Leander ISD will take formal legal action as part of its pursuit to place a second access road to Vandegrift High School and Four Points Middle School, addressing a safety concern for more than 4,000 students, teachers and staff.
During its regular meeting on Dec. 16, the Board of Trustees voted to instruct district administration to file a complaint against the U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) due to the agencies’ failure and refusal to further process the application for a permit to design and construct the access road.
While the land surrounding the two schools has been designated preserve land, the district has sought permission to build the second road on an existing infrastructure corridor that contains several utility lines for the city of Austin and Lower Colorado River Authority creating a necessary access point, particularly for emergency vehicles. Currently, the schools can only be accessed from RR 2222 off McNeil Drive.
LISD has worked diligently with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others to obtain an incidental take permit under section 10 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in connection with providing the second access point to those campuses. LISD voters approved some funding in the 2017 bond to permit and design the road.
From July 2016 until now, LISD and its environmental attorneys have engaged with USFWS and the Department of the Interior, including utilizing USFWS’s formal permit appeals process in an effort to move forward towards a resolution. USFWS will not process the district’s permit application unless the district obtains ownership or control over the proposed right-of-way, a portion which is owned by Travis County, who has opposed the project.
The district’s legal counsel expects to file the complaint in federal court in mid-January 2022.