If you haven't been able to make any of the meetings thus far, we encourage you to listen to at least the Q & A portion of the meeting at Travis County Precinct #2, found below, which will answer most or all of your questions about the topic. You can get unbiased answers to most of your questions about the law and the politics of the situation directly from our four guest speakers. It's well worth the time spent. We always recommend, of course, listening to the latest meeting for the most current information on the subject.
Our own Gilbert Franco attended the River Place Disannexation Forum on April 6th, and gives the following report:
It was an interesting meeting with approx 50 people there. There were 5 speakers, all attorneys, plus Don Zimmerman.
Most of the topics had to do with how would they get out of their current annexation that is set for 12/2017.
The main consensus that I got out of the meeting was how did they get to that point and why didn't the residents not get to vote on the decision. We know how that works.... Basically they were not proactive.
It appears that the directors of the MUD are the ones that made the agreements with the City of Austin regarding the future annexation in 2009. This agreement is referred to as the SPA Agreement,
STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE CITY OF AUSTIN AND THE RIVER PI.ACE MUNICIPAL UTILITY DISTRICT
See the link to the complete agreement: http://www.riverplacehoa.org/wp-content/uploads/StrategicPartnershipAgreementsignedWExhibits.pdf
A few people were really concerned that the MUD members did not poll the residents on how they wanted to proceed. It is like the Austin City Council or any elected official, once they are in, they are free to make their own decision as they see fit.
There is basically nothing right now they can do until they are fully annexed an then wait to see if COA doesn't perform accordingly.
There were some concerns expressed from one of the board members that once they are fully annexed and then try fight the annexation based on non-performance, that the City of Austin could begin dismantling the infrastructure of the current water plant and if by some chance River Place was successful, the water plant would have to be rebuilt - kind of far fetched, but i guess it is plausible.
A couple of people from different communities expressed that various areas should band together and fight together.
Here is a post from the Disannexation PAC's Facebook page:
We had a great turnout! I promised highlights from the DisAnnexation Legal Forum, and many have requested details. So here it is.
Thanks to all who attended the DisAnnexation Legal Forum last night. We had some 60 to 70 attendees who actively interacted with 5 experienced lawyers and Don Zimmerman (our City Council Member), all who have led successful efforts against cities related to annexation. Here are some insights they offered to us:
1. River Place can definitely fight annexation and win. City annexation is not a “done deal.” Just because it may be difficult does not mean it is not worth doing or that it is impossible.
2. Every successful effort against annexation started with the situation looking difficult. We are not alone in this. Representatives from other communities facing similar issues were in attendance. They shared success stories and encouragement that communities can band together and prevail against cities.
3. There is good reason to fight City annexation. Several attendees were from other communities that had been annexed. They expressed deep regret for failing to resist when they could. They cautioned River Place that the costs and the lack of services will be worse than anticipated, because that was their experience.
4. Most people think of suing the City as the primary method of resistance, and worry that lawyer fees may be many tens of thousands of dollars. Litigation and appeals can be expensive, but it doesn’t always work that way and may not be the case for River Place. For example, one of the lawyers told of a successful effort that cost about $12,000 and emphasized forging political alliances to get relief from annexation. An attendee from another community shared that his neighborhood raised nearly $70,000 in a very short period of time, with large chunks of it coming from a few wealthy residents and a lot of smaller contributions. He stressed that they did the numbers and could see right away that they would come out ahead when they looked at the certainty of immediate increased costs of being annexed and what the long term cost would be had they not opposed the city.
5. Successful resistance to city annexation usually requires a 3-prong strategy involving the following: (a) a litigation plan to slow or invalidate annexation, (b) a political component to get leverage and allies against the City annexation plan, and (c) a legislative plan to join with the very strong reform movement to change the law and reduce unfettered city annexation powers. A bill nearly passed last session and major reform is expected to prevail this next session.
6. No two annexation resistance efforts are the same. What might have worked in one successful effort may not be possible in a different situation. In one effort, litigation may be the dominant approach, in another effort it might be political alliances that are the primary weapon. It was therefore not possible for the lawyers to tell us an exact plan at this moment. A thorough, detailed legal analysis of River Place’s exact situation is necessary before we will know which strategies and options are feasible for specifically us. That requires hiring a lawyer experienced in these types of efforts and paying for a studied legal opinion and strategy.
7. The lawyers and Council Member Zimmerman emphasized that there has to be a strong grass roots campaign that engages the residents and draws support from them and which involves them for a sustained effort to see the resistance through to the end. In short, River Place has to be ready to push back and keep at it, as it will take time and endurance to get free from the City.
8. Where do we start? What can we do? Again, it differs for each community. In our case, the lawyers agreed that my DisAnnex campaign to make this MUD election a referendum on opposing City annexation was a great way to demonstrate whether River Place residents will come out and vote against City annexation when given the opportunity. They stressed that high voter turnout, political clout at the ballot box, and evidence of broad support for opposing annexation is a crucial component to a successful effort against annexation.
9. We heard of a promising strategy that does not involve litigation. Petitioning to become a simple “Statutory City” is among the political strategies that were discussed by the lawyers. This approach would involve a petition by the residents with an application to Austin to be released from the City Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction. It can be done even during the Limited District phase, and at a minimum can delay the ultimate annexation by the City (which could postpone the imposition of increased City property taxes). Sometimes this is done to buy time for other approaches to work, other times communities have actually completed the process and created a purely “defensive city” incorporation. One lawyer identified 5 communities that have successfully done this, and he described how they were able to forge coalitions on the city council in order to prevail on a vote to be released from the ETJ.
10. The lawyers explained that it is possible to incorporate into a small “statutory city” without becoming a complex “home rule city” with taxes for police, fire, and so on. Most people think that if we incorporated, then we just switch one set of problems for another set. However, the lawyers described other small communities that, like River Place, could essentially carry on as the City of River Place while still using the County Sheriff for policing (we already pay County taxes) and the ESD for fire and emergency services (we already pay ESD taxes), just like we already do. Water utilities would be by our own MUD, just like we always have done. There would be some cost with roads and lights being city rather than county responsibility, but other communities have found this to be a very doable expense. I am relating this not to say that this is what River Place should do, because we don’t know that yet. However, it is one example of positive alternative outcomes that are possible and are being accomplished.
11. The city has the upper hand because of how the legislation is currently written. They have deep pockets (tax payer pockets) and fight hard and long. We cannot get permission to hold a vote or referendum on annexation, and as Mr. Zimmerman told us, the City staff position is that they don’t care whether a community wants to be annexed or not. So, the communities that prevail against the City are the communities that don’t give up easily and are willing to fight long and hard.
12. The agreement that the MUD board signed to extend the annexation process and to have the opportunity to convert to a Limited District has many “poison pills” in it to hamstring the MUD from taking action after the agreement was signed. However, the MUD has standing to take certain actions that individuals and other organizations do not. It is also the only elected governmental entity directly devoted to River Place. It is therefore the closest form of governmental leadership for our community, which is why this election is so important.
We can do this if we want to. We can stop the city. We have a lot of talent and resources in River Place. There are talented and experienced lawyers who know what they are doing and are committed to this kind of effort.
I want River Place to remain self-governed by our neighbors. That has worked well for the 16 years that I’ve been a homeowner here. I think it is wrong for the City to take that away from us without us having a right to vote over it. Many people think that is wrong, that is why the law will likely be changed for future annexations. But we can’t count on that to save us, we are already being annexed. The law offers rights to us that we can pursue in the face of annexation. This election is a chance to express whether you want to pursue pressing those rights.
I don’t see my campaign about dis-annexation as “riling everyone up,” as has been said from time to time. We had a room full of good people and 2 hours of very civil, intelligent, interactive discussion with a wide variety of views. We don’t have to all agree on everything to be good neighbors. Several attendees spoke up about not having a vote before, the kind where residents go to the ballot box and make a choice about who they wanted to represent them on the MUD board and on the Limited District board to come, if residents approve the conversion down the road. That is what this election is about. My DisAnnex campaign has given River Place homeowners an opportunity to be heard. A vote for me is a vote to find the best means possible to stop annexation by the City. It is clear that there is no other candidate as committed to that objective than me. If River Place does not want to fight City annexation, then do not vote for me. Vote for the other candidates. This time every River Place homeowner has a very clear choice and an opportunity to exercise that choice on May 7 or in early voting (April 25 to May 3).
As one attendee put it at the meeting, we need to look at the possibilities before us and not just the hurdles. If we do nothing, then River Place will be annexed and we will pay much higher taxes and utilities and receive less service and we will have little local autonomy or control. It doesn’t have to be that way. It shouldn’t be that way. This is worth fighting for, if we are willing to fight for it together. The first step is to vote in the MUD election.
Thanks for your support!
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Wildfire Protection Plan from Lake Travis Fire & Rescue (ESD 6): here
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How to Keep Coyotes Out of Your Yard: Click here
The River Place group is getting more active, and their meetings are being attended by residents of other nearby communities.
Here are some links from that meeting:
River Place Disannexation Facebook Page
A list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) can be found here: FAQs.
Our presentation to the Austin City Council on 12/17/2015: Presentation to City Council.
After an Open Records request, we have WCID 17's original analysis of the annexation/incorporation issue: WCID 17 Attorney's Analysis and WCID 17 FAQs (the short version).
A presentation by HBIC about Hudson Bend flooding, including total value in the flood plain, here: Presentation on Flooding.
Here is our handout from meeting 4, which contains varying levels of detail in a spreadsheet format, complete with citations: Meeting 4 handout
There is a good Q & A on the subject of annexation held recently by the Texas Public Policy Foundation here: TPPF Seminar. It is worth noting here that the legislative solution may only benefit areas which have not already fallen into an ETJ.
The Zucker Report is a fairly damning paper on Austin's Planning and Development Review Department: The Zucker Report Small wonder that businesses don't want to be annexed by the City of Austin.
Because it was discussed at the Sept. 19th meeting at the Yacht Club, here again is the obligatory letter we sent to the City of Austin several months ago:
HBIC letter requesting release from ETJ
And here is Austin's response letter: Austin's response letter
Downloadable City of Austin annexation history from 2000 on: COA Annexation History
Some local tax rates: Local tax rates
State statutes on annexation and incorporation: Texas Local Government Code
If the State statutes make dry reading for you, here is a paper by an attorney on the subject: Bojorquez paper
Austin's web page on annexation and ETJs: COA Annexation and ETJs
And their latest map; note where they have annexed along the waterfront and across the dam, here in yellow: COA map
Here is an article that recently ran in the Statesman about Lost Creek avoiding annexation: Lilly Rockwell's Article About Lost Creek Avoiding Annexation
Here is an old article about Volente's incorporation:
Volente article, page 1
Volente article, page 2
Just change some of the names and this could have been written about Hudson Bend!
Here is an article that recently ran in the Statesman: Lilly Rockwell's Article
And here is a follow-up article concentrating on the legislative aspect: Follow-up Article
This is the latest article in the Four Points News, in PDF format: Four Points News article from 09/23/2015
There was a story in the Four Points News about us on August the 8th: Four Points News article
And one in the Community Impact paper, which is somewhat less encouraging: Community Impact article #1
Here is the follow-up article to the previous one: Community Impact article #2
Some discussion out of Steiner Ranch: Steiner Ranch blog
Lost Creek Braces For Annexation: Lost Creek article #1
A sad story of two annexations: Lost Creek article #2
Alton Moore, Chair, 5407 Phillips Circle, email@example.com, 956-581-5577 (10am-10pm)
Patricia Manning, Treasurer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Vic Manning, email@example.com
Barbara Ancona, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jay Fox, email@example.com
Paolo Busatta, 5514 Westbeach Circle, firstname.lastname@example.org, 512-266-3588 cell
Gilbert Franco, 17019 Rocky Ridge Rd., email@example.com, 512-797-0508 cell
Patrick Johnston, firstname.lastname@example.org, 512-925-9792
Kay Smith-Wenzel, email@example.com, 512.765.6345
You may download the meeting audio here. The meeting proper starts at 18:25, the Q & A session starts at 1:06:16, and Q & A ends at 2:42:35 and pretty much ends the meeting.
Dianne's recording is somewhat shorter and more to the point: alternate recording
Here are some pictures from the meeting: Meeting 3 pictures
Also, here is the document which was passed out at the meeting, courtesy of the Texas Public Policy Foundation. The "Liberty City" concept, with less government rather than more, is basically what we are shooting for, so it's nice to see that others are working toward the same goals elsewhere in the state: TPPF Liberty City PDF
You may play the recording in the player below, or download it here: Meeting Audio
Many of you are familiar with our Treasurer, Pat Manning, from her work with the Austin Yacht Club and various other organizations. Any monies that you might contribute will certainly be in good hands, safe in our bank account. The postcard mailing has been the greatest expense thus far, at $755, with meeting room costs and meals for our invited speakers being the only other expenses of any note, totaling about $130. We have also put some money on deposit with our attorney, and this should be our main expense over the long run.
Checks may be made out to "Hudson Bend Incorporation Committee", and sent to:
Hudson Bend Incorporation Committee c/o Patricia Manning 5805 Lakeside Trail Austin, TX 78734We can now accept donations via Paypal! Clicking on this link will navigate you away from this site for now.
Any unused donations will be returned on a prorated basis where practical. Any questions or comments, feel free to contact me or Pat Manning:
Alton Moore firstname.lastname@example.org 956-581-5577 cell/SMS 10am-10pm Pat Manning email@example.com