HAYS COUNTY, Texas (Austin Business Journal) — When representatives from MileStone Community Builders LLC arrived in the city of Hays early in the morning on Sept. 1, legal documents in hand, the doors of the modest one-story brick building that serves as City Hall were closed — and would be through the long Labor Day weekend.
Companies — first Walters Southwest, then MileStone — have for nearly two decades tried to build a neighborhood called Hays Commons on 500-plus acres, which could more than double the population of the small city of about 250. But no one had been able to reach a deal with city leaders concerned about the potential adverse impacts of dense development on the Edwards Aquifer, which serves as the city’s primary water source.
But that September morning was the dawn of the first day of a new state law that allows landowners to remove themselves from the regulatory reach of cities. Leaders at MileStone intended to do just that. The city of Hays had to send someone to meet them so they could hand deliver a letter asking to be removed, or deannexed, from the city’s extra-territorial jurisdiction. The ETJ, as it’s known in planning parlance, is a buffer zone beyond city limits where a municipality exerts a small degree of control, usually over things such as utilities and land platting.
MileStone CEO Garrett Martin contended the move was made to “find the best development path forward for the site” in terms of utilities for the project.
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