Battle to protect cave heads to Austin City Council

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Sage Walker is taking his fight to save a cave to Austin City Hall this week.

Walker says the cave starts on his property but extends under property that is slated to be developed by builder David Weekley. Sage’s cave is on Oak Boulevard in Southwest Austin. The property Weekley wants to develop is just around the corner on Harper Park Drive.

Sage says he will speak to the Austin City Council on Thursday and plead his case: “I’m going to ask them not to cave in.”

He wants the city to stop the development of 76 condominiums on 17 acres. That property in question is about 600 feet from Sage’s cave.

Sage says an environmental officer with the City of Austin surveyed his property and the cave.

“He said that it’s a legitimate cave and that there are other caves in the area and he said he has no doubt they connect,” Sage said. The city confirmed that, agreeing the caves in that area are a critical environmental feature that is protected under city code.

Sage feels certain there are many undiscovered caves in the neighborhood that may collapse if not protected.

“The caves act as part of the recharge feature because as water is flowing around the the caves, it goes into the Edwards Aquifer and eventually goes into Barton Springs,” said environmental officer Chuck Lesniak with the City of Austin. Lesniak says the city did go out to Harper Park and confirmed the location of a cave near the development area.

“We feel confident the builder will honor the buffer zone around the cave,” Lesniak added.

If the builder gets the nod to start construction and hits a cave, Lesniak says the builder would be under an obligation to “call the city immediately.” However, Sage says he doubts that would happen and he fears the builder would simply fill in any cave hit in the initial clearing of the area.

The city council meeting starts at 4 p.m. The building has not yet been approved by city council. Weekley is seeking a project consent agreement at the same meeting at which Sage will be speaking out against the project.

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