what seemed like a hasty and premature decision by the board, according to social media posts and feedback from residents. Many express disappointment in this decsion.
Several outspoken community members — who have been to all of the related meetings since December about the evacuation route options — have issues with the decision.
Josh Yates is one of those residents who lives nearby the proposed permanent route.
“This is a very disappointing outcome because SRMA has specifically stated in several board meetings and responses to resident emails they they’d wait for 1) the results of the county traffic study and 2) the results of an SRMA administered survey to gauge Steiner sentiment before forming an opinion as a board,” Yates said. “Neither of those happened and instead they had a secret meeting with the county and took a secret vote almost immediately afterward. In my view this represents a very significant breach of community trust because it’s in blatant contradiction to their stated, official approach for the last three months.”
According to what was stated at the January and February board meetings, the SRMA board changed its course of action without updating the community and/or took this action prematurely. Discussion at both meetings stated and implied that the SRMA board would wait to weigh in on the subject until after it collected more information from Steiner residents via a survey, and until after it heard results of the traffic study Travis County took around Jan. 30.
“The vice president was to work with the president on conducting a survey after data was provided by county,” said Brad Staton, SRMA board vice president. When asked why the board decision was made this week rather than to wait for more information, he said, “I don’t know why.”
No other responses were given by presstime by SRMA board members when asked about their decision this week.
Route F is one of three of the most recent evacuation roads the county has been studying since late last year, narrowed down from a dozen previous options. Route F is the only permanent road in the county’s consideration. The other routes are emergency-only roads.
Earlier this week when a vote was called, Stanton voted against implementing route F but the majority of the board voted in favor of it.
Board member Christina Morales posted on the Four Points News Facebook page her reasons for voting in favor of the road. The post appears to have been removed at this point.
According to the email to Steiner residents, the move this week by the SRMA board came after a Feb. 28 meeting that was attended by most of the SRMA board and Travis County officials including those working on the project and a representative from County Commissioner Brigid Shea’s Precinct Two’s office.
The email sent to Steiner residents with the board’s decision to back the implementation of route F stated:
“Considering various critical factors, Travis County recommended route F… for catastrophic emergencies, daily use and emergencies.”
“After carefully considering Travis County’s recommendations and the safety, evacuation and transportation needs of the association with 4,500+ homes and 15,000+ residents, residents’ inputs as well as community leaders, a majority of the SRMA board on March 4th, 2019 concluded that the Travis County’s recommendation for route F is the optimal decision and voted for its implementation,” the email stated.
SRMA cited reasons favoring route F
According to the SRMA email to residents, some of the reasons for the majority of the board’s decision to back route F:
- Vehicle per hour evacuation is 1500, up to 100 percent more than other options,
- Ease of evacuation with straight line of sight versus winding roads,
- Land acquisition complexities, other routes may have Balcones issues,
- Topographic complexity with hills and canyons,
- Economic feasibility, cheaper to build in the front of Steiner compared to the back,
- Poses no further development threat because majority of the land in and around it is owned by SRMA HOA and Travis County,
Resident efforts against route F
A group of some 90 residents calling themselves “Concerned Steiner residents against the Permanent Road” has taken issue with the idea of a permanent road. The group has taken shape over the last few months and a portion of the group met on Monday night to discuss further.
“We are more concerned with the permanent nature of a road, and the way this decision and timeline has been pushed through without input, as promised,” said Mari Cornelius, who hosted the group in her home.
“In my opinion there appears to be an ulterior and hidden motive/agenda about which the county and our own board is not being transparent,” Cornelius said. “I don’t know how appropriate it is to call the HOA board to accountability on this issue, but if we don’t, there is surely more to come that will be decided without Steiner resident input.”
Additionally there is a petition circulating called “Tell Travis County NO to route F as a permanent road in Steiner”. It has nearly 900 signatures as of March 8.
Other residents, many who live near the proposed route F, voiced concerns about the SRMA’s action in emails to Four Points News and/or on its Facebook page this week.
A Travis County open house for the Steiner community is expected in April.