AUSTIN (KXAN) — A landowner and developer claims a Central Texas transportation agency damaged a private road on its property while constructing the U.S. Highway 183 Toll Road. However, the toll agency disagrees, leaving the two locked in a years-long legal dispute.
Adam Zarafshani, a partner in the development group Tech 3443, said he had high hopes for the former Motorola technology campus when his group purchased the more than 100 acres of land in east Austin a few years ago. Prior to that, the site had changed ownership several times over the years – each with different plans for re-development.
“This is a really important site for [the] City of Austin,” Zarafshani said. “It just provides a lot of opportunity close to town that doesn’t exist – not on this size, not on this scale.”
Construction of the U.S. Highway 183 Toll Road through east Austin has undoubtedly sped up other developments in the area, but Zarafshani believes the toll road is also responsible for causing one of the main roads leading into his development, SemiConductor Drive, to crumble.
In 2015, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) — which operates the 183 Toll Road — condemned around four acres of the land to create a detention pond that would eventually hold runoff from the toll road.
The previous landowners, Mos8 Partners, took issue with how the toll agency handled that process through eminent domain. Zarafshani said his group “inherited” the legal dispute between CTRMA and Mos8 — along with SemiConductor Drive’s deteriorating conditions.
According to court filings from last fall, the group believes CTRMA used the private road as a dam, allowing stormwater “to flow against Semiconductor Drive’s embankment until it fails, or it will allow stormwater to over-top the road and flow downstream to the commercially improved portion of Defendant’s property.”
In the filings, Zarafshani’s attorneys claim CTRMA’s own engineering experts knew the road was already experiencing erosion and that water from the pond could eventually “collapse the road.” Zarafshani said the uncertainty has hindered their ability to lease out parts of their development.
These filings outline two motions they filed in the case: one, to try and force CTRMA to stop using the pond or fix the road, and another, to try and enforce a specific settlement agreement.
CTRMA told KXAN it could not comment on pending litigation.
According to responsive court filings, the toll agency’s attorneys argued that the development’s owners, over the years, have allowed their own private road to deteriorate and want to “shift the duty and expense to repair that road to taxpayers.”
CTRMA’s attorneys insist in the filing the agency never prevented any of the site’s owners from doing work on SemiConductor Drive and accuses them of being “well aware that this is endangering third parties who have a right to access that land.”
Furthermore, CTRMA’s filing denies it ever reached a settlement agreement with the previous site owners — something Zarafshani’s group said happened before the toll agency backed out.
CTRMA’s filing instead claims that the parties negotiated, corresponded back and forth, and ultimately disagreed over items such as the timing of any improvements to the detention pond or roadway and alternative road access during construction.
According to the document, CTRMA insists the parties never reached a formal agreement, so the agency withdrew from what it called “unprofitable and repetitive settlement negotiations.” The filing even accuses the developers of breaching a previous agreement to not bring settlement discussions into any hearings.
A judge overseeing the case recently agreed with CTRMA and denied both motions filed by Zarafshani’s group.
He said his group feels “stuck,” with no resolution and no clear path forward.
“But yet, nobody seems to mind that this is going on,” he said.