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Plan for floating neighborhood in W. Austin on hold

100+ homes would be built; LCRA skeptical

Premium content from Austin Business Journal by Cody Lyon , ABJ Staff

Date: Friday, April 29, 2011, 5:00am CDT – Last Modified: Tuesday, May 3, 2011, 3:43pm CDT

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Residential Real Estate

A rental home dubbed “The Float House” is the only floating home now on Central Texas’ largest lake, but a landowner and aspiring developer wants to add more than 100 in Cypress Cove. The LCRA is considering the proposal.

A rental home dubbed “The Float House” is the only floating home now on Central Texas’ largest lake, but a landowner and aspiring developer wants to add more than 100 in Cypress Cove. The LCRA is considering the proposal.


Austin’s first and only proposal for a neighborhood that floats on water is in limbo as regulators figure out what — if anything — to do.

Landowner Brian George’s idea to build as many as 150 floating homes on Lake Travis in Cypress Cove is opposed by many nearby landowners, and has become tangled in public processes after public hearings with the Lower Colorado River Authority   and, more recently, Travis County Commissioners Court.

The LCRA, the ultimate arbiter of the lake’s future, hasn’t decided how to handle the issue of floating habitable structures.

The “LCRA is considering all options at this time, including regulating, prohibiting or taking no further action at this time,” saidJim Richardson, head of the LCRA’s water surface management. He said the LCRA could take action at a meeting in August.

In October, due to concerns about safety and water quality, the LCRA voted to put a hold on the construction of all floating habitable structures on the Lake Buchanan, Inks Lake, Lake LBJ, Lake Marble Falls, Lake Travis.

George, who with partner John Shipley hopes to build the $10 million-plus neighborhood, is waiting for the LCRA to make a move before investing in engineering or submitting permit applications. George said his great-grandfather bought the now-submerged land where he’d like to build more than 80 years ago, and he’s frustrated by the inaction.

“There’s probably 500 houseboats on Lake Travis. If you look at a houseboat, how’s that not a floating home?” he asked, noting the IRS allows taxpayers to deduct a houseboat as a second home.

But houseboats have propulsion to move away from rising or receding shorelines, and that’s a big difference for LCRA officials, Richardson said.

George said the above-water development would roughly consist of 100 to 150 850-square-foot homes that use traditional anchoring systems, not columns much like those seen in places such as Seattle or Portland, Ore.

Civil engineering professor David Fowler at the University of Texas    , who isn’t involved in the project, said there could be safety issues for a floating neighborhood.

“If you have 150 houses out there, you get a really strong wind and some really unhealthy weather, I can see where you might have some real problems with these big, heavy structures crashing into each other or coming loose from their moorings,” Fowler said.

George said he’s confident his development can be safe, and he’s ready to take all necessary precautions.

“At the end of the day, we want to build what will be the safest, most environmentally sound structure available,” he said, adding the homes would be built on-site, not at a plant.

As the LCRA and George move forward, neighbors are watching. More than a year ago many of them banded together to oppose a marina proposed by George. They even launched a website http://www.stopthemarina.com. Now that the proposal to build the homes around the marina has surfaced, they’re monitoring the LCRA even closer, said Lonnie Moore, George’s opponent and neighbor.

George said the LCRA’s decision will have wide ramifications because it raises questions about property owners’ rights in the area.

When the lakes were first created by dams in the 1930s, some of the land wasn’t comdemned, or taken for public purpose. That means much of the lakebeds under the LCRA’s watch have remained private property, according to the LCRA. That created a complicated and often confusing relationship between the quasi-governmental agency and lakeshore owners. Now, for George, it’s even more complicated because the county is involved.

After a public hearing before Travis County commissioners on April 26, county leaders asked their planners to meet with the developers to hash things out.

While the commission has no power to issue mandates over the development, “it does have limited land-use authority over the regulation of the proposed structures,” a spokesman from county commissioner Karen Huber’s office said, adding, “any development of this scale has the potential to open a big can of worms.”

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Written by codylyonreporter

January 28, 2012 at 1:11 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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