Kent White, Ed & Lynda Crowell, Benilde Rocha-Cartwright and I met yesterday via Zoom with Lauren Ice of Frederick, Perales, Allmon & Rockwell. The law firm was recommended by Abbe (of Signal Alliance) and by Benilde (via UT LAW). The law firm requires a $3,000 retainer, which is either applied to your final bill or returned if unused, and the rates of the attorneys at the firm are $250/hr for partners, $175/hr for associates and somewhere around $60-$75/hr for administrative support. They have experience in TCEQ permitting matters and in local land use matters involving the City of Austin and Travis County. Lauren Ice joined the firm in 2018. Prior to practicing law, she worked with the Texas Campaign for the Environment and the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide. Lauren was also a Staff Attorney with Save Our Springs Alliance from 2015-2018.
We sent Lauren a brief missive about the situation in advance of the meeting and developed some questions and concerns in advance to facilitate the best use of her time and our money. Follows are the topics covered.
Organization of the Organization – In Texas we can be an organization just by saying we are one (an “unincorporated “organization). There are advantages to choosing a more structured corporation (LLC) or a 501c with tax advantages. We decided a more organized structure with a well-considered set of by-laws would be best. This will set us up for the long-term. We can just agree to be an organization and open a bank account for now. Kent will move forward with structuring the organization and coming up with Bylaws. His work is somewhat seasonal and he is gearing up for his busy season so he may not be able to put a lot of time into this until after the first of the year. If you are interested in helping in this effort and/or serving on the board let Kent know.
In order to pay for any upcoming legal fees and cover the costs of flyers and signs we are going to need to raise money. We might want to pursue a donation of the old Wynnrock HOA money ($1500 or so). It seems it might be possible to tap into that. I will look into the status of the Wynnrock HOA, determine if it is still viable and will contact Jamie Lamb, the treasurer. We also might get area businesses like Ardent and the Orb recording studio to pony up. I’ve had a few folks say they had didn’t have time to volunteer to the effort but could contribute funds. If you are interested in working on fundraising let us know.
We recommend that we put the lawyer on retainer if the permits are issued. If we can cut Wong off at the pass we won’t need the representation. If the permits are issued we will need lawyers.
The Bermuda Triangle of Authority and Accountability - Austin transportation regulations do not apply in the ETJ and Ledgestone Terrace is a County road, so Travis County will be looking at the traffic impacts during site plan phase. Our county commissioner may have a lot of say in the decision. Unfortunatley Gerald Daugherty is retiring and doesn’t feel he should involve himself. Ann Howard and Becky Bray are running in next weeks election. Ann has been helpful, Becky has not returned an email. Vote, it really matters who our county commission will be. Because we are in the ETJ, the County defers to the City on environmental issues. It may very well be that TxDOT has no role in approving or disapproving the site plan for the concrete plant. TXDOT typically would not get involved in the Site Plan (or the choice of sites) process other than it is likely the City/County will require TXDOT approval for a driveway connection to 290 and/or Ledgestone Terrace.
Permits - Which brings us to permits. Basically, the Texas legislature (with a lot of lobbying money from the Aggregate Association) has set things up so that anyone requesting a permit gets it. We should prepare ourselves for an uphill battle. TCEQ hands have been tied by the legislature. They don’t require a public comment period, they just require notification of neighbors within 440 yards of the facility (not of the property line) and a sign at the property entrance. Our Wong Watch team will need to be vigilant.
As we listened to Lauren we realized it is imperative that we stop this before the application of any permits. We have been told Wong likely won’t submit a Site Plan Application until he has (or is close to) a signed agreement with CRC. His Civil Engineer will need to know the details of the facilities on the property before they can start the civil design required for a Site Plan application. A Site Plan application typically takes +/-60 days to prepare and will likely cost him tens of thousands of dollars. Once he invests that he likely won’t back off.
We believe sending emails to CRC is critical to that effort. We also think we should direct people to email or call Wong if they wish. We should encourage people to be respectful and truthful in all their interactions. But we have to get going quickly. I hope to have the flyers ready for the mail box stuffers tomorrow.
Lauren also said petitions can be very powerful tools. It would be good to add this to our action items. If you are interested in helping with the petition let us know.
I’m sorry this is long-winded but I feel it is important to be as transparent as possible and to educate folks about the process. It is designed to keep us from having a voice and protecting our neighborhood! Please find a way you can help. There is a lot to do!