Suburbanites Vote to Leave City of Austin

This map shows roughly the areas that voted to disannex and those that will not leave the city after all (Location information via city of Austin, map data © 2024 Google / Art by Zeke Barbaro and Maggie Q. Thompson)

After years of costly struggle, residents of the Lost Creek neighborhood in Southwest Austin finally got their wish: They no longer have to be Austinites.

And another person – yes, one single voter – decided the same outcome in River Place, another Southwest Austin suburb. That area will also be removed from the city’s jurisdiction after only one person in the neighborhood voted on the proposition.

These are just two of the results of the May 4 election, where voters in other outlying areas of the city also voted to disannex.

Most people living in the Lost Creek neighborhood never wanted to be annexed by the city of Austin (one neighborhood report estimates the neighborhood association spent $250,000 between 2005-2007 to lobby the Texas Legislature to prevent such a fate), but the city’s insatiable appetite for land and taxpayers could not be stopped. In 2015, the neighborhood was officially annexed.

Thanks to a law passed by the Lege in 2021 (one that seems specifically tailored to help recently annexed areas, like Lost Creek, in cities across Texas) that nearly decade-old annexation has been undone. The law, House Bill 3053, automatically triggers disannexation elections in areas annexed by municipalities with populations of 500,000 or more that occurred between 2015 and 2017. Lost Creek residents approved a proposition authorizing disannexation with a whopping 91% of the vote. Now, the people who live on the 738 acres of land adjacent to the Barton Creek greenbelt will be governed locally by Travis County and a Limited District elected by people living within the neighborhood.

The primary motivations for disannexation, per a campaign website for the proposition, were rising property taxes and declining municipal services. Rather than pay the city for service that residents view as lackluster, they will instead, in some cases, contract with private entities to provide those same services – like wastewater management and trash collection (Lost Creek voters also approved a proposition allowing them to join Travis County Emergency Service District 9 in Westlake for fire response and the Travis County Sheriff’s Office will provide police response).

What motivated the disannexation effort for River Place is less clear, because there was not a strong campaign for or against, unlike with Lost Creek. And only one person cast a vote in the election (in favor), so the proposition passed. It is unclear how many people actually live in this area (when it was annexed in 2017, only three residential streets were affected), but 2,768 voters are registered at the precinct where the single ballot was cast.

Along with Lost Creek and River Place, voters living along Blue Goose Road in Northeast Austin also voted to disannex (three votes in favor, none against; 5,331 voters are registered at the precinct where the three ballots were cast). Two disannexation propositions (one covering 104 acres in far Northeast Austin and one covering 4 acres in South Austin) failed because no one voted for or against. People living in the Lennar Malone neighborhood in South Austin were the lone exception – they voted overwhelmingly against leaving Austin (110 votes against, two votes for).