This report came from Damian Priour:

It was decided that we would list the things most important to us that did not make the cut last time. We would take these issues to the authorities that could most help us get them into reality..... Dark Skies, Scenic Corridors, Open Space and one other I can't recall. Tonight we discussed Dark Skies and will be getting "dark sky ordinances" from existing sites so we don't have to reinvent the wheel. We want to take something tangible to the authorities so they will have something to work with. Next time we will finish dark sky discussion then move on to scenic corridors and so on. We want to push so that we can contact officials with our desires for this community as soon as possible. It was a good meeting because we are over the hump as far as the "process" goes and can focus on what we want and try to get it done. We'll see.


December 1st was the last officially facilitated meeting. Doc Juli and company are now no longer being paid by LCRA to run the meetings. It was held at the usual location, Westcave Preserve, and this time, instead af the normal cookies and fruit, LCRA's Fred Crawford brought a celebratory cake.

First was a presentation (which I missed) by Mike Murphy, of the photos he had taken to be included with the group's proposal to the LCRA. After this, the group resumed trying to hammer out some language, upon which they all could agree, to present at the December 7th LCRA Board meeting.

Regarding modification of the standard LCRA water contract, Keenan Smith suggested saying "anywhere the LCRA extends service must abide by the NPS (non-point-source pollution regulations)." When Bob Ayres mentioned that LCRA has no jurisdiction in Hays County, Keenan ammended the wording to "abide by the most stringent ordinance around". This seemingly simple and reasonable proposal touched off a lengthy and nit-picky discussion (so what else is new?). After a while, Smitty said to Rebecca Hudson "What you have agreed to should be a floor in all new contracts." In other words, he was saying that her promise of 15% impervious cover should be the maximum impervious cover allowed in any new development with LCRA-supplied water. Rebecca replied "I can't sit here and just represent myself so I think we should go for 20%." Smitty then said "I don't want to get into your business but that would put other developers at a competitive advantage." Bob, seeking a consensus-friendly solution suggested that they "leave this the way it is." (Ha!) Keenan again layed out the "Everywhere pipe goes should be covered (by the NPS ordinance)" statement. Rebecca said that was "not enough". It should, she said "include all areas in the basin". Smitty chimed in that it should "include all tributaries." And so on...

Eventually, Keenan, showing his frustration, said "We should be synthesizing this into a broad and powerful message and here we are arguing about 15 or 20%." Karen Hadden reinforced that: "We need to look at the big picture." Smitty then made a bold proposal. He said how about a "powerful statement - the (water) quality should be no worse after development than before." In other words, non-degradation. Rebecca would have no part of that. She said "I'd rather stick with Fish (Fish and Wildlife guidelines) because of the difficulty in establishing a baseline." (A typical, self-serving developer's argument.) Karen then asked Rebecca "Do you agree with this conceptually?" Rebecca replied "The only way to keep it unchanged is to put up a fence and not let anybody live there." Linda Lowenthal opined "Somehow they can calculate that you can degrade a creek 30%. Why not go for better?" Phil Terrell wondered "Since Lake Travis is already the cleanest (lake) in the Colorado (River basin), what should be done?" Others jumped on that with "Protect it from new development."

Keenan then summed up the LCRA's dilema: "They don't have the authority to carry out their mission. By legislative mandate, the LCRA is not in the land-use business but, if you provide utilities, you are in the land-use business. Every time they have stepped out into land-use they've had their hand slapped by the legislature." Smitty offered "the most powerful thing we can send is reccomendations regarding the contract."

Tom Kemler turned the discussion to the issue of whether the group had a spokesman. Keenan, who had been nominated for the job at the previous meeting (when he was absent) said "I'd be honored to be the ambassador of the group if we can get to some powerful messages." Karen offered an alternative: "Maybe if Keenan can't buy in Bob would do it?" Keenan, frustrated over a lack of a unified and powerful message, responded "What do you expect anybody to do, just get up and start talking?" And again the discussion returned to refining the language regarding the contract. After some more on that and a brief side trip into some other, easy to agree upon points, Keenan again expressed his fears: "I want to be sure if I'm going to be your ambassador that I can truly represent you." Bob assured him that there was "a high level of confidence in this room that you will do an elegant job." And so Keenan agreed to stand up for the group before the LCRA board. A committee was formed to help Keenan with his presentation.

The discussion then turned to a plan for the group's continuation after the facilitators are no longer being paid to facilitate. Tom expressed his fear that, since the facilitators have been "training wheels", he wondered "What happens when we take them off?" Linda Ellis said "We need to go on without the wheels." To this, there was general agreement. Bob suggested that what had been begun could be "the nucleus of a Hamilton Pool Road neighborhood association." This idea was heartily accepted.

Before adjournment, they went around the table with each person expressing their feelings about what this process had meant to them. This, to me, was positively sickening. Here was a group that had spent week after week in agonizing disagreement, coming to consensus on actually very few substantive suggestions, now proclaiming their love for the group and the consensus process. Yeccchhh! Even people who had complained mightily time and again about the lack of meaningful accomplishment seemed to forget all that in their brief, delusional moments of sentimentality. Doc Juli, of course, offered her final, emotional praise of all the members and her pride in what they all had accomplished. 'Scuze me for being my normal cynical self but I just didn't see it. Oh well, it was interesting and there was some entertainment in there with the general sense of frustration I felt pretty much throughout the process. Good night, Gracie.

Epilogue: Considering his constraints, Keenan did a decent job of presenting the group's case to the LCRA board. Much more powerful though were Christy Muse's and Gene Lowenthal's presentations, full of strong facts and passion. It all mattered naught, since the board's minds were made up before word one was spoken and they approved the unthinkable - the pipeline leading to the destruction of our peace, tranquility and rural way of life. Hello suburbia.


They held this meeting, November 18th, at the Bee Cave Municipal Complex. I was flooded in and couldn't bring myself to schlep the long way around (Fall Creek Road). This would have taken almost an hour each way for me instead of the 3 minutes it normally takes to just walk across the road to Westcave Preserve. Anyway, no report on that meeting.


The November 11th meeting began with a pre-meeting presentation on conservation easements which I missed entirely, coming in in time for the main meeting. This one was lightly attended, with a number of people out sick or with other committments.

Juli began with an announcement that she had received an email from a small local landowner who is friends with a large landowner who complained that Rebecca Hudson is the only representative of "economic interests" in the group and wants to make sure their point of view is considered.

Then the discussion of "water strategies that have not been discussed" began with the suggestion that LCRA should promote rainwater harvesting by offering "affordable long-term loans to individuals for installation of rainwater collection systems". Linda Ellis kicked it off saying that the LCRA does not have loan authority. LCRA guy Fred Crawford backed that up, saying they are not allowed to make loans to individuals. Rick Schroeter said he thought that that they might be able to since they did make loans to commercial entities. Linda Ellis suggested that the use of "rebates or discretionary funds" to encourage homeowners to do rainwater would be a conflict for them. She asked "why would they want to do it and sell less water?" Phil Terrell added that they probably wouldn't do it since they are primarily in the electricity business. Becky Combs' take was that the main problem is "no state standards for rainwater". She felt that the first necessary step is to "go to the legislature and get state standards adopted."

Tom Kemler chimed in "I'm all for rainwater but this would be DOA at the LCRA." And Rebecca Hudson felt that rainwater systems would keep people from getting surface water because of the "liabilities".

Bob Ayres felt that the solution would be to make the recommendation "general". He just wanted to "promote rainwater collection in general". To this, Linda Ellis pointed out that "lake water is rainwater." Keenan Smith responded that his water (coming from a rainwater system) had "never hit the ground, never sat in a lake", etc. And Linda Ellis then came back supporting the idea of simply promoting the concept without the incentives. Keenan said "I would have loved to have some incentives besides knowing that I'm doing the right thing for the environment and that my water is better than anyone else here." (Go Keenan!)

Tom and Linda E. opined that you can't get financing for rainwater systems but Keenan responded that he had. Richard Grumbles added that all you need is a letter from a water hauler saying that you will be able to get water delivered should a drought dry your cistern and the financing can happen.

Then the conservation turned to the idea of LCRA purchasing "connecting conservation easements". Phil said "I don't know how this would be done but I love the length of the sentence." Keenan asked "How cool would it be to connect up existing easements?" Becky suggested that this could be done "along waterways" but Keenan said "Don't limit it." He suggested that there may be lots of other reasons for easements. Bob Ayres again wanted to "make it general" and leave the LCRA out. He pointed out that "They (LCRA) don't have to be the purchaser or holder of easements. But Becky asked "Why not LCRA?" She pointed out that others "might not have this in their mission." Keenan built on this. said that there are lots of other entities but "Let's try to change the culture of LCRA and expand their mission."

At this point, Tom, directing his question to LCRA representative Fred Crawford asked "How much can we ask LCRA to give? How much fat is on that cow?" Fred responded "This is ratepayers' money and we take that seriously." He pointed out that LCRA had spent $1 million on conservation this year. He said "We don't have staff to oversee conservation easements." He felt that perhaps they could expand to include the purchase and management of easements but that it would be a board decision because "It would be new ground for us." Tom theorized that such action might "cause a ratepayer rebellion."

Phil said that he didn't "feel comfortable with restricting this to the LCRA who are not in the land management business." Richard expressed his ongoing fear about government ownership of land, saying that he was "concerned that LCRA might condemn land to connect easements." He pointed to the Barton Creek Greenbelt where "you could be arrested for trespassing." He reiterated that his concern was about a "government entity" owning land and restricting access. To this, Becky, a lawyer who specializes in conservation easements, replied that "the government can't condemn land for conservation easements." She said it has to be voluntary.

Bob Ayres now suggested adding the phrase "by willing sellers or donors" to eliminate confusion about condemnation. This was accepted by the group.

Tom, now trying a slightly different variation suggested that this sort of thing should possibly not be sent to LCRA because "what we're talking about is not on their plate." He feared that they might just respond that conservation easements are "not my department." Rebecca Hudson jumped in then to say that she thought "this might be an area that the LCRA would be willing to go into." Tom replied "I'm speaking much more broadly here than just this point." At this point I said to myself "huh?"

Linda Ellis then said "We've been given the opportunity to be visionary." She colorfully continued "Let's don't chop our feet off before we step out on the visionary path." Keenan supported this, saying "Many of the things we are envisioning are overarching. I would like to see the LCRA expand its role as conservers of land - the water line comes, something gets conserved." Richard chimed in "Joe Beal is giving us time to create a vision, not just what the LCRA can do." He continued "LCRA is powerful and people listen when they talk." Linda Ellis embellished this saying "Conservation is unavoidably part of their mandate."

The rarely heard from Linda Lowenthal pointed out that "According to Fred (Crawford) they (LCRA) would like actions they can take as well as vision." Then she proposed that the group move on to "the hard part - regulations." Keenan said "I suggest #8" (The draft of this item reads: "The LCRA should develop and enforce stricter Non Point Source pollution ordinances for the watershed areas of Travis County. The LCRA should encourage the goals of a community's majority by limiting the LCRA's presence and influence to what the Community's majority wants.")

Linda Ellis said she could agree if this were "broad and not on an impossible timeline." Bob added "Make it refer to other regulatory agencies as well."

My notes get a little confused here but I think the discussion shifted to article #15, which says "LCRA delays providing water to the HPR area until there are qualified and trained personnel with adequate time and authority to review development designs to insure [later changed to 'ensure"] that they actually comply with all requisite standards, (including, in the case of the developments currently seeking water, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Guidelines), and to monitor these developments as they are built, and to effectively enforce any violations."

Linda Ellis said that she did not want "not until", which she felt was "negative" wording because it implies "don't come until..." She clearly wants the water to come and said she would prefer wording like "Bring the water with full intention and capability of enforcing stricter NPS guidelines." Richard Grumbles said "I'm concerned that with the CCN (Certificate of Convenience and Necessity) they'd have to provide water." He feared that developers could say "I'm operating on less strict rules."

Karen Hadden now joined the discussion saying "There needs to be an agreement in place if water is supplied."

ED. NOTE: At this point, the minutia of the discussion conspired with my carpel tunnel writing hand to completely throw my train off the tracks. I'm not sure what happened next but I did pick up a couple of quotes: Tom complained about the wording of the article, expressing the feeling that he "objects to adverbs." Keenan responded "Is there not a time and place for circumlocuitous behaviors?" In the end, they did eliminate an adverb or two but kept one, substituting "actively enforce any violations" for "effectively enforce any violations."

Rebecca expressed her fear that "only new subdivisions would be subject to the restrictions." Fred Crawford offered his opinion that, according to the TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality), with the CCN, LCRA could not "withhold service or impose unreasonable restrictions." He suggested that NPS regulations might be expanded into uncovered areas by saying "Travis County statutory district" rather than just in the LCRA's watershed.

Keenan then asked "How can you expand the service area and not extend enforcement?" Fred responded "Hang your hat on water quality. If water quality rules are in place, then whoever gets the CCN would have to enforce compliance." Rebecca Hudson had the last word at this meeting, saying that the good thing about the LCRA is "they are willing to impose restrictions." [Of course, with the CCN, they may not be able to. There, now I've had the last word.]


This meeting, held on November 3rd, was another doosey. First up for a pre-meeting presentation was Michael Barrett, Associate Director of the Center for Research in Water Issues at UT. He helped write the Fish & Wildlife endangered species protection guidelines and works as a consultant to F&W who do not have enough staff to review everything. When a developer wants to get water from LCRA, the LCRA will often send him the plans to check F&W compliance before passing on the water contract.

He told the group that the Fish & Wildlife guidelines were basically a "softer version of SOS", meaning, I guess, that they were actually less stringent than the City of Austin SOS Ordinance. He said that Austin is in the top of the range countrywide in terms of non-point-source controls. Apparently, across the USA there are very few areas that provide such controls. The city is in with an elite group including Seattle, and the States of Wisconsin and Maryland, who try to limit NPS pollution. The limits in these places though, generally call for only an 80% reduction in the amount of pollutants allowed in the run-off. I suppose this means that they allow run-off to contain 20% pollution from every development?

As to whether it is possible to keep the environment pristine with development, Michael opined that you can make plans and tweak all you want but without sufficient inspection and enforcement mechanisms it is just not possible. He said that the LCRA is the only possible enforcement agency but they don't like the enforcer position - being the "water quality police". He said that their Republican-appointed conservative board does not want them in that role. Mr. Barrett did feel though, that "it would be nice if someone went out and checked." When questioned about the effectiveness of Fish & Wildlife guidelines, he gave them an "8 out of 10".

Damian Priour asked if any people had brought plans to him from the Hamilton Pool Road area to see if they met Fish & Wildlife guidelines. Michael's answer was "no". Damian followed up asking again (just to be sure) and again Michael said "not that I can remember." I guess that, as far as Michael Barrett knows anyway, no developer out here can be sure that they are actually meeting those guidelines.

The second pre-meeting presenter was Don Nyland of the Texas Department of Transportation. He jumped right into answering questions. He said that a "detached" hike and bike trail was unlikely because of the maintenance it would require. What TxDOT would rather do, he said, is "build 8-10' shoulders" which would make bicycling much safer. Hike and bike trails, he said, are generally "circular" and parks are a better environment for them - not done within the department's highway projects. The department does sometimes work with counties and help with funding if the counties want to build trails. He also said that the legalities of bike lanes along the roads are prohibitive, since driveways and the like crossing those trails make them very difficult.

When asked what improvements, if any, are planned for our road, he responded that "nothing for Hamilton Pool Road is budgeted right now." There is, he said, a 3-5 year budgeting process so it is unlikely that any improvements will be funded by the state in the near term. He did allow though, that if developers want to absorb the cost of road improvements, the process can be sped up considerably (but rarely in less than a 3-4 month time frame). Projects he pointed to where that is happening are the Galleria on 71 and a turn lane on HPR by Cueva (which is being funded by the City of Bee Cave).

Of course, there is always the death factor. Don pointed out that "the more people who die (along a particular stretch of road), the more likely something will get funded."

The difficulties of improving our road include the fact that lots of additional right of way would have to be purchased. For a 4 lane highway with a turn lane (I don't know about you but that is just what I've been dreaming about), they need about 150' of right of way. In addition, such construction plans must be passed by NEPA (the National Environmental Policy something or other) as well as the TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) to make sure they would cause no problems with endangered species, etc. Hurdles - good.

When asked if the DOT might straighten, widen and raise the Pedernales River crossing, Don said "no, that's county road." Apparently, the county did once ask DOT about building a new bridge over the river but it was determined that it could cost $10-25 million and there would be no benefit because there is no problem with the low water crossing and there is really no need at present. This is a really good thing from my perspective since a huge bridge, with traffic whizzing by within a stone's throw of our house, would certainly have a deleterious effect on our little piece of paradise. Again though, if a deep-pockets developer wanted to put up the dough, the department might be willing to reopen the discussion.

On the subject of road abuse caused by development, Mr. Nyland said that "there is no law requiring developers to pay" for problems they create.

Finally, when asked about the possibility of a scenic corridor being established here, Don said that anything above the cost of the roadway itself would have to be a county expense. He pointed out that they would have to buy extra right of way because they can't require landowners to maintain a scenic easement by not developing part of their land.

Then the actual meeting began and oh, what a meeting it was. It began with a discussion of reaching a consensus on how to achieve clean water. Tom Kemler started the ball rolling with a complaint that the group's established guidelines for consensus had not been followed at the previous meeting. Linda Ellis agreed, noting that the process had been hung up by just one person. Juli then jumped in and made a heart-wrenching apology for her behavior at that last meeting. She said how bad she felt over "the pain and frustration" caused by that abbreviated process. She vowed to follow the guidelines from then on. No alterations, however, would be made to the memo already sent to the LCRA board, which contained only 5 totally agreed-upon points.

Bob ayres then seemed to defend Juli's actions, saying that they had been asked to propose only points that they assumed the group already agreed on and that people hadn't followed that directive. He said that they had, in fact, made points that they knew wouldn't have consensus.

Karen Hadden then made her first of several efforts to get the rules changed to allow for an occasional "straw poll" to determine the general feelings of the group in the absence of absolute consensus. Smitty followed up saying "I'm not sure consensus will be the end result of this group." He asked "How do we report and characterize our work without consensus?"

Phil Terrell said "We are here to create bubbles." He felt that details should be left for someone else to work out but that this group should focus on "generalities that we can reach consensus on." Juli siezed the opportunity to point out that "this group is not constituted to vote." She said it has an unbalanced composition and that if it were to be a voting group, there would be more developer representation. To that I say bunk. The group has a fair representation of the composition of the road's population. In my opinion, if anything, it is unfairly weighted on the side of development.

Then Tom said that it is "not positive to say 'I want my point of view represented even if there isn't consensus'" since "we all agreed to consensus."

Becky Combs, in response to Phil's statement, opined that the group's mission included working out details.

Tom then refined his earlier complaint, saying "it all happened so fast, I didn't get a chance to get my hand up." This, to me, sounded like he was saying he would have objected to more points at the previous meeting had Juli not rejected points as soon as she saw a single hand in opposition.

Karen, again arguing for voting when large numbers of group members seemed to agree, expressed her concern that "points of view are being thrown out because of a few dissenters." To this, Judy, the other facilitator, argued for consensus by saying "United, not divided makes us more influential." [Sounds downright presidential to me.]

Becky chimed in that her interpretation of following the guidelines is recording various points of view in the absence of consensus. She wanted to further clarify the tenor of the group by recording the numbers of people in favor of a particular idea. Juli responded that they would flat out "not use numbers (of votes)".

Bob Ayres then said "What interests me is finding where a diverse group can find common interests and agreement." Smitty replied that "it would be a lost opportunity" if the findings of the group were "too global". He said that the LCRA board doesn't have time to consider all the details, that they "want them from us." By way of explanation of the kind of details he was referring to, Smitty pointed out that he had recently spent 6 hours trying to match up group goals with existing laws. Linda Ellis siezed on that to suggest that Smitty be used as a resource to do the detail work. Then she seemed to negate that by saying something about not being able to agree to the detail that Smitty derived from his 6 hours of work since she hadn't done the research herself.

Damian, returning to the "why not vote?" theme, asked if the reporting could not at least use percentages. He asked why would you want to give a false perspective by submitting points of view without supporting numbers. Juli responded that numbers are for voting but "not honest in a group set up for consensus".

Rebecca Hudson said that she wanted the group to "stop taking polls and talk about issues." She also wanted to "stop talking about process". [If I were allowed to speak, I would have seconded that one. But wait, there is no seconding in the consensus process.]

Then Randy Rice offered his opinion that "the process is so overly cleansed that it can't reflect what this community thinks." [I'd second that one too.]

Rebecca said she felt that "any descriptive words" such as "many, few, etc." sounds like voting.

And, with Juli's assurance that she would try to accurately record the various opinions, an actual (if brief) discussion of the issues at hand began. First, Keenan Smith suggested a rewording of one of the draft actions to read "Encourage conveyance of conservation easements by educating landowners about the benefits." Tom, never one to hold back on a tweak, asked "Why specify how? Why not just leave it at "Encourage..." Smitty allowed that "details provide tools to accomplish" the group's goals. Tom then argued that the 10 commandments were much more powerful than any federal law because of the detailed nature of laws vs. the simplicity of the 10 commandments. He said "More detail is more potential for exposing weaknesses." Becky again stressed the value of details, saying "we need to provide a roadmap."

Keenan, probably hoping to change the subject, mentioned that he thought the LCRA should set aside a portion of their revenues to acquire conservation easements. To this, Robert Potts kicked in that for the Highway 290 pipeline, they had hook-up fees to go into conservation. He thought that maybe that could be done here, to which Keenan added that the Land Trust is always looking for funding.

Karen suggested that a compromise might be to use the general point, then elucidate with the specific suggested ideas that were being kicked around the table. Devon Humphrey expanded on that with the idea of an executive summary, followed by expanded detail. LCRA man-on-the-scene Fred Crawford was asked his opinion and he responded that he thought the group could put in as much detail as they wanted. To this, Tom reiterated that he was "still not comfortable with detail."

Linda Ellis said that "telling the LCRA to put money into conservation is preaching to the choir. That is their mandate".

Bob Ayres' presentation approach would be to "put in what we have consensus on but bold out the major points" so they are easily seen. Rick Schroeter, with his characteristic to-the-pointness said "Be brief but be specific." Phil picked up on the executive summary idea and suggested "a two page summary" with a book of supporting documents.

At this point, the group had achieved consensus on two ideas as details for the general point of encouraging conservation easements and I, for one, was exhausted. But it wasn't to end just yet. Linda Ellis got last licks saying that she didn't want the tap fee to be targeted for use for easements. She said she doesn't want to "pressure them (LCRA) to increase their pricing structure."

And that was it. The three remaining meetings are November 11th, 18th and December 1st. Let's see what happens at the next one. Stay tuned.


The regular (7:00 start time) part of this meeting was preceded by a presentation by Randy Goss and others from the LCRA on their monstrosity of a master plan for piping western Travis County. Randy noted that there are currently a total of about 3000 LUEs, which stands for Living Unit Equivalents (but means individual water hookups) on their system. Could they have come up with a more obscure term? How about "taps" guys? Right now, Randy told the group, there are requests for an additional 6,000 LUEs over the next 15 years. They project that by 2035, that number will expand to 43,000, serving 50-60% of the area's total population.

He explained that subdivisions such as Rebecca Hudson's Rocky Creek Ranch require on-site sewage treatment because, since the '80s, there has been a ban on discharging effluent into the lake for developments less than 10 miles away. I don't get that but I think it is what he said.

Randy went on to say that the LCRA board had instructed the staff to see about applying to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity (CCN) to provide water services for the region. The CCN, essentially, gives the holder a monopoly for providing such services in the covered area. It also requires the holder to provide service to anyone in the area who is willing to pay the established price. Randy assured us that they were not going to "build it (the pipeline) and hope they come." I think Randy is sincere and hope he is right but, given Manager Joe Beal's dreams of a water empire, I suspect that there will be pressure to do just that. Smitty asked if the CCN would include wastewater services. The answer was no.

The CCN, Randy said, provides some leverage to put restrictions on development since ther is no competition, therefore no alternatives. John Hatchett pointed out that the CCN would, in fact, take away potential for enforcement power by requiring service when now (without the CCN) it could be denied if certain requirements are not met by the developers.

In the late-breaking news category, we have recently learned that Randy Goss has resigned from the LCRA. It is not clear exactly when that happened but some say it was on Wednesday, the day he came to make the presentation.

After a pretty lengthy discussion of whether or not to allow the LCRA presentation portion of the evening to extend beyond it's scheduled completion time, it was decided to let it go another 20 minutes, after which the actual group meeting began.

The first business of the meeting was to go through the list of 26 bullet points that had been sent in by the members. Those items that were supported by concensus were to be presented to the LCRA board in the form of a progress report memo. The points, as compiled by facilitator Juli, were:

"Compilation of All the Suggested Bullets for Board Memo 1

Comments on Values
a. We value the natural community to which we belong, and the human community to which we belong.

b. We are working to insure that as we work to protect our natural community, we address the needs of our human community (safety, transportation, utility services, education, recreation).

Comments on Process
c. We are working to insure that poorly planned growth does not destroy the characteristics of the human and natural communities which make the Hamilton Pool Road Corridor a desirable place to live.

d. We have been introduced to innovative models of regional planning that hold great promise, but that cannot be completed in such an abbreviated time frame.

e. We are inviting experts to report to us on our various areas of concern or interest. Example: We realize traffic safety must not be sacrificed for a scenic corridor; the two should complement each other. Efforts are, therefore, planned to attain information from TxDOT on this subject.

f. Recommend that the Randall Arendt "Growing Greener" concept of Subdivision planning be used to conserve natural areas.

Comments on Timing
g. It is important that the 3 stakeholder groups finish their work before any approval of a waterline down Hamilton Pool Road is made by LCRA.

h. The desire to allow the several stakeholders’ committees that have formed to be able to complete their work (within the next 6 months) before there is approval of any contract to extend the waterline down HPR.

i. A consensus that the three stakeholders committees should finish their work (within six months) and LCRA should LISTEN to the results BEFORE approving any contracts for water or wastewater down HPR.

Comment on Waterline
j. Bringing surface water to Hamilton Pool Road will indeed make it more difficult to achieve our stated vision for the future of our community.

Comments on Enforcement
k. There is a need to set into action a plan for enforcing our community’s stated vision for the future of Hamilton Pool Road.

l. A need to have in place monitoring and enforcement entities that can protect natural areas that might be impacted by development.

Comments on Density
m. High density residential and commercial development are not what this community wants.

n. A consensus that large-scale high-density residential developments are not compatible with the existing HPR community.

o. A consensus that high density, large-scale residential development is not compatible with the existing HPR community and not compatible with our future vision for the HPR area (scenic corridor, clear, clean water, natural waterways, dark skies, natural open spaces, and clean air).

Comments on Water
p. This is the last best chance for LCRA to protect the water and the wildlife in the region.

q. Their existing raw water contract has a number of paragraphs and appendixes that can and should be updated modified to assure that the water quality is protected through stronger wastewater control standards, run-off controls, non-point pollution source controls and vegetation standards.. The contract can be modified to assure that runoff controls are inspected regularly, after torrential rains and maintained.

r. The right-of-way over any potential water line should be made available for hike and bike trails and equestrian trails.

s. A consensus that LCRA should not begin a master water project that will promote urban sprawl in this environmentally sensitive area; there is/will be plenty of demand for water in areas east of Austin that are not as delicate as the western Hill Country.

t. A consensus that LCRA should focus on enhancing the water supply through use of rainwater systems and protecting the water supply through effective implementation, monitoring and enforcement of effective water quality controls in the HPR area.

u. A consensus that from a fiduciary, financial and credibility standpoint, LCRA should fix it’s operational problems, for example Sunset Beach water system, before is moves further into the water supply business.

Comments on Wildlife
v. Recommend that the TPWD "Private Lands and Habitat Program" be used in the preservation and development of wildlife habitat in Subdivision natural areas.

w. A consensus that LCRA should use its available funds to protect water and wildlife through the purchase of conservation easements in the HPR area.

Comment on Traffic Safety
x. Recommend that center turn lanes and additional law enforcement on HPR be implemented.

Comments on Vegetation
y. A need to develop a strategy to utilize native plants, reduce water usage, discourage St. Augustine lawns and landscaping that is out of character for the region, and to discourage the use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides in the region.

Comments on Aesthetics and Dark Skies
z. A need for sign ordinances and requirements for downlighting."

These points were brought before the group in rapid-fire succession and the members were asked if anyone objected to each as it came up. Of the 16 group members at the meeting, 13 or 14 (81%) were in total affirmative agreement about just about every point. All of the points f - z (21 of the 26 points) were objected to (essentially vetoed) by Rebecca Hudson (who, by the way, spent a good portion of her time at the meeting working crossword puzzles). One or 2 other people disagreed with some of those same points (it all went by so fast that it was difficult to tell). In the end, they were left with consensus on only 5, rather innocuous "motherhood and apple pie" type items.

But here is where the railroad job happened. When members asked for further discussion on the rejected points in an effort to achieve concensus, Juli put the kibosh on it with the declaration that there was not enough time. This, it seems, is a violation of the group's guidelines, which state:

"Use of consensus.
The Core Group will make decisions by consensus.  Consensus is defined as
each member freely agreeing to support an item.  Group decisions will be made only with the concurrence of all members represented at that meeting.  If consensus is reached, all attending members agree to support that decision publicly.

Failure to reach consensus.
All members share responsibility for the process and the decisions.  When consensus is close but someone disagrees, the member who disagrees must state the reasons for their objection and give an idea for how their needs and the needs of the group can be met.  If the Core Group cannot reach consensus on an item, the facilitators will record the various opinions and interests of the group and note the lack of consensus.  Members retain their right to comment positively or negatively about any item on which the group was unable to agree."

No discussion was allowed and no dissenting members were asked to "state the reasons for their objection and give an idea for how their needs and the needs of the group can be met." Hmmmmm!


While floating in the river, I suddenly came to, remembered the meeting and swam quickly back to my clothes. I ran up the hill and dashed across the road in time to catch the last part of Keenan Smith and Devon Humphrey's impressive Powerpoint presentation on how the conservation design concepts of Randall Arendt might be used in arriving at a plan and preparing this group's final report. With computer and projector, they showed a map of the area, then were able to overlay such imagery as creeks, properties and traffic patterns. Keenan made the point that using Arendt's conservation development principles, private development interests could be brought on board. They could be shown how green building is what people want and just good business.

Much of the ensuing discussion was centered on how the group would proceed - whether to continue with the planning process already in motion (Plan A) or to adopt the new process proposed by Devon & Keenan (Plan B). In the end, it was Plan J that won. It was decided to continue on the current path, while bringing in outside consultant/presenters and using some of the visual presentation capabilities that Keenan and Devon demonstrated.

Facilitator Juli restated the 4 major areas of focus that the group had agreed upon - water, clean air/dark skies (lumped together, though I see no connection), open spaces and establishing a scenic corridor. Several concerns were voiced about unincluded issues. Rebecca Hudson asked if the group couldn't discuss TxDOT (Department of Transportation), schools and emergency services. Juli responded that these items could only be included if others were dropped. Smitty Smith wanted strong consideration to be given to wildlife. Becky Combs pointed out that open space includes wildlife. Rick Schroeter said his main concern was traffic safety. Richard Grumbles added on to that the very real possibility that these new proposed toll roads could make Hamilton Pool Road a heavily trafficked bypass route (as if I didn't have enough to worry about).

Juli then asked that each group member state, in 60 seconds or less, what "keeps them up at night" in the way of obstacles to achieving their vision for the area. Here are their causes for insomnia:
• Damian Priour said that, though he knows that most in the group won't agree, he feels that the vision will only be achieved by "keeping people away". He said "I don't buy into the idea that growth is inevitable." Go Damian!
• Sandy Wood talked about the fact that Highways 620, 71 and 183 are "out of control", that they suffered from a "snowball" effect and that he wants "to keep that snowball from happening here."
• John Hatchett said his fear was "loss of community".
• Richard Grumbles worries about "wall to wall houses, four lanes of traffic, being forced from the land by heavy regulations and losing private property rights because people think land should be publicly owned."
• Devon Humphrey said he came out here knowing growth would happen. He feels that "people want the water and worry about traffic and wildfire. To protect the area he wants "land use and conservation planning".
• Keenan Smith is concerned about a "future vision". He worries about "the inability of people who love the area to have a say" and he worries that there is "no planning".
• Becky Combs worries about wildlife. She said that "dark skies and subdivisions don't go together". She also mentioned that so far, western Travis County has avoided the growth that is rampant in the rest of the Austin area (and, would like to keep it that way).
• Rick Schroeter would like to see "road improvement for safety".
• Rebecca Hudson worries how to "raise enough money to buy property rights". She feels that she is a conservation developer and would like to see others do the same. [Note: According to Randall Arendt's conservation development principles to which Rebecca claims to subscribe, 50% of the "developable" land should not be developed. This does not appear to be the case with her Rocky Creek Ranch subdivision.] Rebecca also repeated a variation on her "we're old timers" theme, saying something like "maybe you (the other members of the group?) aren't here long enough to remember, but traffic and roads are coming." [Yes Rebecca, in the near term, to a large extent thanks to you.]
• Phil Terrell's "number one dream is good, clean water. Number two is wildlife." He doesn't want to see "a repeat of what's happening in Westlake."
• Tom Kemler feels that "we are fighting the wrong battle". He said that "the LCRA is there to provide water" and wants to know "why are we dealing with the LCRA?" His feeling is that we should be dealing with the Texas legislature. He also said that Hamilton Pool Road is "a spoke on a wheel and the Austin end is a lot different from out here (the western end)". He worries that there is "no unifying vision for Hamilton Pool Road".
• Linda Ellis said that she has "worried about safety issues for 18 years". She is sure that "growth will come, even if the (LCRA) water line does not come" and she feels that growth without the water line would be the worst possible situation.
• Linda Lowenthal said that "population will be fueled by large subdivisions". These subdivisions will be populated with suburbanites, who "have different values". This, she fears, will lead to "loss of community". [I second that emotion.]
• Smitty Smith said "no Ben White Blvd." He worries about "no enforcement, not enough parkland and assuming wse come up with a vision, how do we sell it?" [Amen.]
• Bob Ayres worries that it will be difficult to keep planning working because "economic drivers are so intense". He also fears that "counties don't have adequate enforcement and the LCRA doesn't have an appetite for land use planning."
• And finally (on his second time around) John Hatchett expressed his nightmare - "apartments like those on Steiner Ranch will come with the water." [Thanks, John. Now I can't sleep.]

Juli then brought up the interesting news that she has been receiving emails from an anonymous source, saying that there are large landowners along the road whose points of view are not being represented in the planning. The group's feeling seemed to be that people had been offered opportunities to get involved but, just to make sure all voices are heard, those who know large landowners will speak with them and bring their concerns back to the group.

Regarding future expert speakers, Juli told the group that because Fish and Wildlife is involved in a lawsuit, the person from there that the group would like to have speak cannot come. Sandy suggested that somewone from CAMPO be added to the presentation from TXDOT.

Richard Grumbles brought up the desire of landowners to see proper restoration done in the aftermath of pipeline construction. Linda Ellis suggested that they might not want restoration done to the previous (unnatural) conditions.

Becky Combs would like to get information from the school districts regarding their plans and projections. And Rick Schroeter would like the same sort of info from the local EMS providers.

Smitty expressed the fear that the discussion was getting away from the idea of a scenic corridor. Damian, who has researched that concept, pointed out that it was the domain of the US Parks Dept. and seemed to be a difficult row to hoe. Becky told the group of a plan, put together about 5 years ago, by a professor named Dr. Kimmel (she thought) for a scenic corridor. The plan was, apparently, rejected. But Becky opined that conditions may be different today and she would try to find out more about that plan and bring it to the group.

The meeting then adjourned but private discussions went on for close to another hour and only ended when John Ahrns turned out the lights and encouraged the stragglers to depart.


Darn, missed another one. I guess I'm not on the Doc Juli distribution list anymore. In any case, I did hear a bit about the meeting.

When asked, Fred Crawford, the LCRA observer at these meetings, told the group that he writes a report after each meeting and then passes it along to someone else. That person synopsises the report and passes it along to the board. Fred, apparently, never gets to review how his report was edited so it is difficult to know exactly what picture of the local planning process the board is getting.

Mr. Crawford also mentioned that the LCRA has no authority to enforce their own non-point-source pollution regulations with regard to the Hudson subdivision because it is not in the Lake Travis watershed. It was also mentioned that, unfortunately, the TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) is 3 years behind in their inspections.

Again, they broke down into small groups and presented to each other pictures (which they had been asked to bring) representing their visions for the future of the Hamilton Pool Road corridor. Some brought photos of the beautious environs. Some brought illustrations of where the road might be improved, where development might best occur, etc. Rebecca Hudson brought the plat of her subdivision as her suggestion for how the area might look in the future. Then, in order to demonstrate how conservation-minded and what a low density developer she is, she brought a second version of a plat of her land, showing a potential 1,900 lots. She told the group that she could have done what the alternate plat shows instead of what she considers to be low density - her subdivision with 468 homes, each lot with 60-80' of frontage.


I have to admit I spaced out this meeting - thought it was on Thursday and was prepared to attend then. Since this Wednesday, September 29th meeting slipped by me, this report will be short (and gentle).

The main positive (and feel-good) activity was creation of a master list of what, along the road, the group members want to preserve. It was done by breaking down into 3 small groups, each of which generated its own list. Then, after the groups presented their wish lists to the larger group, all the brainstormed ideas were consolidated. It all went very smoothly with easy concensus (though, within the small groups no concensus was necessary since it was just brainstorming). Among the agreed-upon desires were open spaces, no high density housing, no strip malls, protection of wildlife, a mix of old and new residents, and protection of archeological and natural features.

LCRA attorney Madison Jechow was at the meeting. When asked if the legislature had passed a law allowing counties to impose zoning, his response was maybe yes, maybe no. This could be good news if the "yes" part is correct. Of course the bad news is that, if LCRA's own lawyer can't interpret the law it must be even more vague than most of what the leg does. He did make it clear that the LCRA has no authority to do land planning. This is yet another good reason for the LCRA to hold up on any new construction. If the counties do indeed have the power to restrict density, the LCRA should certainly wait until such restrictions are put into effect before contributing to unnecessary sprawl.

Just as the meeting was about to end, Rebecca Hudson, attending for the first time, asked if perhaps there is a place closer to town in which to hold these meetings. Apparently she felt (and Juli seemingly agreed) that the Westcave facility was way out a dark and dangerous road. Ironic, eh? Rebecca's proposed subdivision would be a major contributor to considerably more traffic, and therefore more danger on the road. There was objection to moving the venue because of potential disruption to the process now smoothly in motion. It was agreed that the next meeting will be held at Westcave and, at that meeting, there will be further discussion of the possibility of changing the meeting place.


Julie leads the groupGotta hand it to facilitators Juli, Judy and Mary. They really know how to manage a meeting. They get it to run on time and make sure everybody has a say. I am impressed with their skills (skills I've never had).

The new members introduced themselves (most for the second time): Environmental lawyer Becky Combs wants to "preserve the rural landscape". She is a there representing the Travis Audobon Society. Tom Kemler wants to "ride the development tiger and preserve what we can." He also said he wants to help shape the "best of the inevitable" growth that will occur. He is a financial analyst. Robert Potts has spent "12 years preserving landscapes" and he wants to "keep water quality intact." And Rick Schroeter, whose family has lived in Cypress Mill since 1883, is there to represent the concerns of the people of the far west end of Hamilton Pool Road. He claims to be "short of talents" but I doubt that.

Becky Combs & Rick Schroeter
Becky Combs & Rick Schroeter

One member, Cecil Perkins, has dropped out altogether and another, Mike Murphy, announced that he would like to drop out of the regularly meeting group and, instead, to become the group's official photographer. In that role, he would document the road and land's condition, with his work to be offered as pictorial support for the group's final recommendations. This seemed to me to be a terrific offer because he is a talented nature photographer. His desire to make that switch seems like it should have been a simple matter but it wasn't for this group. A longish discussion ensued, in which objections and limitations were tossed about. Linda Ellis wanted to make sure that he didn't just show the beauty of the road and landscape (though, for the most part, that is what we've got). She seemed to want him to seek out and photograph whatever is there, warts and all. Further discussion revealed that some might consider Bert & Ernie's one of the warts. I, personally, disagree. I think it has its own funky, rural charm. But I digress. Keenan Smith wanted Mike's role to be directed, Tom Kemler wanted Mike to report and show the group his work on a "regular basis" and others seemed to want to control and direct Mikes work. Damian pointed out that Mike, as an artist, needed to be pretty much left alone to do his thing. John concurred, saying that the other group members (except Damian) are not qualified as artists. In the end, Mike (an agreeable guy) agreed to report in once a month with a short presentation and to take some direction from the group.

Then they addressed the question of whether or not to allow environmental activist giant (and SEED Coalition director) Karen Hadden into the group. This discussion got pretty active too, with Tom Kemler holding out against her inclusion. His argument was that because Smitty had already nominated Becky to become a member, his nomination of his partner Karen would be giving him too much influence. In fact, Becky was not brought in by Smitty. She had been at the earlier meeting on her own and Smitty saw her there and suggested that she could fill an identified gap, being a representative of an outside environmental organization. John wanted to know if Karen represented a different point of view than Smitty but when someone suggested that two people from the same household should not be there, John argued that household should not be a criterion. Others made similar points, wondering if Smitty and Karen were actually independent or agreed on everything (as all couples do, right?). Damian, always the voice of reason, chimed in that they were not only different people but have different skill sets to offer the group - he being a politician she being a scientist. Bob Ayres echoed that sentiment and also reminded Tom (who was still steadfast in his objection at that time) that he had been brought into the group after the fact, just as Karen was wanting to do. Linda Ellis was concerned about Karen's independence also and initially objected to her inclusion but, in the interest of concensus, withdrew her objection. She did say, as did Tom, that she wanted Karen (trained as a botonist) to be a resource but Karen made it pretty clear that she wasn't interested in just being an outside resource. In the end, Tom, the lone holdout, relented and Karen was brought, slightly bruised from bouncing around the table, into the group.

There was some discussion of finding someone to fill the slot abandoned by Cecil Perkins but eventually decided that his point of view was represented by a couple of other members.

Juli then presented her draft version of goals for the group - "To maximize influences with other organizations and agencies by finding common agreement on a vision for the future and overcoming barriers to that vision." This was agreed upon pretty quickly (whew!). Next, Juli outlined a schedule for the group's activities up to preparation of a document by December. This included a linkage with the Southwest Travis Advisory Panel to try to get this local group's findings included in the Advisory Panel's final report.

In reviewing the schedule, Bob observed that finalizing the report in December might be too late for it to be considered by LCRA staff in their recommendations prior to the December LCRA board meeting. Juli suggested that they could keep the LCRA informed of their ideas all along the way and this, it was agreed, would be done.

Juli took this opportunity to remind the group that, though she knew that some of its members joined with the idea of influencing the LCRA about the proposed water line, that is not the purpose of the group. Most people agreed that they do want to try to influence the LCRA, regardless of the stated purpose of the group (go team!).

The discussion then turned to the guidelines that Juli and other facilitators had presented for the group to follow. There seemed to be general agreement but the clause about individuals' contact with the media sparked some lively conversation. The guidelines say "Members and alternates will characterize their remarks to the press as being from them as individuals or from their organization, rather than being from the core group as a whole." Members worries ranged from "Too many interests might be represented to the press, causing confusion" (Bob) to "Members shouldn't use their membership to get leverage to get published" (Tom). There were other variations on the same themes but in the end, agreement was reached on a principle expressed by Keenan - "Agreeing to the guidelines is a pledge to be concious of possible outcomes from your actions (outside the group)."

It was pretty quickly decided that there would be no alternate members of the group. Bob suggested that, "given the size and diversity of the group, no alternates are needed". Linda Ellis added that "if we can't be at a meeting, we should put our ideas in writing" for presentation to the group.

Next, Juli reminded the group that Rebecca Hudson, who had been begged to participate, has agreed and would be at the next meeting. She disclosed that Rebecca had requested that the last sentence of section 3A of the guidelines, which says "If concensus is reached, all members agree to support that decision publicly and to refrain from disagreeing with it in the media", be deleted. Rebecca, apparently, wants freedom of speech (hmmm, not a bad concept). In the end (I think) Phil's suggestion that the last part of that sentence, beginning with "and refrain..." be deleted, was accepted.

More fun next time, kiddies. That's all for now. Meeting adjourned.

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Residents along Hamilton Pool Road had expressed an interest in engaging in their own local planning, outside of the regional water quality planning process. LCRA offered the services of a meeting facilitation company, paid for by the LCRA and operating under general guidelines established by the LCRA Board of Directors. Following an initial public meeting on July 27th, the first official meeting was held at West Cave Preserve on September 2, 2004. Local planning initial core group

The 13 member core group at that meeting was made up entirely of local property owners, all of whom were selected by facilitator Juli Fellows and her staff.

Julie Fellows
Juli Fellows

Members of the group include Randy Rice, who offers his analytical skills to the group, Damian Priour, an artist and sculptor who says his skills include being able to get to the point quickly and Tom "Smitty" Smith, who offers his consumer and energy-related lobbying experience as a useful asset.

Smitty & Keenan Smith
The Smiths - Smitty and Keenan

Also in the group are Phil Terrel, a Deer Creek resident who is a specialist in systems development, Keenan Smith, an architect and planner, who worked with a large developer in California before moving here, Sandy Wood, who has a degree in environmental policy and Linda Ellis, of Westcave Estates, who has sold 200 lots in that subdivision. In introducing herself, Linda expressed the opinion that "water for the sake of water" is not good. She would like any surface water brought into the area to be for the needs of existing residents. How one would keep new developments from coming along and hooking into that pipe is beyond the knowledge of this reporter.

Linda Ellis, Sandy Wood, Phil Terrel
Linda Ellis, Sandy Wood &
Phil Terrel

Linda Lowenthall comes to the table representing the 30 or so families, many elderly, who live along Crumley Ranch Road. Bob Ayres, whose family owns the conservation-deeded Shield Ranch, is very involved in land trust stewardship and conservation efforts. Devon Humphrey brings the skills of a geographer to the party. Richard Grumbles wants to preserve the unique qualities of the land his family has lived on for generations. The original core group also contained my hero John Hatchett, who rescued one of the Formby tracts from dense habitation by purchasing it himself for a sustainable, low density development

Richard Grumbles, John Hatchett & Devon Humphrey
Richard Grumbles, John Hatchett
& Devon Humphrey

Four other candidates who showed up at the meeting plus one who did not attend were added by the core group to their ranks, making the current working group 18 members. Those added are Rick Schroeter, who represents the far west section of Hamilton Pool Road, Becky Combs, an environmental lawyer, who represents people with an interest in the corridor from a recreational and conservation point of view, Tom Kemler, who represents Saddletree Ranch, Michael Murphy, a nature photographer, and Robert Potts, Executive Director of West Cave Preserve, representing the parks and preserves along the road.

In addition, the (willing volunteer) group members, felt that high-density development interests were not sufficiently represented in the group. To fill that perceived gap, they agreed that they wanted to recruit Rebecca Hudson, who is trying to develop a subdivision at Crumley Ranch Road. Two participants volunteered for the job of contacting Rebecca (who has already declined once) and asking her again if she will join the group.

Keenan Smith
Keenan Smith

Actually, Cecil Perkins, whose self-introduction included his family's history in the area, forgot to mention that he had developed a large subdivision in South Austin. There is even a Cecil Lane in that subdivision.

Cecil Perkins
Cecil Perkins

Facilitator Juli Fellows described the goals of the group as seeking concensus as to a vision for the corridor and then using whatever means are available to implement that vision. And though she said their charge was "not to say yay or nay to the water line", it is apparent that most, if not all of the participants have very strong feelings about the LCRA line. I predict a great deal of difficulty in keeping that water line out of the discussions. While I'm predicting, I also see a real challenge ahead in achieving any sort of true concensus about a vision for the area, given the diverse nature of the group and contentiousness of some of its members. But maybe that's just me. I would like to see the process succeed and then all the governing entities (LCRA, counties, state) fall into line and support the group's recomendations. But then I would also like to see an end to terrorism and hunger, universal health care, the instant blossoming of world peace and a resounding defeat of George Bush. Call me a dreamer.

For more on the September 2nd meeting, here is Juli's "Draft Meeting Summary".

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