West Travis County utility agency to Hamilton Pool Road developer: No water service for added project

Fred Goff, vice president of the West Travis County Public Utility Agency, weighs in on a request to provide additional service to a new development off Hamilton Pool Road. Goff is the agency's representative from Municipal Utility District 5 that includes the Lake Pointe neighborhood.

Fred Goff, vice president of the West Travis County Public Utility Agency, weighs in on a request to provide additional service to a new development off Hamilton Pool Road. Goff is the agency's representative from Municipal Utility District 5 that includes the Lake Pointe neighborhood.

Although Travis County Commissioners Court approved a preliminary plan March 7 for the first phase of Provence, a proposed neighborhood in the 17024 block of Hamilton Pool Road of the unincorporated portion of the county, the West Travis County Public Utility Agency today shut down future plans for the developer to build out a proposed additional phase of the project.

By a vote of 4-0, the WTCPUA denied a request by developer Masonwood HP for an extension of service in the amount of 1,137 additional LUEs—living equivalent units used to quantify water service—to its original allowance of 700 LUEs for a 678-lot residential project, Provence.

For reference, approximately one LUE is used by an average single family home.

“I’m an appointee of the city of Bee Cave and the city of Bee Cave is strongly against this project,” Commissioner Bill Goodwin said. Goodwin is also mayor pro tem for the Bee Cave City Council. “[Bee Cave appointee] Mr. Walden, in his [WTCPUA director] application speech, said he would carry out the city of Bee Cave’s wishes. So, in effect, both he and my hands are tied on this. I cannot support it.”

Density, cost of service at issue


If Masonwood's request were granted, the density of the project’s 1,137 LUEs on the new 440-acre parcel would be about 60-percent denser than the original 478-acre tract that was granted 700 LUEs in 2014, Goodwin said.

Improvements totaling nearly $8 million, including an upgraded treatment plant, would be needed to deliver 1,137 LUEs of service to the 440-acre tract, WTCPUA District Engineer Curtis Wilson said. There also is no timeline for how long it would take to construct these necessary facilities to accommodate the Masonwood project, he said.

Additionally, Wilson said the WTCPUA board at one of its past workshops agreed the agency’s water supply would be capped at 32.5 million gallons daily, and the Masonwood project would surpass this limit.

“This [Masonwood/Provence project] will require literally a wholesale rebuild of infrastructure to drive water to that [Hatchett] tract,” Wilson said. “There’s no getting around that. It will require brand new infrastructure, including an upgraded treatment plant."

The developer originally requested 1,837 LUEs in 2013, but Wilson said discussions with Masonwood officials drove the development size down due to the heightened cost associated with that large of a project.

“But after evaluating this, we came up with the 700 [LUEs] number that capped out the Hamilton Pool Road [area],” said former WTCPUA Vice President Mike Murphy, who is also the husband of Bee Cave Mayor Caroline Murphy. “I have questions about whether the developer will meet the financial requirements we are putting on them for the first 700 [LUEs]. The line can’t handle it. Any other way to get water to this place is very, very expensive.”

The tract is located just outside of Bee Cave's extraterritorial jurisdiction, or ETJ. Bee Cave filed a resolution in 2013 objecting to the project due to concerns regarding water quality, school overcrowding and traffic safety. In December, the city designated its section of Hamilton Pool Road to be low-density when City Council amended Bee Cave’s Comprehensive Plan.

Water quality concerns


Wilson said it would be very difficult for the developer to meet the agency’s water quality requirements given the density of the project as originally proposed due to an impervious cover restriction of 20 percent.

Christy Muse, Director of External Relations at Shield Ranch, said she is concerned with water quality issues stemming from the proposed Provence project on Hamilton Pool Road. Christy Muse, Director of External Relations at Shield Ranch, said she is concerned with water quality issues stemming from the proposed Provence project on Hamilton Pool Road.[/caption]

Christy Muse, director of external relations at nature conservation area Shield Ranch off Hamilton Pool Road, requested the board deny the additional water service to Provence.

“The [Provence] property drains to Little Barton Creek,” she said. “Little Barton Creek runs on our ranch, directly downstream. The rest of the ranch is being managed in order to protect water quality and water supply for Little Barton Creek. And so we have significant concerns about the impact of this project on Little Barton and then further on down to Barton Creek.”

Neighbors weigh in


Residents living within and outside of the WTCPUA’s service area packed City Hall, including members of Hamilton Pool Road Matters, a nonprofit organization focused on preserving the Hamilton Pool Road corridor.

Bee Cave resident Carrell Killebrew opposes the WTCPUA granting additional service to the Provence development on Hamilton Pool Road. He told directors the project is outside the agency's service area. Bee Cave resident Carrell Killebrew opposes the WTCPUA granting additional service to the Provence development on Hamilton Pool Road. He told directors the project is outside the agency's service area.[/caption]

Group member Gene Loewenthal said Provence is outside the WTCPUA’s certificate of convenience and necessity—the area in which the WTCPUA has the exclusive right to provide water and sewer service—and the agency is not obligated to serve the tract. He said the project also requires funds that were not designated in the agency’s capital improvement plan and is therefore outside the scope of its service.

“I understand that the WTCPUA is not in the business of approving or disapproving subdivisions, but as you heard there are many residents along Hamilton Pool Road who are opposed to the sheer size and density of this project,” he said. “Over 1,600 homes on [900] acres—that’s twice the density of anything else in the neighborhood.”

Rocky Creek homeowner Jo Youngblood said her neighborhood pays one of the highest water connection fees for her utility.

“Unfortunately we are probably one of the communities, along with Belvedere, that is most at risk of being impacted by this development of low water pressure, especially in the event of a fire or some other sort of emergency,” she said. “We’re the ones who are going to wind up without water pressure. Somehow that seems really unethical that we pay such a high connection fee and we are the most at risk in the network.”

During July 2016 and July 2015, she said her community received water boil notices due to low water pressure because of a sudden increase in the demand of the system.

“So I urge you to make this decision as if you were in the month of July, not the month of January when we still have plenty of water available for the residents using the system,” Youngblood said.


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