Lake Travis neighbors voice concerns for endangered bird, environment ahead of massive condo development
Travis Club, a massive 1,047-acre multi-use development, is getting closer to breaking ground in northwest Spicewood despite environmental concerns from nearby neighbors.
The development would include 274 single-family lots, 223 villa units, a marina and a golf course near the mouth of Lake Travis. The project has been proposed multiple times leading up to the vote, first in July 2008 under the project name Vizcaya.
The Travis County Commissioners Court voted 4-1 in favor of the new development—approving utility use and site plans—on Tuesday, bringing it one step closer to construction. Commissioner Brigid Shea cast the dissenting vote.
Concerned neighbors joined in on the meeting, citing concern for the habitat of the endangered Golden-Cheeked Warbler, worsening drought conditions and potential traffic disruptions.
Protecting the Golden-Cheeked Warbler
Concerns have gathered over the habitat stability of the Central Texas native Golden-Cheeked Warbler, which raises its young exclusively in the Hill Country.
Several neighbors have reported vegetation clearing on nesting grounds, which is prohibited by the moratorium between March 1 and Aug. 31, saying that could cause an existential threat to the bird. The developers have said they plan to set aside some land for conservation but have not released detailed plans.
Linda Pollock, a resident of Spicewood, implored the court to oppose the preliminary plan for a number of reasons, namely the damage it would cause to native flora and fauna.
“This land of the proposed development has been untouched, natural and native for many years,” Pollock said. “There are mature native ash juniper trees that could be as old as 50 to 200 years. The continuous canopies that are provided by these mature ash junipers are a habitat for the Golden Cheeked Warbler, which has been sighted in the area.”
During her time, Pollock explained that mature trees also bring up cool groundwater, which reduces erosion and helps with downslope flooding. Pollock said she hoped the court would determine “the development design is inappropriate, outdated and detrimental to the people and the environment.”
Building a golf course in a drought
Travis County is currently under a D4, “extreme drought,” with parts reaching D5, “exceptional drought,” Micah King, representing Kit Bradford with law firm Husch Blackwell, mentioned but brought attention to drought conditions, followed by reiterating the need to protect the warbler.
“In our current drought situation, we’re expected to have a mega-drought over the coming decades and just last week LCRA cut off water to its downstream agricultural customers to honor its firm water contracts,” King said. “Why are we promoting a golf course and issuing an environmental variance when it’s exactly the worst type of use you want to have in a buffer?”
(Travis County Commissioners)
Nearly everyone who spoke brought up the Hill Country’s famously narrow, windy and often dangerous two-lane roadways. Mayor of neighboring Village at Briarcliffe Al Hostetler said their government is “very much opposed” pending a traffic analysis on Bee Creek Road and Thurman Bend Road.
“Early approval will set the stage for disaster,” Hostetler said. “There are ten curves, some of them very tight in that 1 and a half miles. Also, the intersection has been deemed dangerous enough for the highway department to post warning signs on bee creek that say ‘box view.’”
Meanwhile, property association president of Angel Bay Charles Gordon said the analysis will be “critical” on such a “dangerous… winding road.”
The project must now undergo traffic analysis, which is expected to take six-nine months, throughout all four stages of development before the commission will give further approval.
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