Bill Gunn and panel of partners

This is Bill Gunn. A couple of his development partners and consultants are in the background. Together, they are trying to build a housing development of 1,893 housing units plus schools and commercial buildings on the former Davenport Ranch - 2,500 acres between Highway 71 and Hamilton Pool Road. Their project has been referred to by neighbors as the "stealth development" becaause, up until very recently, nobody had any idea what they were up to. They tried to slip their plans quickly by the Travis County Commissioners but neighbors, who caught a whiff of what was on the wind, showed up at the Commissioners Court meeting and raised a stink of their own. Wisely, the Commissioners refused to immediately pass on the plans and postponed their vote long enough for the developers to at least inform the neighbors of what they were planning. So, on June 26, 2004, under orders from the Travis County Commissioners, a public meeting was held at The Cedars Restaurant on Highway 71 West.

It all started out amicably enough, with the developer self-assuredly proclaiming that the initial phase was to be a model of environmental stewardship. He has a high-powered team of engineers and lawyers, several of whom were at the meeting to back up the big Gunn. Though it has been publicly stated that the development is eventually to contain 2,857 houses, Gunn mentioned a total of only 1,893 lots. Now to us country guys that still sounds like a hell of a lot of lots. But that's not all. According to Mr. Gunn, these are to be little teeny city type lots, ranging in size from 55'x120' to 80'x120'. Cool, eh? You want to run right down and sign up for one, right?

Now this development had originally planned to get water from the proposed LCRA water line that was going out 71 but that got put on hold along with the Hamilton Pool Road pipeline. So, being no slouches, these guys immediately applied to the LCRA for a raw water permit to pump their water out of Lake Travis their own selves, to the tune of 1,650 acre-feet per year.

Bill Gunn points out the planned houses.
Engineer Rick Wheeler

Rick Wheeler is the project's main engineer. He and Bill Gunn told the assembled neighbors that they had actually planned to do this water pumping all along. They were just going to use the LCRA pipe for about 2 years, until it became cost-effective to bring in their own pipeline from the lake.

They are organized as a MUD (Municipal Utility District), the approval of which had been brought before the Legislature by our sterling leaders Gonzalo Barrientos and Terry Keel (what were they thinking?). MUDs, we were informed, have a lot of powers, including the power of condemnation, so they can bring that old pipe pretty much wherever they damn well please.

The developers told the attendees (some of whom are shown here) that the project's houses were to be modest, "affordable" homes, ranging in price from $200,000 to $350,000. Well the lots are modest in size, anyway. The first phase is the construction of 549 houses.

Even this number seemed, to the neighbors in the room, like an awful environmental and traffic burden to put on the neighborhood.

Neighbors listen to the developers spell out doom.
Christie Muse asks her questions.
Christy Muse lives very close to the proposed development. Her concerns were many but particularly the likely environmental degredation to local waterways. She asked if all the lofty proposals for runoff protection weren't just offering "a glass of clean water along with a glass of poison". This was never satisfactorily answered. In fact, as time went on and questions got more pointed, the developer's responses got sharper and angrier, revealing the wolf shedding his sheep suit. By the meeting's end, it all didn't seem so amicable.

Tempers started to approach a boiling point when real estate agent Trey Angly challenged the developers about his traffic concerns. Showing a mastery of technical jargon along with a mastery of homespun Texana delivery, trey said "Carnage, congestion and traffic counts" were what he was worried about. He said "I don't have a financial dog in this hunt. I have a child at the wheel." Again, there were no satisfactory answers given. This did seem, though, like an ongoing discussion between him and Bill Gunn. He asked that anyone else with traffic concerns about Highway 71 call him at 512-913-0411.

The meeting ended by the bell, having run well over the time allotted by the owner of the venue. There were still many unanswered questions and many frustrated neighbors.

Trey Angly and other neighbors

That following Tuesday, June 29th, The Travis County Commissioners' Court voted to approve the first phase - 549 lots in the Sweetwater (formerly Lazy 9) development. They did specify, at least, that this was approval only for those first 549 lots, not for the entire plan. And they required the developer to agree, in writing, that they may not claim grandfathered status for future phases of the development, in the event that environmental or other regulations become more stringent in the interim.

Here is a plat map of the proposed development:
Sweetwater (Lazy 9) Plat

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