River Place Outparcels and five other areas to vote on leaving the city

This 212 acres of River Place Outparcels are eligible to disannex from the city of Austin.

By JO CLIFTON, Austin Monitor

River Place Outparcels – which includes the River Place Limited District – will get a chance to vote in the May 4 election if they want to disannex from the city of Austin.

“The River Place Limited District is interested in de-annexation, but there are variables that need to be addressed. Once the board has had the opportunity to discuss with the city of Austin, we will be happy to share our official position on the matter,” shared Joe Freeman, River Place Limited District president. 

“To be clear, the only portions of River Place that could be eligible (for disannexation are) those portions that were formerly Municipal Utility District,” shared Jennifer Mushtaler, resident and previous president of the River Place Limited District, and a commissioner for the city Planning Commission. “The River Place HOA has over 1,200 homes while the LD (Limited District) has approximately 1,000.”

On February 1, City Council approved an ordinance calling for an election in River Place Outparcels (District 10), Lost Creek Municipal Utility District (District 8), Blue Goose Road (District 1), Malone Preliminary Plan (District 5), Wildhorse/Webb Tract (District 1), and Mooreland Addition (District 5). The Travis County Clerk’s Office confirmed that the county will be administering the elections.

“The City of austin is bound to respect this election and process, as required by the legislature,” shared Alison Alter, City Council Member District 10. “I will support a smooth transition if the voters choose disannexation, but I hope that residents of areas weighing disannexation will learn about what services they will lose before the vote happens.”

The six include 738 acres of the Lost Creek community in West Austin, 212 acres of land at River Place Outparcels in northwest Austin, 104 acres at the Wildhorse/Webb Tract in East Austin, 28 acres known as Blue Goose Road in northeast Austin, just over 40 acres at the Lennar at Malone subdivision in southwest Austin, and four acres known as Mooreland Addition off of Menchaca Road in South Austin.   

River Place Outparcels and the other five areas seeking to disannex would still be paying some city taxes for about two years on average to pay off debt. 

For example, Lost Creek owes Austin nearly $7.8 million, which is estimated to take two years to pay off. The other areas seeking to disannex owe the city of Austin lesser amounts and each will be allowed to pay their debt in full at any time, according to the ordinance approved by Council on February 1.

As a result of disannexation, those areas will give up certain city services, notably police and fire protection and emergency services. Travis County would take over police and fire services for those areas that choose to disannex, while Austin-Travis County EMS services would remain in place. 

The city is forced to hold these elections because of the passage of House Bill 3053 last year, which requires cities with populations larger than 500,000 to allow for such elections for areas annexed to the city between March 3, 2015 and December 1, 2017. 

Lost Creek example  

Lost Creek resident Leslie Odom, an outspoken critic of the city of Austin, particularly with regard to police services, is actively promoting a “yes” vote for her community. Another promoter of disannexation is Ryan Brannan, a state lobbyist serving as treasurer of a political action committee raising money to support a disannexation vote.

In addition to complaining about city services, Odom complained that she was unable to get a meeting with Mayor Kirk Watson. A spokesperson for his office told the Austin Monitor via email, “The Lost Creek de-annexation election was mandated by the Legislature. It must happen, and the implications of that are out of the control of the city. If it is decided by the voters to be removed from Austin, we will, of course, do all that is necessary to make the exit work well and smoothly. Mayor Watson’s chief of staff spoke to this constituent in December and heard her concerns about the Lost Creek de-annexation election.”

Odom complained that Lost Creek has suffered a significant increase in crime recently, which she blamed on lack of service from the Austin Police Department.

She also said that her area is simply too far away for police to patrol and that they have been relying on firefighters from the Westlake Fire Department, also known as ESD  No. 9. Although the Westlake firefighters have been doing the job in Lost Creek, she said they were not paid because the city of Austin got that tax money. In the future, Odom said, firefighting funds would be directed to ESD No. 9. In addition, she said the sheriff’s office has its own substation in the Lost Creek Park.

Odom said Lost Creek would continue to receive water and wastewater services from the city of Austin.

Council Member Paige Ellis, who represents the Lost Creek area, cautioned, “Leading up to the May 4 special election it’s important residents have all the facts they need to make an informed decision. I encourage an open line of communication between residents and city staff in the months ahead.

“There are many services currently provided by the City of Austin that could look different for Lost Creek residents. These services range from not having Austin Police be their first responders, no Austin Code zoning or short-term rental limitations, losing Austin Resource Recovery trash pickup, not having Transportation & Public Works maintain roads or speed mitigation signs, to other environmental regulations such as impervious cover limits.

“These services would need to be provided by the Limited District or Travis County instead. As long as transparency and facts are guiding these conversations, I trust Lost Creek folks will choose what they feel is best for their community and respect the ultimate outcome.”

Lynette Haalnad contributed to this report.