Lake Buchanan community worries about access to water as lease increases 500%

LLANO COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — After nearly 40 years at a lower price, a small retirement community on Lake Buchanan is being told it must pay significantly more to maintain its contract with the Lower Colorado River Authority, or LCRA, to keep its park access to the lake.

In 1986, Buchanan Lake Village in Tow, Texas, signed a lease agreement with LCRA: $100 per year for less than a quarter acre of lakefront land located across from Buchanan Lake-owned South Street Park Village, according to rental records. .

Map of LCRA lands leased to Buchanan Lake Village (courtesy Buchanan Lake Village Landowners Association Lease Agreement)

Since the original lease in 1986, the ground lease price has increased twice. In 2002, the award was raised to $600 per year. In 2017, the current annual fee increased to $800, according to rental records.

Now, an official with LCRA’s Real Estate Services Division tells Buchanan Lake Village that the price to continue leasing the land will be more than $4,500, according to Theo Van Eeten, president of the Buchanan Lake Village Landowners Association.

That’s an increase of almost 500%.

KXAN contacted the Director of LCRA as well as the Vice President of LCRA Real Estate Services to confirm the new rental price and requested an explanation regarding the substantial increase in fees.

In response, the LCRA said it was incorporating market rental value into its leases with landlord associations, in line with LCRA board policy established in 2018.

“We are aware that moving leases to full market rental value in a single year could create problems for tenants, especially given the significant increases in land values ​​in the area in recent years. In July, the LCRA suspended proposed changes to tenancy agreements with landlord associations as we work to address community concerns,” according to the LCRA’s public information officer.

He handles changes as and when leases come up for renewal. Council policy states: “LCRA will base all negotiations on a reasonable view of the market value of all land rights dispositions. Staff will have the discretion to prepare an opinion based on available market data or to employ an independent valuator.

KXAN requested market data or records of the independent assessment conducted to determine the new rental fee amount, in accordance with its policy. We’ll update this story once a response is provided.

Van Eeten said he also asked for a justification for the price increase.

According to Van Eeten, the LCRA official told him the change was due to the LCRA’s “previous mismanagement” of the property portfolio, rising property values ​​in the area and the land being buildable. .

However, Van Eeten told KXAN that most land owned by the LCRA falls below the 1,020-foot line, which marks it as a no-build flood zone. Additionally, Van Eeten said the LCRA has not experienced any increase in property taxes on this land because it does not pay property taxes.

According to the LCRA website, it is generally exempt from paying taxes because it is a conservation and rehabilitation district in the state of Texas.

KXAN reviewed Llano County Assessment District records and confirmed that the majority of LCRA land is in a flood zone.

According to LCRA rules, “No construction or operating permit may be obtained for an on-site sewerage facility that would serve new construction located in a special identified flood hazard zone, unless the
the applicant can demonstrate compliance of the dwelling or structure with all applicable floods
damage prevention rules.

Van Eeten said the LCRA’s actions appear to be “devoid of any consideration for the history of this area and the concerns of the people of Llano County.”

Buchanan Lake Village Community

According to 2020 U.S. Census Bureau data, Buchanan Lake Village consists of approximately 400 households with a population of just over 700 and a median household income of approximately $53,000.

sig saying welcome to lake buchanan
Buchanan Lake Village entrance sign (KXAN Photo/Dalton Huey)

Community members pay $45 a year for their homeowners association fees, according to Van Eeten.

“A fee of $4,545 is really not affordable for a community like ours that is made up mostly of retirees and seniors,” Van Eeten said.

In addition to the LCRA rental payment that the HOA pays each year, Van Eeten told KXAN that the association pays for all grounds maintenance and upkeep.

On average, Buchanan Lake Village spends about $2,000 a year maintaining the grounds and paying off-duty sheriff’s officers to provide security during holidays and some weekends, according to Van Eeten.

Van Eeten said the LCRA may fence off the land if the community does not renew its lease at the new price.

“Our community has had a long-standing relationship with the LCRA, but now it appears the LCRA is no longer interested in providing affordable access to the lake,” Van Eeten said.

According to Van Eeten, South Street Park is by far the most popular and used within the community. If Buchanan Lake Village is unable to maintain its lease with LCRA, it will lose the park’s access to the water and two of its three boat ramps on the lake.

Agreements of other Lake Buchanan communities with LCRA

KXAN has learned that Buchanan Lake Village is not the only community that is being told the cost of maintaining its LCRA ground lease is rising.

KXAN spoke with Marci O’Brien, the treasurer of the Greenwood Acres Property Owner Association, another small Lake Buchanan community of about 100 residents who said they have had a lease with the LCRA for nearly 40 years for the park. community main and lake access.

After decades of paying $100 a year for the lease, he recently received notice from the LCRA that the rental fee was increased to more than $5,000, according to O’Brien. She said there was no explanation for the increase included.

O’Brien said the LCRA eventually lowered the rental fee to around $3,400, but the community still couldn’t afford the new price.

O’Brien said she thinks other communities in the area are having the same problem with their LCRA leases.

As a result, Greenwood Acres formed a Lake Buchanan Communities Alliance in hopes of bringing together local landowner associations and businesses in the area, according to O’Brien.

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