For many years until she passed away in September 2018, Carol Lee worked tirelessly to promote safe and environmentally-responsible land development in our Ranch Road 2222 Hill Country corridor. She volunteered countless hours with various civic organizations, and in the early 2000s, joined her dear friend Marceline Lasater in co-founding the Lake Austin Collective (LAC).
One of her greatest and final gifts to our community, however, may have been posthumous with the conversion of 34 acres of undeveloped hill country land at Capital of Texas Highway 360 and RR 2222 into a wildlife preserve. Shortly after Carol's passing, HPI Real Estate Services & Investments purchased 45 acres of land in this area, of which, they donated 34 acres in honor of Carol's last wish. HPI’s generous donation was made in partnership with Jonathan Coon and in close contact with the City of Austin and LAC. This land is now within the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve (BCP), a program within Austin Water's Wildland Conservation Division, which oversees a vast portfolio of more than 14,000 acres of protected land.
With the remaining 11 acres, HPI conscientiously developed The Reserve at Lake Austin, a senior living community nestled in the hill country directly adjacent to the Carol Lee Preserve. Within HPI’s development, they also integrated the Carol Lee Memory Garden. LAC partnered closely with the developer, landscape architect, and construction team to meticulously plan every detail of the remembrance garden, which is filled with native plantings and includes a seating area and scenic overlook of the BCP. In honor of Carol's resolute spirit, the preserve bears her name and is undergoing restoration so that it continues to serve as an ideal habitat for federally-protected and endangered species, including the golden-cheeked warbler.
For more information on the BCP, please email BCP Program Manager Nico Hauwert at email@example.com. The Carol Lee Preserve is not a public park but a nature preserve with guided hikes and volunteer opportunities that can be found at www.austintexas.gov/wildlandevents.
CAROL LEE (1955 - 2018), co-founder of the Lake Austin Collective
Photographed in spring 2023 at the Four Season Lake Austin future site. Pictured from left to right: Bill Moore, Patrick Scott, Linda Bailey, Susan Kimbrough and Marisa Barreda Lipscher
Lake Austin Collective is a Texas 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization that advocates for and empowers Lake Austin area neighbors, and works to protect our beautiful and irreplaceable Hill Country.
But times have changed. While we still believe engaging and educating our neighbors is critical, we now realize those are only first steps.
We not only advocate for neighborhood protections, we teach neighbors how to defend their own rights in front of governmental agencies, influential policy makers, and land developers. We work hard to help neighbors decipher the city's sometimes opaque legal language and zoning laws, to solve complex problems, and to fight for better and more transparent outcomes.
With the power of our collective community, we believe we have all contributed to making our beloved Austin Hill Country a better and safer place to live. Won't you join us?
Linda Bailey, President
For the past five years, Linda has served on the boards and executive committees of numerous civic organizations, including the Austin Neighborhoods Council, Glenlake Neighborhood Association, 2222 Coalition of Neighborhoods Association, and other local advocacy groups. Linda is deeply committed to neighborhood safety and preserving the Hill Country’s unique character. She has been a resident of the Glenlake neighborhood for more than 20 years and a resident of Austin for more than 40 years. Her professional career spanned years with IBM, the UT McCombs School of Business and as part-owner of American Almond in Brooklyn, NY.
The Lake Austin Collective (LAC) and area neighbors breathed a sigh of relief in November 2019 when the City of Austin approved final plans to build a senior living facility and wildlife preserve on the 45-acre tract formerly and infamously known as Champion Tract 3. The City’s final blessing put to rest an embattled history that for years pitted neighbors against City Council and its opaque rezoning processes.
In November 2016, City Council approved waivers to the Hill Country Roadway and Lake Austin Watershed Ordinances so that developers could build a controversial and massive apartment complex on the property, a known habitat for the endangered Golden-Cheeked Warbler. Within months, LAC sued the City for violating the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA). The LAC lawsuit detailed how the City failed to properly notify the public about its intentions to grant these waivers in its agenda postings. A year later, LAC won the lawsuit, but the City appealed. In early December 2019, the 14th Court of Appeals sided with LAC.
During the year that LAC awaited the higher court's decision, Austin entrepreneur Jonathan Coon entered the picture. He met numerous times with LAC leaders and area neighbors and offered to buy Champion Tract 3 and to combine some of its development rights with the Camelback PUD, a 45-acre property he and his wife, Kirsten, already owned less than a half mile away. Under Coon's aegis, both properties would be developed with far less density than permitted by the City, and would include plans for donated parkland and eventually, even a wildlife preserve.
LAC and more than seven area neighborhoods enthusiastically supported Coon's unprecedented solution and rallied behind him at City Hall during many council and commission hearings.
After finally receiving council and and commission approvals in early 2019, Coon bought Champion Tract 3 and immediately partnered with Solera Senior Living and HPI Commercial Real Estate Services to build a substantially smaller and quieter senior living facility and to donate three-fourths of the land to the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve (BCP).
The Reserve at Lake Austin sits on about 11 acres of land directly next to the BCP's 34-acre "Carol Lee Preserve." Construction started in early 2020 and was completed in early 2023. To review the city-approved Hill Country Roadway site plan, click here. To see the approved engineer renderings, click here.
Rendering that shows smaller footprint of The Reserve at Lake Austin senior living facility (in black) versus now-abolished plans for an apartment complex (in red) on the property formerly known as Champion Tract 3