Wednesday, November 25, 2009

County Commissioners Meeting Nov. 24

I went to the County Commissioners Court meeting this morning. Here's the link for the minutes. The video is there, too, but I couldn't get it to play.

The saleslady for our neighborhood was there. She was quite passionate about what she had to say, but part of it in particular caught my ear. She is now required to give paperwork to potential home buyers about the proposed mine. She said it's already deterred several families. We closed on the house in July, but TXI was having community meetings in April. Of course we didn't hear anything about this stupid gravel pit until the week after we closed. I'm wondering, perhaps, if we're entitled to something because it was kept quite while we were building our home.

Here's the transcript from my part of the forum:

>> okay.
can you hear me?

>> yes.

>> first of all, I apologize for my kids wandering around.
my named is _____________.
i live in _________________.
i have a bunch of questions and it would be nice if we could have answers.

>> that will be new and different.

>> okay.
i understand that t.x.i.
might have the legal right to be there.
if so, if they do get approved, which way will the trucks be going?
will they just be going back and forth between the site or accessing 969 and going to the highway.


>> [inaudible].

>> so they will be going because -- thank you.
there is an elementary school there.
so how many trucks will be passing the schools?
like if there's 710 total, do you know how much the traffic is going to be in front of the school?

>> according to the information provided by their traffic consultant at their peak of operation they estimate 710 vehicle trips per day, traveling up down dunlap across 969 to the driveway at the webberville processing facility.
so --

>> so that statistic doesn't include any of the going over to the highway is this.

>> that's truck traffic up dunlap road to the intersection with 969 and turning right, east on 969 to the webberville processing facility.

>> okay, so that statistic does not include going to the highway.

>> post processing, t.x.i.
would haul that material to the proposed construction sites where it was planned to be used.

>> okay.
will the trucks be going just up and down hunters bend?

>> there's no proposal for that.
dunlap road --

>> just for our piece of mind if we see trucks, what are the actions we're supposed to take as neighbors?

>> I believe from the public meetings that I have attended with t.x.i.
is they have given contact information for the site operator and, number one, I would expect that you should immediately notify t.x.i.
that that's occurring.

>> okay.
for the t.x.i.
people, I keep seeing this map, but it's always shaded different and so I would like to know -- I'll show you where I live and what my main concern is.
i've contacted the local historic societies and they've asked you guys to postpone your decision until December 9th because it isn't -- the mansion that's there, I wanted to know if that is in part of your property that you've purchased for the proposed mine.
who are t.x.i.
are they all gone?
he's right there.
so is hunters mansion and the graveyard, is that part of it?
because according to all the things I've seen, it looks like it is part of that.


>> [inaudible].

>> so it will remain intact?

>> could you come up so folks can hear your response.

>> and also for the record.

>> yeah, we need to get that response.

>> the hunter mansion and the graveyard are a part of the real estate deal, but that area is not a part of the mine area.

>> so you won't be doing anything with the mansion?
it is not a part of the mine area.

>> what are your plans for it?

>> we have not reached any decision on what our plans are for that area, but it is not included in part of the mining process.

>> that's not an answer.

>> I would like to point out for the Commissioners that the hunter mansion and its graveyard are on the city of Austin's website and noted as an Austin treasure.
i have the website if you want it or you can look on your own city website.
i have pictures of it on my camera, if you want to look.
it looks really neat.
it's right outside of my house.
hopefully if you all do go ahead and build a gravel mine there, you won't do anything with it.
but I've driven past the other -- what is it, the east site.
you can't see it from the road.
so I'm wondering with dunlap will you be able to see the mine from the road because there are 1,000 acres.
is it going to be pushed back or right up on top of it?
where are you proposing to put the eyesore part of it?

>> the limits of construction including both uplands and the fema.

>> what does that mean?

>> that means there are parts of that construction activity that will be next to dunlap road and that there are parts of it that will be off in the bottom that you won't be able to see from the road.

>> okay, so on the hunters bend side of it, the property that you own there, are you all not putting anything on that side of dunlap road?

>> I'm sorry, on which side?

>> your property isn't shaded on here and I've seen several maps.
i've seen several where it's on the eastern side of dunlap and that it also comes down to the western side of dunlap.
no, on the other side.
underneath hunters bend.
that's the area I'm questioning.
are you putting anything in that part?

>> [one moment, please]

>> so this you're if they want -- a gravel pit is bad enough, but if they wanted to bring in a pig rendering plant we don't have the authority to say know based on it being a pig rendering plant.
as staff pointed out, the only avenues of questioning the state gives us the authority even to ask are with regard to drainage and a very limited species of transportation questions.

>> okay.

>> which is -- it's -- I -- I think everyone of us up here would say that is a frustratingly short list of authorities when you are faced with these kinds of circumstances.

>> okay.
well then my last note patty hanson of the Travis County historic commission has contacted all of you and has asked that you I guess postpone your decision.

>> did she do it last night?

>> she did.

>> because I don't know anything about it.

>> she's got all of you listed plus barry hutchinson and mae smith.
they would like the opportunity to look into the mansion's historic significance because it meets all the qualifications for city, county, state historic and possibly some of the acreage surrounding it because it is still an operating farm, so to say.
i would like that to be considered.

>> thank you.

>> [applause]

I didn't stay for the whole meeting- I had the girls with me and they were rather sick of being in the courtroom.
I came away with the overall feeling that TXI will be digging massive holes across the street and spewing toxins into the air by early 2010. Other than continuing our community efforts, I think the best we can do is buy an air purification system...

I also got a follow-up e-mail from one of the neighborhood activists. Here's part of it:

There were many(25 or so) residents there and many good speakers. TXI as usual was misrepresenting the facts and saying as little as possible.
In the end since TXI was not even ready with all the requested information action was postponed at least until the meeting on Tuesday December 8th. At that time people should be able to speak out again or others can speak(I believe)
The biggest surprise for us was the "Road improvement agreement" (that was also on the agenda) and the fact that Dunlap Road will have to be widened and the intersection of Dunlap and 969 will have to be improved (I think at TXI's expense...someone correct me if I misunderstood.)
For those that were there today...after lunch, they revised their figures about the number of trucks per day that will be on Dunlap Road.
She changed the 710 down to only 250 on Dunlap Road per day during full capacity. That means 125 trucks per day leaving the mine full and 125 coming back empty in a day. The 710 total was actually the estimated number of 18 wheelers that will go through the intersection at 969 and Dunlap Road. This includes the 250 going from the mine to the gravel processer East on Webberville Rd and the current and new trucks going from Austin to the Webberville plant and back to get gravel.
With just 250 a day, thats still over 10 per hour, 24 hours a day. If they only work 12 hours a day, it would be 20 trucks per hour driving on Dunlap rd Imagine that intersection with trucks pulling out of Dunlap, pulling in to Dunlap and going past bothways up to 700 times a day.
If those drivers get tired of the traffic, I am sure they will go to Hunters bend light and drive through the neighborhood rather than wait.
They told us to call TXI if that happens??
My next question for the county is: If the permit hinges on the agreement between TXI and county about road improvements, how can the county enter that agreement and issue the permit if Travis County, the City of Austin and TXDoT all have jurisdiction over any improvements to that intersection(which is in the Decker Creek Critical Water Quality Zone)???

It was totally absurd when they told us to expect 710 trucks per day. The road they'll be driving on is roughly the length of one residential street. I'm glad they reduced their estimate to 250, but that's still ridiculous. I also found out today that TXI's property covers more thatn 1,000 acres. sheesh. Perhaps there are some endangered species living in there...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hunter Mansion in Jeopardy

Recently I wrote about the TXI gravel pit (see here.) Tomorrow morning the Commisioners Court has allowed a (very) last minute open court meeting. I imagine it will be just as unproductive as the last meeting, but I've made an effort to contact local historical preservation societies in the hopes of saving at least part of the land.

Here's an edited copy of the e-mail I sent:

I live (where I live). A gravel company called TXI is attempting, for the ump-teenth time, to build a 786.5 acre gravel pit mine at (proposed address.) This massive gravel pit will surround my neighborhood on two sides and will apparently be tearing down the Hunter Mansion and graveyard.

My home, in particular, has a fabulous view of the historic mansion, it's remaining grounds, and graveyard. We had our home built this summer and specifically asked for the house to sit the way it does so that we may enjoy the beautiful view. One week after we moved in, there were signs and fliers all over the community about this gravel pit- our first notice aboout said project. Needless to say, it came as quite a shock.

My subdivision is just one of the many protesting the building of this pit. The proposed location covers the entirety of William Dunlap Hunter's plantation, as well as invading the space of a local Tree Farm and a functioning pecan grove. (The pecan grove also looks to be of historical significance with it's massive trees.) These 786.5 acres sit on the northern banks of the river, just eleven miles from downtown.

The site plan information is available here:
CASE number SP-2008-0515D

We are asking for your help, or insight, in combatting TXI. There is a Commissioners Court open meeting this (date, time, address.)
I apologize about the short notice. We have only recently found out about this meeting ourselves, as the city officials have been quite dodgey about this ugly business.
Even if members of your organization are unable to attend, we would greatly appreciate any help or information you could provide on protecting the historical significance and beauty of our community.

Thank you!
(me and my contact info)"

I found the link about the mansion particularly interesting so I'll post it again: check it out.