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Montopolis preservation fight might get help from county

Commissioners consider weighing in on one of few remaining historic ‘Negro school’ buildings in the country

An old, farm-type building with a big field in front of it
Former schoolhouse in Montopolis

Neighbors and activists protesting development that they fear will include demolition of a building that was the Montopolis Negro School during the city’s period of segregation have asked the Travis County Commissioners Court to weigh in on the issue, according to a Wednesday story on KUT-FM’s website, and the county might agree to do so.

The building and its 1.8-acre tract at 500 Montopolis Drive was purchased by KEEP Investment Group/Real Estate’s Austin Stowell last year. Stowell said he did not intend to demolish the building once he learned of its former use, but did obtain a demolition permit for it; he said his reason for doing so has to do with moving the project through the city development process more quickly—particularly when it comes to being permitted to move the building.

The Montopolis Neighborhood Association and Montopolis Neighborhood Plan Contact Team, along with numerous supporters, has protested any demolition of the building, with some taking the position that the building and land around it should not be developed but rather be preserved as a historic site.

According to KUT, the city’s Historic Landmark Commission took up the case in November, but there were not enough favorable votes to recommend historic zoning on the property.

Proponents of such zoning have turned to the Travis County Commissioners Court, reports KUT, in a role that County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said would be fully advisory, as the body has no zoning jurisdiction over the property. Nevertheless, Eckhardt said, the county is considering providing input, since it was formerly the owner of the property.

The commission took no action on the matter but will take up a revised proposal next week, KUT reported.

County Commissioners Consider Supporting Fight to Preserve Historic Montopolis School