LEANDER, Texas (KXAN) — A homeowners association’s controversial plan to stop speeding has a lot of people weighing in — including the mayor.
“Personally, no, I don’t believe that that’s the best way to go,” said Leander Mayor Christine Sederquist.
The Crystal Falls HOA sent residents a letter last month announcing it will install a video camera and radar system to track down speeders in the community. Violators will be fined up to $334. Residents say they were not given notice and had no voice in the decision.
The HOA “may” put the traffic monitoring system on public roads in the future, an attorney for the HOA board said, but will keep it on private roads for now. Only HOA members will be fined. In order for the Traffic Hawk Video Traffic Radar System to be placed on public roads, a majority of the city council would have to approve that, Sederquist said.
“I think if it’s on public roads, I think that that can be confusing,” said Sederquist. “I would be a little bit concerned about that. But on private roads? Go for it all day. It gives them an enforcement mechanism that they didn’t have before.”
Following KXAN’s report, Sederquist says other HOAs are now inquiring if they can do the same thing, which she says could lead to “interesting circumstances.” The city is communicating with the HOA to “work with them for a solution” everyone can be happy with, she said, adding Leander police should be the ones to “enforce our speeding rules.”
“I think there is some danger with confusing people,” Sederquist said. “If there are two different entities that are sort of policing the same thing. But I understand where [the HOA] is coming from.”
“I could see there being a great need if we were in an area where the police department wasn’t enforcing speed limits,” she added. “But we have a traffic team that is fantastic about staying on top of everything.”
On Facebook, more than 560 people commented on the story, which was shared more than 160 times. The issue of how far an HOA can go to stop speeding, coupled with privacy concerns, touched a nerve with viewers who weighed in both in favor of and against the HOA’s plan.
The HOA does have several flashing radars to monitor speed on private and public roads, approved by the city, but some residents believe the HOA could have done more, like install speed humps, to try to slow down drivers, before buying a system to fine residents.
“Ultimately they do have a problem that’s tough to solve but [there was a] lack of trial and error with data driven analysis to see what works,” one homeowner who wished to remain anonymous told KXAN in an email. “[We] begged, we pleaded, we offered to help [but] then at some point it was just a waste of our breath… I felt like from the beginning the plans were cameras all along.”
Emails provided to KXAN show concerns about speeding going back almost a year, with other ideas floated by residents including painting the speed limit on the road.
Online, residents and viewers weighed in.
“The HOA board voted to do this in secret with NO input from the residents and didn’t notify residents of this until moths afterwards when they had already purchased the equipment,” one man wrote. “There was ZERO communication with the community about this.”
“As a President of our community HOA in Buda, this is an extreme overreach on the part of the HOA,” another man said. “Traffic enforcement is the sole responsibility of law enforcement. The HOA has no authority when it comes to traffic enforcement.”
Others say the board is doing what it has to stop an ongoing speeding problem.
“I don’t understand why people are so pressed by this?” one woman wrote. “Don’t go 50 in a 30 and you’ll be fine.”
In 2019, Gov. Greg Abbott signed off on banning red light cameras in the state.
The camera and radar system is set to be installed and activated on Saturday. On Thursday, however, voting representatives for homeowners will be asking the HOA board to stop its plan to fine speeders and “monitor” speed only, according to the agenda.
“The agenda item you reference is on the meeting agenda as a topic of discussion,” said HOA board attorney Connie Heyer. “[No] change to protocol has been made.”
“Regardless, traffic safety and law enforcement will always be a top priority for our community,” Sederquist previously told KXAN. “City officials will continue to work with Crystal Falls HOA, as well as all of our other Leander neighborhood communities, to identify positive solutions that comply with existing state and local laws.”