NLand Surf Park under threat of lawsuit over pool

NLand Surf Park promotional video (Nland Surf Park Photo)
NLand Surf Park promotional video (Nland Surf Park Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A surf park coming to Travis County is making some waves.

Travis County Commissioners have authorized a lawsuit against NLand Surf Park, to prevent NLand from opening without meeting the same requirements as a public pool under state law. Commissioners continued discussions of the matter in executive session Tuesday. The suit is raising many questions from the surf park.

The park broke ground in April 2015 and is currently under construction to meet quality and safety standards.

In a statement sent out to those who signed up through NLand for updates on the park’s progress, “This action comes as a surprise to NLand.” The statement went on to say, “NLand will not open until we can assure our guests the park will meet the highest standards for quality and safety. We are disappointed the county commissioners would take such drastic measures, without explanation. We look forward to creating a win-win solution for Travis County, NLand and most importantly the millions of surfers and surfers-to-be worldwide.”

NLand park organizers said they are looking to create a “win-win solution for Travis County.”

The county tells KXAN the debate is whether the roughly nine-football field large lagoon should be treated differently from other pools because of its “unique characteristics,” like being filled with 11 million gallons of rainwater run-off.

People testing the new NLand Surf Park, which is still under construction July 12, 2016 (KXAN Photo/Kylie McGivern)
People testing the new NLand Surf Park, which is still under construction July 12, 2016 (KXAN Photo/Kylie McGivern)

The commissioners’ decision to sanction the park was voted on the same day the park had an orientation for their new team. More than 150 employees gathered for their first round of training.

Steven Ward grew up surfing in California before moving to Central Texas nearly 10 years ago. He reached out to KXAN with concerns the about commissioners court authorization to sue the surf park.

“It continues to show that current businesses and new businesses that are either here or trying to come to Austin are running into way more red tape than they would other places,” Ward said, looking out over the site of NLand Surf Park. Over the last year, he says he’s traveled out to the property every few weeks to check in on the progress.

“Growing up on the beach my entire life, I never thought that I would have an opportunity like this before presented to me,” Ward said. But standing across from the locked gates to the park, with a lawsuit possible, he explained, “We have basically been told here is your Christmas gift, but you can’t unwrap it.”

NLand’s website says the park is scheduled to open this year.

“You can’t just sit by and let something this great be stymied by county officials like it is,” Ward said.

We reached out to Commissioner Margaret Gomez to get her take, since the property is within her precinct. She told us the county attorney’s office discouraged commissioners from discussing the issue. 

Travis County points out public swimming pools must meet a long list of requirements to operate in Texas. According to state law, they must use specific levels of chlorine to keep the pool in a sanitary condition. They must also build the pool in a way that reduces the risk of a drowning. They are also required to have facilities in place to prevent people from going to the bathroom or spitting into the pool. And it specifically says cities and counties may require swimming pools to have permits. They can also charge a fee for inspections.

As of 4:35 p.m. Tuesday, we’re told NLand’s developer has not yet applied for the necessary permits under state law.

A lawsuit has not yet been filed and officials told KXAN there is no known timeline.

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