Thursday, May 29, 2008


This is a follow up to the yet unanswered questions in a post below, and may or may not apply, but IS food for thought:

These declarants are setting up the subdivisions so that you are forced to purchase from vendors that they have financial arrangements with forever.

Look at the CCRs for Howard Ranch. Note any provisions obligating you to 1) install propane appliances, 2) purchase all of your propane forever from the specified propane vendor. Note that there is no obligation on the vendor to even be around tomorrow. However, the biggest concern is that propane is economically unregulated which means that they can charge you whatever they want to for propane and you have absolutely no choice but to grin and bear it.

(edit) This propane scam is occurring in subdivision after subdivision throughout central Texas. Natural gas is economically regulated - propane is not. You will have no choice as to vendor, quality, or price. If you attempt to utilize a different vendor, you can rest assured that you will be threatened with fines and foreclosure on your home by an action to enforce deed restrictions.

The HOA is the declarant's enforcement mechanism to force you to support the declarant's designated vendor. The declarant will likely control the HOA for quite some time. One might suspect that the propane vendor and declarant have a side deal that is not being disclosed to purchasers.

Although some industry-folks claim that deed restrictions preserve value, I guess you have to ask "for who?" This restriction has nothing to do with aesthetics, but rather is set up to trap residents into a particular vendor - forever. Aside from the possibility of being bilked while you are there, the habitability of your home will be tied to the welfare of the propane and water vendors. The marketability of your home will suffer if either vendor has a bad reputation, however, the converse is not true.

There are a number of companies going into the "business" of central propane systems because its extremely lucrative. The vendor has an absolute monopoly on an economically deregulated resource - propane. You won't realize you've been had until long after you move in.

Be very wary of those central propane systems. The argument is that they are "economic and efficient" or that they "benefit the community". However, they primarily benefit the declarant and vendors setting them up. Unless you have alternatives, they have zero incentive to please the customer on price, quantity, or quality.

In addition to the price per gallon for consumption, many of these vendors also require a monthly account fee for the privilege of maintaining your customer account. Most consumers are not able to tell whether they are being had because the monthly bill illustrates consumption as gaseous cubic feet (like natural gas), but propane is priced on a per liquid gallon basis.

Think about it and why the system was set up.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


At a recent neighborhood get-together, an owner took me aside to explain how, upset by what he considered to be the price of propane, he had done some investigation. Sharp Energy told him that there was an add-on to our price by the owner of the pipeline which supplies us. This was confirmed by a spokesperson for Spanish Oaks: "Ray Welsh owns Hill Country Gas, LP (the entity that owns the gas lines in the neighborhood). Hill Country contracts with Sharp to deliver propane and maintain the system. I've been meeting with Mr. Welsh and am meeting with Sharp this week to get this all sorted out - some things may be rumor and others fact. When I have all the answers, I will send the info out to all the property owners."

Thursday, May 15, 2008


A chain of thunderstorms with large hail and radar-indicated funnel clouds leading to possible tornadoes swept the Austin metro last night. It seems we were pretty lucky as most of the damaging potential was just north of the city.

However, the pictures above show S.O. East entrance wasn't fully spared. Pictures by Shae Riley, taken very early this morning.

Friday, May 09, 2008


Another in a continuing series of welcomes to Spanish Oaks by the HOA was held yesterday eve at the beautiful home of Trish and Bruce Hamilton.

Although I met the new neighbors I have an amazing inability to remember full names, especially when given in a loud atmosphere. Forgive me for not labeling them. Pam Chandler told us that there were several families on the cusp of moving in, so our community is surely growing.

Several of us began a campaign for a pistol range. If you shoot, and have been to Carter Country in Houston, you know how it can be done. Basically you need a good backdrop of dirt to stop the bullets and a horseshoe of dirt to defect any noise from reaching the surroundings.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Are available in detail... click on link at the top of the right column.

Monday, May 05, 2008


Reports of an accident at or near the WEST entrance this morning, reportedly at 8:15 in the fog and rain. We've been unable to get details.

Sunday, May 04, 2008


Count me lucky! After breakfast in Lakeway Sunday morning, we stopped for mail (east entrance, first parking space). I handed it to Terri, checked behind me driverside, passenger side, started to backup then a piece of mail she had caught my eye as I stepped on the brake to look. Just then, an SUV zoomed up the street behind us (my view obscured by a large bush) - I am certain had I continued without stopping to see the mail piece I would have been hit hard, T-boned at worst.

One solution would be to use parking space 3 as it gives a better view and more reaction time.

I couldn't see who it was or even catch them to see... but whoever you are, you are lucky too. Even when there's no injury, there's a whole world of hassle getting a car towed, fixed, etc. Deductibles apply. Inconvenience. Time spent. A big pain.

Everybody - watch out for folks backing out of the kiosk parking - there's a blind spot.

Writing of blindness, long ago I blogged with picture of the blind spot which can happen if you are turning out of the east entrance left (west) and your view of the car speeding downhill is blocked by a car turning into S.O. - you see ONE car, think it's clear, and boot it. Surprise!

Another is headed east uphill - I saw this the other day - the car in the inner lane was turning left, had stopped, but didn't have a turn signal or brake lights lit. It took a little time to realize he/she was stopped! If I had been tailgated or the outer lane was blocked...

Even another situation is when you are turning into the east entrance from the east... car behind you waits to pull over to the outer lane too long - and the car behind him isn't paying attention. You get hit.

We've all been lucky or have grown extra senses. If I had a teen just starting out, I'd sure read this to them, maybe show it in real life. There are several unusual situations lurking out there even for experienced drivers.

Friday, May 02, 2008


There haven't been any lately. There 'isn't any news.' Hard to believe, maybe, in a project this size that there isn't anything worthwhile to communicate, but that's what I've been able to learn.

Originally conceived as a way to help build a sense of the neighborhood/community, information became a trickle, then a drip.

I built this blog to counter what I thought to be poor info management and I believe it can still act as an electronic newspaper for those who care about or have invested in Spanish Oaks. Some must - there have been over 30,000 views of something or other in here to date.

And yes, it also serves as commentary, much like a newspaper has editorials.

We may be at the stage where encouraging your contributions to the blog would result in some added content. To that I say, bring it on - my email address is at the top of the right hand column. However, to be real, my experience in the media tells me that very few participate in anything involving creativity or time.

Ironically, there was a call for the HOA website to contain a forum which I built; however, it's almost never used. See my "However..." immediately above.

I ask that anything you think worthy to contribute be emailed to me, know that I do reserve the right to edit, and please don't send things anonymously. Of course, your option is to wait for the 'weekly' email.