Landowners question Leander council annexation plans

This spring Leander City Council is pursuing involuntary annexation of 14 privately owned properties, letters A through O, and two city-owned properties, shown as numbers 1 and 2. This spring Leander City Council is pursuing involuntary annexation of 14 privately owned properties, shown as letters A through P, and two city-owned properties, shown as numbers 1 and 2.[/caption]

Owners of Leander properties filled Pat Bryson Hall on March 3 to oppose or ask questions about a series of involuntary land annexations proposed by Leander City Council this spring.

The council is pursuing involuntary annexation, or annexation apart from a landowner’s request, for 16 areas with privately owned properties throughout Leander. The land totals 3,208 acres, making the annexation potentially one of the city's largest annexations, city leaders said.

Annexation would remove land from the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, or ETJ, and add the land to the city. Owners within city limits pay city property taxes and receive coverage by city emergency services, such as the Leander fire and police departments.

Mayor Chris Fielder said the city’s public hearings are intended to permit landowners a voice and to provide further information about the annexation. State law requires two public hearings as part of a city’s involuntary annexation process. A second public hearing is scheduled for March 17. The council plans a first reading for an annexation ordinance April 7 and a final reading April 21.

After annexation, the city would be responsible for new water and sewer systems in those neighborhoods. However, new residents would need to pay hookup fees to access the new utility lines. These residents would also pay new utility bills to the city.

Twenty-two residents of the Creek Meadow and Valley View subdivisions spoke about the annexation during the public hearing. Most residents said they oppose annexation of the 468 acre land that surrounds their neighborhoods. The property is the largest single site proposed for annexation, and is located southeast of the intersection of CR 174 and Ronald Reagan.

Residents, such as CR 175 homeowner Larry Fisher, said they do not need or want city services.

“We’ve got wells, we’ve got septic systems,” Fisher said. “If we are annexed, I will fight wholeheartedly to have all the services provided out there, water, sewer, fire hydrants. … If I’m paying taxes, then I deserve the services that any person in this town has.”

Residents whose properties are annexed can maintain their wells and septic systems according with Williamson County ordinances, Assistant City Manager Tom Yantis said.

Newly annexed properties would have an interim zoning status of single-family residential. However, owners could pursue different a different zoning status with the city and would not need to pay filing fees for a first rezoning application, Yantis said.

Some residents said they moved further north from Austin to have more flexibility with their land, such as Allen Hansen, who lives on CR 264. Hanson said he opposes annexation of his property, which is part of a 262.58-acre site located northeast of the intersection of RM 2243 and Ronald Reagan Boulevard.

“I want to do what I want to with the property,” Hansen said. “Be able to hunt on the thing, burn brush if I need to … put wells on the thing if I need to.”

Homeowners in the two neighborhoods, such as Valley View Drive resident Chuck Griffin, said they do not believe they will receive city utility services after their properties are annexed.
"If I’m paying taxes, then I deserve the services that any person in this town has.”

– Larry Fisher, resident

“I’m actually okay with being annexed if all the city services were to be provided, primarily wastewater and fire protection,” he said. “[But] it’s completely economically infeasible for the city to provide wastewater there. The lots are too large. The houses are spread too far apart.”

Yantis said city staffers have been coming to an arrangement with neighborhood residents.

Homeowners could stay in the city’s ETJ but enter into a separate contract to pay for and receive protection from the Leander Fire Department, Yantis said.

Most residents from the two neighborhoods who spoke said they support the agreement.

Four landowners said they opposed annexation for another property, which overlaps Bagdad Road and includes about 840 acres between CR 280 and CR 281. The landowners said they oppose annexation but want more information about how annexation would work.

Fielder asked for the chiefs of Leander’s fire and police departments to be available after the council meeting to answer residents’ questions about emergency services.
By Stephen Burnett
Stephen Burnett has been a community journalist since 2005. He joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in November 2013. For the cities of Cedar Park, Leander and northwest Austin, he covers city and county government, business, development, events, transportation, utilities and more.


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