The creation of a municipal utility district for a residential development—rumored to have ties with The Walt Disney Co.—received a stamp of approval from the Williamson County Commissioners Court on April 11.

According to Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell, the Solana Municipal Utility District No. 1 is being created through the state Legislature and will need the approval of state lawmakers. He said the project’s funding sources and DMB Development LLC’s potential affiliation with Disney “is really a decision by the developer.”

“The family that owns Solana Ranch very much cares about the environment, our water [and] our trees,” Gravell said. “I appreciate the seriousness of the conversation. I can assure you that Disney World is not going to build a theme park at this location. However, it could well be other Disney property.”

Understanding MUDs

A municipal utility district, or MUD, is a special political subdivision providing developers with an alternative way to finance infrastructure, such as sewage, water, drainage, roads and other services. MUDs, which are operated by an elected board of directors, may be formed through a bill at the Texas Legislature or by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. They have the ability to issue bonds and use property tax revenues to pay off debt.

Gravell said the Solana MUD is a product of annexation laws, as state law does not allow cities to add land outside of their extraterritorial jurisdiction.

“With the state’s regulatory authority and inability of cities to move beyond their ETJ, what we’re now doing is we’re building big cities outside of city limits,” he said. “When we start building cities outside of city limits, there will be an expectation for services that we have not provided in the past.”

Stipulations to the agreement

The land for the new MUD spans more than 7,000 acres across Williamson and Bell counties. Precinct 3 County Commissioner Valerie Covey said around a third of the property is located in Williamson County, and the developer has plans for roughly 14,000 homes within the total MUD. She also said the developer would provide the county with the right of way needed for road projects as part of its Long-Range Transportation Plan.

The district would also pay part of the cost for law enforcement, fire and EMS services, and after 12 years would be responsible for maintaining streets within the district.

“I think that that’s key,” Covey said. “As things develop out in our county, with annexation laws, this is I think the best approach.”

Covey added she would like the court to use the agreement to form a policy on how the county partners with developers on MUD agreements in the future.