By Jerald Pinson jpinson@statesman.com

Posted Aug 20, 2019 

STAGECOACH RANCH — Just outside of Austin, where the Pedernales River winds lazily through the Hill Country before pouring into the Colorado, a series of parks and preserves showcase and protect large swaths of rugged Texas wilderness. The Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center harbors a 40-foot waterfall with a lush grotto ensconced below, hung with mosses and ferns. And less than a mile away, water races over another cliff to create Hamilton Pool, fed by springs from farther uphill where the Edwards Aquifer spills out onto land. Just upstream, along Hamilton Creek, Milton Reimers Ranch offers over 18 miles of trails for visitors to hike and limestone bluffs for rock climbers.

Situated between these preserves is Stagecoach Ranch, a large tract of land with 85 homes, each on 10-acre plots, all of which are accessible only by one single-lane, dead-end road. And it’s there that Kristy Petree and Sandra Bennett, co-owners of a development company called BenTree builders, hope to develop an RV park. “It’s beautiful,” Petree said. “I’ve been in this area since college. It’s just fantastic.” RELATED: ‘Save Hamilton Pool’ petition calls for end to RV park proposal.

But neighbors aren’t convinced that an RV park would be the best use of the land and worry about the effect it might have on the environment. One of the concerns most commonly raised is the possibility of sewage leaking into Hamilton Creek. The proposed site for development sits on a steep slope about 1,000 feet from the creek. The developers have proposed an onsite septic system with a design flow of up to 4,836 gallons a day that would reuse the treated wastewater on green space at the site, as opposed to discharging into the creek. RV park planned near Hamilton Pool worries some Austin-area neighbors.

While that falls under the maximum limit of 5,000 gallons per day for a single property, it’s unclear whether the system as sized is appropriate for the intended usage. That’s according to Susan Parten, a civil engineer who specializes in decentralized wastewater systems and is owner of the Community Environmental Services company. “Based on wastewater flows alone, I’m of the opinion that this system is more appropriately permitted through TCEQ’s municipal permitting section under Chapter 217 rules, rather than through Travis County rules for onsite wastewater systems,” said Parten, referring to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Parten also said the chemicals commonly flushed down blackwater systems in RV parks could negatively impact the performance of the aerated tank-type treatment system. Tom Hegemier, who’s lived in Stagecoach ranch for 23 years, is especially concerned about leaks. “They’re going to build a system that will meet county code,” Hegemier said, “but we’ve seen systems around here that fail.” He points out several recent sewage spills in the Austin area as examples, such as the spill this summer when 100,000 gallons of sewage entered Brushy Creek in Round Rock after a power outage.

Petree, however, is adamant that the septic system for the RV park won’t leak into the surrounding environment. She said the park will require RVs to dump their waste in a separate septic holding tank at the entrance before allowing hookups into the park’s main septic system. “Our septic system will be maintained with a contract where it’s inspected four times a year,” she said. “We will never have a discharge from our system. We will never pollute Hamilton pool.” Also, because the RV park’s septic system is not municipal, agricultural or industrial, Petree’s septic designer said Travis County, which issues permits for onsite wastewater systems and which is still evaluating BenTree’s design plans, is the appropriate permitting agency. Fire safety questions Evacuation routes for wildfires, such as the one that swept through the area in September 2011, also concern neighbors of the proposed RV park. For four grueling days around Labor Day, firefighters worked to contain the conflagration that engulfed 34 homes and 6,500 acres of land before they were able to put it out. Stagecoach Ranch residents were startled to see firefighters at their front doors one night during the fire, telling them they had to evacuate in less than an hour. While no one was hurt, the memory of having to evacuate their homes under a preternaturally orange sky in the dead of night is still fresh in everyone’s minds. “We had one way in and one way out,” Hegemier said. “So we had to drive toward the fire to leave. And it’s pretty scary when fire trucks show up in your driveway and say you have an hour to go.”

With an RV park at the entrance to their single-lane road, residents worry that RVs trying to exit the area would jam traffic, blocking the only evacuation route. “It’s a really scary concept of having a bottleneck,” Hegemier said. The community is currently designed to accommodate about 80 RVs.

RELATED: More improvements urged for Hamilton Pool Road Chris Stewart, another longtime Stagecoach Ranch resident, says that’s a real concern. “Assuming that everybody could get out orderly in the event of a wildfire or evacuation order, only half the RVs in the park would be able to get out onto Stagecoach Ranch Road,” he said. “The other half would be waiting on that traffic to clear to get out.” Evacuating is further complicated because nearby roads are unsuitable for large vehicles. When exiting Stagecoach Ranch, drivers can either head east or west on Hamilton Road. A left turn (west) will take you to a switchback that has stymied drivers in the past. “I was going to work one morning and I couldn’t get to work because a horse trailer had jackknifed down there,” area resident Tina Adkins said. “And they were totally off the road; it’s very narrow. She blocked the road for everybody, so no one could go either way for hours. That would be intensified if you have all these trailers turning left; someone’s going to jackknife.”

“Pulling a trailer, you can’t flee west on Hamilton Pool Road because of the switchbacks at the Pedernales,” Stewart said. “You have to get out quickly east, without a trailer — no time to wait behind 84 RVs log-jamming the road.” But last year’s devastating Camp Fire in California appears to be a turning point in the way officials think about fire safety. At least 10 people died in their cars while trying to escape. Some fire experts are now putting an emphasis on preparing one’s property, so that it can act as a shelter and eliminate the need to evacuate. Capt. Glen Trubee, a Lake Travis Fire Rescue fire inspector, said evacuation is never ideal: “Evacuation is one piece of the pie. It’s a last-ditch effort. The first thing you can do is make sure your home is protected, making sure you have the vegetation cut back.” Trubee cautions that no two fires are alike, and evacuations might be mandatory regardless of how wellmaintained a property is. Regardless of evacuation procedures, there remains an open question of whether the introduction of 80 RVs, each potentially housing multiple people, might increase the risk of wildfires in the first place. “The peak periods for RV use just happen to coincide with the driest times of our year,” Stewart said. “We are introducing, in a concentrated area, potential ignition sources — drag chains, cigarette butts, you name it. We’re also introducing a concentration of chemical fuel sources — propane, diesel, gasoline, etc. ... That’s a concern.” As with the adequacy of the septic tank, the question of fire safety ultimately will be decided by Travis County.

BenTree Builders is currently in the permitting process with Travis Emergency Services District 6, which will determine whether the development plans merit additional fire safety measures. Burden or business boon? Opening an RV park would bring in a lot more people to the quiet hillside neighborhoods along the Pedernales River. More people means more money for local businesses, including the various nature preserves, and demand for more services in the area certainly seems to be increasing. It’s a popular area for weddings, and Hamilton Pool has become such a popular tourist destination that visitors must now book their reservations with Travis County in advance. But whether the proposed RV park will enhance or diminish the area’s amenities is hotly debated. “They keep saying this is going to enhance the neighborhood and be harmonious with the area,” said Robin Hegemier, who’s married to Tom. “What part of 84 trailers on a 10-acre lot is harmonious with the area?” Resident Bob Adkins echoed this sentiment: “We just don’t think (it’s) commensurate with the surrounding area of farms, ranches, residential and parks.” Petree said her development would open access to Hill Country life. “People want to be in the Hill Country, but most people can’t afford it. I think the RV park will be a major benefit, not just to the wider Travis County but for visitors to Travis County to see everything that Austin has to offer.”

It seems unlikely that the two sides will soon see eye to eye on the issue. BenTree Builders continues to revise permit applications as recommendations are made by various county agencies. Stagecoach Ranch resident started a petition in May to raise support for denying the building permit and to bring awareness to the potential environmental risks to Hamilton Pool. As of this month, it has received more than 20,500 signatures.

Link: https://www.statesman.com/news/20190820/rv-park-planned-near-hamilton-pool-worries-some-austin-area-neighbors

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Published on Thursday, 01 August 2019 10:57

The ongoing fight to stop an RV park being built in the watershed of Hamilton Pool has taken two significant steps in the last few weeks.

The 10 acres for the RV park came out of an undeveloped 40-acre tract at Stagecoach Ranch.

Travis County on June 24th signed a contract to acquire the remaining 30 acres from the developer.  This is the tract at the corner of Stagecoach Ranch road and Hamilton Pool Road. The acquisition is rumored to have been funded from a Strategic Parkland Acquisition program (2017 bond election).

On July 30th Stagecoach Ranch residents made a presentations to the Board of Travis County ESD 6 - documenting the extreme risk due to the lack of fire evacuation routes and how they would be compromised by over 80 RVs and their occupants.

Link to Article:

The Bee Cave Bee

News for Bee Cave TX, Lake Pointe, Spicewood and more..

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By Reena Diamante PUBLISHED Jun. 26, 2019

DRIPPING SPRINGS, Texas — A 10-acre RV park could be coming to Dripping Springs, right around the corner from Hamilton Pool.

RV park would be on 401 Stagecoach Ranch RoadIt would include 84 lotsPermit applications have been submitted

Developers said they are building a resort in hopes of bringing more visitors out to the Hill Country, but there is some pushback from the community. The small company, BenTree Builders, has submitted permit applications to Travis County and the Lower Colorado River Authority to construct an RV park on 401 Stagecoach Ranch Road, which is less than a mile away from the entrance to Hamilton Pool.

Kristy Petree, one of BenTree Builders’s owners, said she loves nature and called this project a dream in the making.“It’s not going to be an eyesore. It’s going to be beautiful. We’re going to build it and be extremely proud of it,” Petree said over the phone.

Based on an application to the county, the proposal would include room for 84 lots, a septic system, and a well. “People are going to want to come to the Hill Country more, visit our parks, spend money here,” Petree said. “Our park is going to be an asset. It’s not going to be a hindrance. It’s going to be a great addition. We’re not going to hurt Hamilton Pool.”

But, there is a petition going around, that some neighbors on Stagecoach Ranch Road started, opposing the development. Taylor Tatsch lives down the street from Hamilton Pool. The San Antonio-area native said he moved to Dripping Springs three years ago.

“One of my big memories since I was a kid was coming up to the Hill Country and swimming in the clean streams, fishing, climbing around in the hills. It just seemed so beautiful, and I wanted to have that for my kids,” Tatsch said. “Part of having something that nice is being responsible for it.”

Some people who live nearby fear groundwater contamination, surface runoff into Hamilton Pool, and increased noise and light pollution. “There’s so many different factors that it has the adverse reaction of possibly destroying the thing that you promote and preserve,” Tatsch said. BenTree Builders’s developers promise they are not cutting any corners and they will meet safety standards.

“There’s absolutely no way we’re going to construct something, build something that would damage or pollute Hamilton Pool. It’s not going to happen. We have the best engineers, the best designers, the best installers from the well, to the septic, to all of our infrastructure. Everything will meet all the guidelines, all of the regulations. There will be no shortcuts. We have worked from day one with all the entities,” Petree said.

Under the Highland Lakes Watershed Ordinance, LCRA has permitting authority when it comes to protecting water quality throughout the Highland Lakes region. According to the website: “LCRA actively manages storm water runoff around the Highland Lakes and the Lower Colorado River to contain the pollution found in storm water runoff, such as pesticides, soil, nutrients and other contaminants from everyday life.”

A spokesperson for LCRA said staff completed a review of an initial application to the RV park and notified the owners of BenTree Builders about the need for revisions in order to comply with the ordinance. The spokesperson said if or when the revisions will be submitted, LCRA staff will review them thoroughly and if they meet the ordinance, a permit will be issued. Travis County officials said they are also reviewing permits applications.

Some people are also worried about more traffic in the area, noting that Stagecoach Ranch Road is the only road in and out of the neighborhood. “With the fires of 2011, we had to evacuate all the residents, out here. If we had to sit behind 80 RVs also trying to exit, that’s a real hazard for the residents who are already out here,” said neighbor David Johnsen.

Petree said she understands where the neighbors are coming from.

“It could be so many things that could be detrimental to the community. It could be big retail, it could be huge apartments, offices, it could be automotive,” she said. “People that RV respect property, love nature, and aren’t going to abuse, our Hill Country. They’re going to enjoy it.”

As of Wednesday morning, more than 10,500 people signed the petition. Some of the neighbors said they are planning to meet with developers this week.

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