Burnet County Subdivision brings real estate battle to commissioners court

On January 25, County Judge James Oakley (left), Precinct 3 Commissioner Billy Wall, County Development Department Director Herb Darling and Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Don Dockery reviewed a map of property in and around the Blacksmith Ranch subdivision in northern Burnet County. . Staff photo by Suzanne Freeman

Burnet County Attorney Eddie Arredondo has been assigned by the Court of Commissioners to explore the county’s degree of authority in a subdivision dispute between residents of Blacksmith Ranch and Recreational Land Sales LLC.

About 20 residents filled one side of the Burnet County Courtroom in Burnet during the regular meeting of the Court of Commissioners on Tuesday, January 25. A representative from the real estate company, which sells lots in an adjacent subdivision called Cross Timber Ranch, was seated in the back. through the divide.

The two groups are separated by more than one span between the benches. A resident testified that she felt the company tried to bribe and then threaten her. Others told commissioners that deed restrictions were breached and the company ignored a cease and desist order from a lawyer representing one of the residents.

Blacksmith Ranch is located off County Road 106 on the Lampasas-Burnet County line, a border plagued by development disputes as Austin’s growth moves west. The lots are approximately 32 acres each, which is listed in the deed restrictions.

Recreational Land Sales sells 5-acre lots in a 100-acre section of land that is part of Blacksmith Ranch, but is subdivided by Cross Timber Ranch. So far, about 13 out of 20 lots have been sold. Cross Timber Ranch has entries on CR 104 and FM 1478.

Residents have pleaded with the Court of Commissioners to suspend the process of permission on this section of land until the matter can be settled, either through negotiations or in court. Residents of Blacksmith Ranch filed a lawsuit against the real estate company on January 24, the day before the meeting.

“I ask for your help,” resident Linda Nash said. “They stormed in and didn’t get permission. Now we have to pay because we did everything right. It doesn’t make sense. Let someone out of the blue come into our county and we doing that is wrong.

County Judge James Oakley asked County Development Department Director Herb Darling if the deed restrictions requiring the lots to be approximately 32 acres were registered and if the real estate company submitted any deed restrictions when she filed dishes for the 100 Acres.

“The code requires that they be provided if they exist,” Darling said. “We don’t need to go looking for them. The restrictions existed, but they were not presented to me (by the real estate company).

Oakley called County’s position precarious.

“We cannot enforce restrictions on acts as a county,” he said. “It’s a civil matter. I’m concerned about our authority based on the information we have. But, do you remember the old adage about pulling the wool? Well, the wool got a bit shot over it.

Lawyer Joanne Hatton, who represents the property company, told the Court of Commissioners that the deed restrictions did not prohibit subdividing the 100 acres in question.

“(The deed restrictions) contemplate subdivision with the approval of an ACC (Architectural Control Board), which did not exist at the time,” she said. “We are of the view that these restrictions on acts were not applicable.”

The company wants to work with the landowners to reach an amicable solution, she continued.

“We cannot resell the property,” she said, saying denying permits to future homes would mean denying permits to existing homes at Blacksmith Ranch. “The people of Blacksmith Ranch cannot tear down their homes and fences. My client and I understand the position they are in. They think things would turn out a certain way. Under the law, these restrictions are virtually unenforceable.

She also warned that refusing the permits would set a precedent “that any further development in the area would not be permitted”.

Arredondo County Attorney recommended “put the brakes on.”

“I don’t think we should allow permits for 9-1-1 addresses and building permits unless it goes through the court,” he said. “Let the parties go to court and figure out what the court has to say. That’s not for Burnet County to decide. It’s up to a court to decide. »

He advocated suspending permits because “if houses start being built on this property, it will make the problem worse.”

Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Don Dockery filed a motion allowing the county attorney to investigate the county’s legal role in the matter. Arredondo suggested the county might eventually want to join the lawsuit.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Jim Luther seconded the motion. He also introduced a motion to stop the permit process. No one seconded this motion.

“The reason I didn’t support (Luther’s) motion is that I want the county attorney to decide first if we have the authority to deny the permits,” Dockery said.

Dockery’s motion asking the county attorney to make that decision passed unanimously.

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