San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

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GUEST COMMENTARY by LOUIS B. PARKS

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Big money and political influence from south Texas have rolled into the Wimberley area and may try to take our precious water resources, at taxpayer expense.

The 5,000-acre O’Quinn Ranch, owned by John O’Quinn until his tragic death several years ago, has been purchased by south Texas beer distributor Greg LaMantia or enterprises under his control. You will recall that this property holds the access to that portion of the Blanco River known as Little Arkansas, one of the most beautiful and environmentally sensitive areas along the entire river. The property now seems to be the play area for Mr. LaMantia and his well-connected friends. Area residents report frequent gunfire and bulldozer activity behind the high security fences surrounding the ranch.

A meeting was held in February with county officials, city officials, and area citizens. Commissioner Will Conley originally reported that beer distributor LaMantia had asked our State Rep. Jason Isaac to sponsor legislation to create a municipal utility district (MUD) on the property, just like the one put in place on the True Ranch development – the development that caused an uproar in our community and resulted in the withdrawal of the development plan.

This new proposed municipal utility district, if enacted, would allow full scale development of the former O’Quinn Ranch with only minimal oversight from Hays County and an enormous draw on our scarce water resources. County Commissioner Conley and County Judge Bert Cobb have said publicly that they do not support the MUD.

Now, it seems that our freshman State Sen. Donna Campbell has been asked to make a run at creating the municipal utility district. She has filed Senate Bill 1868 to create the MUD, which cleverly excludes that land within the city of Wimberley’s ETJ, thus avoiding having to ask for the city’s concurrence. In lock step, just a day later, State Rep. Jason Isaac filed an identical companion bill, HB 3918.

It would appear that LaMantia’s plan is to make a bundle off the municipal utility district through a big tax write-off with the help of Campbell and Isaac. LaMantia says that he wants to dedicate a conservation easement on the property. But before he dedicates the conservation easement and takes a write-off against the depreciated value of the property, LaMantia, with Campbell’s and Isaac’s help, wants to enhance the appraised value of the property with the legislatively created municipal utility district.

County officials, city officials, and area citizens support the preservation of the 5,000 acre ranch through dedication of a conservation easement over the property, but oppose the MUD.

However, it is our view that the proposed municipal utility district creation and subsequent conservation easement dedication do not pass the “smell test” that should be applied to all such proposals.

First it seems like a highly contrived arrangement utilizing special legislation for the benefit of one individual.

Then you must also ask, what if the municipal utility district were put in place and no conservation easement ever dedicated? The danger is unrestricted development and a huge draw on our extremely limited water resources – all for the benefit of an absentee owner.

LaMantia’s plan should seek the endorsement of the Hays County Commissioners Court and must garner the votes of our elected legislature.

We believe we must all stand up, as we did against the original True Ranch development fiasco, and tell Campbell and Isaac to take care of their constituents, not one businessman from south Texas who wants to benefit at the expense of the taxpayers of Hays County.

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LOUIS PARKS chairs the Wimberley Valley-based environmental group, Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development. Since April 9, when he wrote this commentary as a letter to Hays County residents, the Wimberley city council has passed a resolution opposing creation of the Needmore Ranch Municipal Utility District. Parks can be reached by email here.

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Read more

» Will Conley letter opposing Needmore Ranch MUD by San Marcos Mercury

» Wimberley City Council resolution opposing Needmore Ranch MUD



COVER PHOTO by CHRIS VREELAND. SAN MARCOS MERCURY GRAPHIC by BRAD ROLLINS.

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4 thoughts on “Commentary: It’s power versus the people in fight for O’Quinn Ranch

  1. I left this comment on Jason Issac’s web site:

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    Dear Mr. Issac:

    If your stance is that you are operating on principle that a landowner has property rights, then why do assert that he “needs” to be granted what amount to property privileges in the form of state sponsorship of an ability to foist the financing of “improvements” to the land onto others? Why do you not remain true to your asserted principle of self-reliance and individual rights and responsibilities?

    It seems it is because you assert that, without this government intervention, then “bad things” might happen to this land. Even while it seems clear that the measure you sponsor might lead to government-assisted funding of “even worse things”.

    The owner is completely free to develop this land in a highly responsible manner, without the need for government intervention. He can create conservation development on the land. He can require that water supply come from rainwater harvesting rather than a bunch of new wells into an already overmined resource. He can require that it employ “septic systems” that provide high quality pretreatment and drip irrigation dispersal, to not only preclude any water pollution but to also save water by using the reclaimed water to defray irrigation on each lot. He doesn’t need any government intervention to do any of this.

    So why do you insist that government intervention is “required”. It seems that you are acting in opposition to your stated principles in this case. Can you please explain why? Thank you.

    Best regards,
    David Venhuizen

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    Don’t you just hate “conservatives” that are quite willing to push “big government” action when it suits them, even as they assert they are standing on their “principles” in doing so?

    LaMantia could develop an awesome “showcase” of sustainable development, if it were indeed his desire to “conserve” the land. He could do this while making a handsome profit, but he won’t, asking all to believe instead that he wants to just “give it away”, but he just wants a little “sugaring” of the tax writeoff that would give him. Well, why doesn’t he just go ahead and complete the planning, platting, permitting, etc., for that awesome showcase and THEN “give it away”. Wouldn’t that also increase the value?

  2. I WATCHED A DEAL LIKE THIS GO DOWN IN GARLAND ONCE. ALL THE PEOPLE WANTED OUT OF SOMETHING AND ALL THE POLITICIANS WERE ON BOARD UNTIL THE WEEKEND BEFORE WHEN ONE POWERFUL MAN ASKED THE POLITICIANS WHAT DO YOU WANT,THE NEXT CITY COUNCIL VOTE, THE DECIDING VOTE SUDDENLY CHANGED. NOBODY KNEW TILL LATER WHY BUT POWERFUL PEOPLE SWAPPED LEGAL FAVORS AND INFLUENCE WON OVER VOTERS…..WAIT FOR IT …..

  3. State Representative Mandatory Sonogram, who is co-sponsoring this bill with the Michelle Bachman of Texas is all for individual rights EXCEPT when it comes to a woman’s right to choose how she handles the health and use of her body.

    State Representative Mandatory Sonogram is clearly someone who speaks out of both sides of his mouth. He cannot be trusted to believe in individual rights. He is fine with supporting legislation for the individual rights of rich landowners (his own type of people) but is more than willing to implement big government eminent domain legislation to suppress a pregnant woman’s most personal right – her body.

    State Senator Mandatory Sonogram sees women like broodmares for state – a version of government that cries out “freedom” yet won’t provide the money through taxes to respectfully counsel women about contraception and abortion – and certainly won’t step up himself to fund adoption promotion programs among his evangelical brood for babies who are guilt tripped into the world on unfit mothers or poor families.

    Isaac is the consummate hypocrite and cannot be trusted or believed when he talks about “individual rights. According to Isaac, rich landowners have individual rights, but” not women. Pathetic.

  4. I found this quote interesting, “From everything I know about the La Mantias, they are a perfect fit for Hays County. They will be good neighbors and good stewards of the land,” said San Marcos attorney Charles Soechting, a former Texas Democratic Party chair and O’Quinn law partner.” taken from a previous article posted here. I’d love to hear Mr. Soechting’s opinion as to why the La Mantias want a MUD on their property.

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