Photo by Rasmi Hunt
By RASMI HUNT
The ages old conflict between residents and developers met its usual fate Tuesday when Wimberley area residents asked for help from county government.
Commissioners ended up telling the residents about their legal obligation to approve a re-platting of The Ridge at Wimberley Springs. The developers asked to nullify an existing plat calling for 19.1 acres in one section of the project, and replace it with a plat showing a similar sized development closer to a new elementary school being built by the Wimberley ISD.
Residents in the vicinity of the new development hoped to slow it down. But the commissioners said they don’t have a choice at this point.
“This is an issue I have struggled with a lot,” said Precinct 4 Commissioner Karen Ford (D-Dripping Springs). ”I’ve had a similar situation in my precinct, where we were required to approve a plat because it met our rules, it met the law and it met what we had to adhere to. But, at the same time, it caused the aquifer to be depleted in an area where there wasn’t much water. I’m really at a quandary here. If we approve this today, there has to be a lot of work done between now and final approval.”
The court then unanimously approved the preliminary re-platting, but not before hearing an earful from area citizens who packed the courtroom. As Ford’s remarks suggest, strain on area water came up often.
Jim McMeans of the Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development said scientific studies have shown the Trinity Aquifer, which supplies the Wimberley water supply and Aqua Texas water supply systems, is at its threshold, and providing additional water to sustain an increased population is impossible.
John Seib, member of the Hill Country Ranch Property Owners Association, said he moved to the Wimberley Valley because he wanted to be in a sparsely populated area. He expressed concern about increased residential traffic. But he also said many of his neighbors rely on rainwater collection, as most of the wells in the area are dry. He said he worried about the growing population having a drastic impact on overall water use in the community.
“We’re not near any rivers that can support us,” Seib said. “The existing population is the one who put you into office. We’re the people who voted you in, not the 130 or 140 families that will be moving in. We’re not anti-development. I’m just saying we need some control over what is happening.”
Developers represented by Loomis Partners Senior Project Manager Tracy Bratton and Winton Porterfield, Vice President of Wimberley Springs Partners, said they were aware of the water issue, adding that careful measures were being taken to provide proper water and wastewater management in the area. They said Aqua Texas assured them of adequate water supplies.
Expressing the same reservations as the residents concerning Aqua Texas, commissioners added that the supply company is regulated by the state, so the county can do little. Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton (D-Kyle) went so far as to say that the issue could have more to do with Aqua Texas than with the new development itself.
“I understand the issues with the subdivision,” Barton said. “But I think the developers have reached out and have certainly done more than the law requires. They’ve done more than our current rules require, and our rules are among the toughest in the state. It seems to me the big deal here is with Aqua Texas. If somebody wants to hold Aqua Texas down, I’ll hit them with a two-by four over the head. Or, I’ll hold them down and you can hit them.”