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Friday, June 15, 2012

What has happened

Sequence of Events and Opposition to the Proposed Cypress Creek at Ledge Stone Apartments

Stuart Shaw submitted his first Developer's Agreement (DA) to Dripping Springs on or about May 4.  It was incomplete and missing all relevant information needed for the Dripping Springs Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council to reach any recommendation or decision, so it was totally invalid.  So what was his motivation in submitting an invalid agreement to the city?  Was it to meet some mandatory deadline that none of us were aware of?  Possibly, but we just don't know.  If it was to meet a deadline, the deadline wasn't met merely by submission of an incomplete and invalid agreement.  But let's let that go for the time being and move on.

Mr. Shaw submitted his second Developer's Agreement to Dripping Springs on or about 24 May with the required attachments containing the technical information about the project.  The attachments reveal that Mr. Shaw is requesting exceptions to the current 6 ft. "cut and fill" limits.  He is requesting multiple variances so his company can cut and fill up to 16 feet in various areas of the project.  This is not "slightly over" the standards set by the Dripping Springs city council, but far in excess of them.

Mr. Shaw submitted the PILOT proposal to Dripping Springs on 6 Jun. As I read it, there is no way for the city to enforce the proposed PILOT payments should Mr. Shaw simply chose not to pay them for whatever reasons.  And if you examine his business model and his actual record of none to next to nothing PILOT payments to other communities where he has built these projects, one comes to the conclusion that the probability of his making any payments to the Dripping Springs community is slim to none.

As for Mr. Shaw claiming to drop the PILOT proposal and make "full ad valorem tax" payments on his project, I believe he never intended to do that.  Even as he was making his public statement to the DSISD board on 17 May, he was talking with people about doing the PILOT program instead because "it would benefit the community much more than paying taxes".  His words.  It appears his intent is still to apply for the tax exempt and 4% tax credit financing through the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) with funding provided by a qualified Housing Finance Corporation (HFC).  The original HFC, Capital Area Housing and Finance Corporation (CAHFC), appears to have temporarily withdrawn from this project.  However, there are other HFC's that Mr. Shaw could obtain this tax exempt financing through, and it is possible that CAHFC could step back in if necessary.  If the special tax exempt financing is granted, I believe the state sanctioned tax exemption would be a higher authority than any PILOT agreement signed with a local community and allow Mr. Shaw to withhold any payments.  This is something the Dripping Springs city attorney should be charged with completely investigating and rendering a legal opinion upon.  If the attorney isn't tasked by the city council to do so, then I don't believe the city will have conducted its proper due diligence before voting on a proposal that will have multiple adverse impacts on the surrounding areas.

To sum things up, I will state my opinion, which is solely my opinion.  I have concluded that Mr. Shaw's proposed low to moderate income apartment project is blatantly out of place, unneeded, misrepresented, places a large burden on the already highly financially stressed DSISD, is devoid of any benefit to low income people who work in Dripping Springs and would like to live in Dripping Springs (as opposed to living out on the Hays/Travis county line), is targeted to attract mostly people who live and work in Austin and Travis county, adversely impacts the property values of the home owners in the immediate vicinity (ask any realtor), increases the occurrences of social disturbances in the area (ask any police officer), and places a higher burden on the police and emergency services without the supporting taxes that all homeowners and businesses are required to pay.  I see absolutely no justification for the city council of Drippings Springs to allow it to be built.

Many people have expressed opposition to this project.  However, the extent of the opposition must be clearly demonstrated to the Dripping Springs city council.  We must be present in large numbers at the appropriate public meetings of both the planning and zoning commission and the city council to express the magnitude of the public opposition.  If this doesn't happen, the council members might possibly succumb to arguments and pressures from the small number of special interests who stand to benefit if the project were to be approved.  Many people are expressing opposition to the project, but their actions indicate that many seem to expect others to step forward and demonstrate the opposition.  If that attitude prevails, then we all will probably have to live with the results of having a low income housing project in our midst.

*contributed by Mark, a resident of Ledgestone.

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