The entrance to the Prairie Acres subdivision is in Williamson County, while most of the acreage is in Burnet County near Florence. At least one of the 18 property owners has filed a lawsuit against the developer and real estate broker for what they claim are deceptive trade practices. Courtesy photo
A Georgetown couple who bought 11 acres in Prairie Acres, a new subdivision in northeastern Burnet County, has taken a two-year-long dispute to court claiming the developer and real estate broker misrepresented the legal status of the property. On Nov. 17, Donna and Lee Schiel filed a motion to compel mediation in the deceptive trade practices civil lawsuit they filed in August, both in the 424th Judicial District Court in Burnet County.
The motion asks the court to sign an order for mediation within 30 days and that mediation be set to occur within the next 30 days — sometime in January.
“We’ve been very patient,” Lee Schiel told DailyTrib.com. “We want to do the right thing here, but there is only so much you can take until you reach the point of breakdown.”
The Schiels are seeking monetary damages from FSD CR 222 LLC developer William Brad Parker and Realtor Jerry Paul Seay, saying they were told they would not need any permits to immediately start building on their 11-acre lot, which closed in February 2022.
At the time, the subdivision, which has lots in both Burnet and Williamson counties, was embroiled in a disagreement with Burnet County over whether a county-approved plat was required for new property owners to receive 911 addresses and septic tank permits. In November 2021, the county hired outside counsel to send a cease-and-desist letter to the developer threatening legal action if lot sales continued. The Schiels, who knew nothing about the trouble with the developer, bought a lot in Prairie Acres three months later with plans to build a barndominium.
The issue with Burnet County has since been settled, but the subdivision crosses the Williamson County line into northeastern Burnet County near Florence. The entrance to the subdivision and at least two of the multiple-acre lots are in Williamson County.
Rachel Arnold, executive assistant to Williamson County Precinct 3 Commissioner Valerie Covey, confirmed with the Schiels that the county has not received an application for the Prairie Acres subdivision. Seay, the real estate broker, told DailyTrib.com in an interview earlier this year that he did not need to file plats in either county because the lots are over 10 acres. Burnet County countered that the presence of a road made a plat necessary. Seay eventually filed a plat, which was approved by Burnet County. He did not file with Williamson County.
“This means that we have not received any plats or information suggesting that the land inside of Williamson County has been subdivided,” Arnold wrote in an email to the Schiels. “Currently, the subdivision is non-compliant, (emphasis Arnold’s) meaning that any permits sought in Williamson County will not be granted until platting is complete. These permits could impact septic applications filed in Williamson County.”
According to Burnet County Precinct 2 Commissioner Damon Beierle, this does not affect the Schiels and may not even impact the property owners in Williamson County since the passage of Texas House Bill 3697, which went into effect on Sept. 1.
“If this subdivision came to us today, it would be legal,” Beierle said.
HB 3697 removed a county’s ability to require platting even if a new road is being built. Before that, the trigger to platting was new road creation, he continued.
“We went above and beyond to get this subdivision compliant,” Beierle said. “We got them there. It was a long road, but between the engineer and us, we got it so homeowners can do what they want.”
The Schiels say they still cannot do what they want because they have yet to see their street names show up on the Burnet County 911 address verification website. The lack of a 911 address is especially concerning to Lee Schiel, a U.S. Marine veteran, who is an incomplete quadriplegic with various other health issues.
The Schiels stopped making mortgage payments over the past few months in protest and now have until Friday, Dec. 1, to stop foreclosure proceedings.
“We’ve invested too much at this point,” Lee Schiel said. “We are not going to allow it to go into foreclosure. Everything is now in the hands of the attorneys.”
Lawsuit defendants Parker and Seay filed a general denial on Sept. 8 followed by a Plea in Abatement on Oct. 18, stating the Schiels did not give a required 60-day notice for the deceptive trade practices charge. Also, “Mr. Shey is a real estate broker to whom the DTPA (Deceptive Trade Practices Act) does not apply,” reads the original answer filed in September.
“Mr. Seay generally denies each and every, all and singular, of the material allegations contained in Plaintiff’s Petition,” reads the general denial filed as part of the original answer by the defendants’ attorney, N. West Short of West Short & Howell PLLC in Georgetown.
A call to developer Parker by DailyTrib.com was not returned. Seay responded to an email from this reporter that he was not happy with past coverage of the story, and “I would not expect anything different this time.” He did not answer the questions sent.