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

January 11th, 2013
Interactive: Hays County plans for Wimberley roads

Interactive map

Hover over the black circles on this map for detail about road improvements proposed in the most recent (Dec. 20) draft of the Hays County Transportation Plan. The commissioners court will discuss the plan during a workshop at 11 a.m. Jan. 15 at the Old Hays County Courthouse in San Marcos.




Officials have scrubbed or scaled-down a number of planned new roads from a draft update of the county’s long-range transportation plan, including a series of new arterials around the Wimberley Valley. A prospective connection between Hilliard Road, outside San Marcos, and Fulton Ranch Road, outside Wimberley, has been designated for emergencies, not everyday use.

Thousands of people live in a wide swath of unincorporated Hays County accessible only by Lime Kiln Road, a two-lane road periodically cut off from San Marcos by the low-water crossing at Sink Creek. In September 2011, a wildfire threatened homes in the area and choked off the only escape route. It was contained quickly, in part, through good fortune; DC-10 and C-130 firefighting aircraft happened to be staged in the region at the time, but usually are not.

The draft Hays County Transportation Plan that circulated in November envisioned a two-lane major arterial connecting the terminus of Hilliard Road with Lost River and Fulton Ranch roads outside Wimberley. An updated draft of the plan, scheduled to be considered by the Hays County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, leaves the road intact but designates it “emergency access only.”

“We decided that it probably didn’t make sense to make this a full-blown connection. A lot of people would be concerned about a connection in that spot that could really change the character of the area,” said Joe Cantalupo, a former Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization director now working as a consultant for Hays County.

Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley, who represents the Wimberley and western San Marcos areas, said he and Pct. 4 Commissioner Ray Whisenant always intended the Hilliard-Fulton Ranch Road connection to be used for emergencies only. The road was mistakenly included in the November draft plan as a major arterial roadway with 80-feet of right-of-way because of a “staffing issue,” Conley said.

Conley said his constituents on both sides of the Blanco River oppose a thoroughfare that would increase traffic in their neighborhoods, but want an alternative escape route in event of catastrophe.

“My constituents on Flite Acres Road have enough traffic to deal with. And the people who live on Hilliard and Lime Kiln, they moved back there for a reason. We really tried to the best of our ability to make sure we didn’t have any type of intrusions through existing subdivisions. There are a lot of other options for the county to still have a safe and efficient highway system,” Conley said. “We want to go and talk to those private landowners and hopefully work out an agreement that would give us the ability to use that connection in some type of emergency situation. It is purely a public safety issue. It has nothing to do with connectivity or mobility.”

For more than a century, passers-through could legally use a privately-owned road called Little Arkansas where it crossed the 5,000-plus acre Fulton Ranch, providing a secondary connection between the Hilliard Road area and the Blanco River. When Houston superlawyer John O’Quinn bought the legendary spread in 2001, county leaders approved a controversial swap in which O’Quinn paid $5.3 million to build a new road around the perimeter of his property as an alternative route to Little Arkansas. The road connects to San Marcos on Ranch Road 12 and not Hilliard, however, making the Lime Kiln/Hilliard area, essentially, a cul-de-sac of city-sized dimensions.

Cantalupo said it will be up to the county judge and commissioners to decide what “emergency access only” means in real-world terms.

“I think what the county is saying is, over time, we need to make sure we have an escape route for people who are on the Hilliard end of things,” Cantalupo said. “We were struggling with how to approach this and someone said, ‘Why don’t you just label it as emergency access only.’ And that’s what we did.”

The draft plan also calls for re-opening a Blanco River low-water crossing that connects the terminus of Lime Kiln Road with Cypress Road outside Kyle.

Since public hearings were held around the county in November, four new segments of two-lane major arterial roads in the Wimberley area have also been eliminated from the draft. They include:

  • A “spur” that would have created a new connection between Lone Mountain Road and  Ranch Road 3237;
  • An extension of Lone Mountain Road from its current terminus at Ranch Road 12 to Mt Sharp Road;
  • An extension of Ledgerock Road past its current terminus at FM 2325 to Fischer Store Road; and
  • An extension of Sachtleben Road that would have connected Wayside Drive to Ranch Road 32 near the Devil’s Backbone.

Taken together, the roads would have connected a number of meandering, detached country roads to form a partial loop around Wimberley and Woodcreek. Conley said they were included in the fall preliminary draft because they were included in city of Wimberley’s transportation plan. When affected property owners objected, the commissioner said, they were taken out of the current draft.

The proposed roads “would have had a significant impact in changing the lifestyle that my constituents out there currently enjoy. They would have went through existing subdivisions and working ranches. It’s just not appropriate at this time,” Conley said.

Conley said Wimberley elected officials are “comfortable” with the county’s transportation plan omitting major elements of the city’s.

He said, “It was very visionary. In other words, it was way-down-the-road type stuff, kind of ahead of its time. Maybe one day they could certainly be something to potentially look at. It’s just a long ways away. They understand that and agree.”

Two panels appointed by commissioners — a citizens advisory committee and a technical advisory committee — reviewed the most recent draft at meetings Thursday afternoon. Neither group recommended major revisions. The Hays County Commissioners Court is expected to discuss the transportation plan at a workshop on Tuesday and could schedule a vote on adoption as soon as Jan. 22 or Jan. 29.

Read more

This is the most recent draft of a rewriting of Hays County’s long-term transportation plan. The labels on the map correspond to a matrix available here [pdf].

CORRECTION: This story originally said 10,255 people live off Lime Kiln and Hilliard Road; the real number is significantly fewer. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 7,234 live in Census Tract 107.01 and 2,991 in Census Tract 107.02. Those tracts encompass the Hilliard Road/Lime Kiln Road areas but also include more densely populated areas, including parts of the San Marcos city limits.

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20 thoughts on “Interactive: Hays County plans for Wimberley roads

  1. Thank you all who listened to our concerns regarding these roads. We have all chosen to live in these rural areas for the rural character they have. That character is easily destroyed by creating thouroughfares in our neighborhoods. These rural areas are part of what define the Texas Hill Country and what brought most of us to this special area. I look forward to continuing to live in a growing area that will place the quality of living as a highest priority among it’s citizens and leaders. The “emergency access only” is a great example of finding a solution that works without comprimising our requests to maintain this lifestyle we cherish so dearly.

  2. Maybe SM city council could learn something about actually listening to their constituents from this.

  3. I have a suspicion they’re running out of road bond money, rather than listening to their constituents.

  4. If feasible, rather than build a new “emergency only” road between Hilliard and Fulton Ranch Road or buy back the old Little Arkansas Road, perhaps the county could draft an easement agreement that allows public use of Little Arkansas only during emergencies, at the discretion of the emergency services director/fire chief or similar. Such an arrangement may save money and avoid redundancy as the existing road is in reasonable shape. A new road may start out for “emergency only” use, but there are still a lot of undeveloped lots and large tracts on Hilliard, and eventually a developer could convince the court to open it up. The discussion may be moot if the city is able to annex a large chunk of Hilliard and add a connector from N. LBJ/Craddock area – I’m sure the current council would love to help a developer cut it up. Its probably inevitable that Hilliard/Lime Kiln will become part of a SM outer loop that connects to Wimberley, Kyle, and I-35, but I’d rather it be in 25-35 years, which aligns with the CAMPO plan.
    An alternate solution is for the city and county to buy one or more of the large tracts and use as a park, natural area, new road, endangered habitat, and water quality land.

  5. Elie I applaud your cynicism…sadly in these New Gilded Ages that is much more likely the case…

  6. I live off Lone Mountain Road in Wimberley. My family just moved here from Illinois and chose to move into a home off of Lime Kiln Road in San Marcos. It was perfect, we were all excited about our close proximity. I could help her keep the kids because she has found a home less than 30 minutes from me. It has taken us a week to understand why we cannot reach each other’s home’s via map quest’s suggestion of Fulton Ranch Road. We tried GPS as well and we kept getting stuck on Fulton Road with a fence keeping us from getting through. In fact, this article clarifies my original suspicions and provides us with the answers we have needed for a week. It takes us an hour and we must drive 30 miles instead of 15 because of political opinions and “constituents” not wanting an extra car or two buzzing through their roads. I can deal with the inconvenience traveling to see my family. However, the part I am completely taken back on is that the county chooses to put a whole group of people at risk in the event of a wild fire, just to keep a few people happy in their serene little environment and without traffic. I was raised in the country around farmers in Illinois. I can tell you they would have never gotten by with closing their roads off to the public just so they didn’t have to deal with people coming to and fro. I will be part of the class action lawsuit if the day comes that my family cannot get out of their neighborhood because of some incompetents choosing to keep an obvious thorough fare closed for simply selfish reasons. It is also obvious none of the voters around any board meeting table have family living in Wimberley that need to get to that area of San Marcos on a routine basis. As a final note, the new drafts that may have helped a few of us that were thrown out…………..not a surprise.

  7. Julie,

    If things were so good in Illinois, move back there where you don’t have to be so inconvenienced…

  8. It’s pretty simple really….if there is a fire or other emergency, just take the dude’s fence out and go on through – agreement or no agreement.

  9. I’m not sure how much longer Little Arkansas will be closed off. I thought I just heard that it is owned by a beer distributor, who wants to develop it. I could be misremembering.

  10. Nope, you have it right Ted. From a recent SMRF Newsletter: Will Conley and Bert Cobb are our only defense against this

    DEFEND YOUR SM SPRINGS: There is an urgent issue re a bill to allow
    >> a MUD or Municipal Utility District for the Little Arkansas area, on
    >> the Blanco River between SM and Wimberley, that you can help with TODAY.
    >> Defending this area is critical to the recharge and water quality of
    >> SM Springs which is the source of our river’s flow. Thanks very much
    >> to Hays County and Will Conley for firmly refusing to support HB
    >> 3918, filed by Isaac (companion bill SB 1868 by Campbell). The bill
    >> would increase the value of the 5000-acre old O’Quinn Ranch now owned
    >> by a big
    > beer distributor, La Mantia.
    >> This non-resident landowner has cynically named his MUD the “Needmore”
    >> District, since it would make it very much more lucrative for him to
    >> have this “entitlement” on his property, the ability to sell bonds to
    >> build utilities, though I think this is far from a joke. This site
    >> is not practical for development, does not have an accessible water
    >> supply to serve it, and development there would harm the springs that
    >> feed the Blanco and the endangered species in Fern Bank Springs
    >> (Little Arkansas), and of course our river and springs here. These
    >> bills would give him special rights, that could harm other county
    >> residents’ property rights—we the residents of Hays County.
    >> LaMantia carefully drew the district around the ETJ of Wimberley so
    >> he does not have to follow their protective rules. So here’s what you
    >> can do, to start
    > with:
    >> First, politely but strongly urge these legislators to NOT support
    >> HB3918/SB1868 because development there would harm our San Marcos
    >> springs and river by affecting water quality and recharge. Ask them
    >> to please listen to the Hays County Judge and Commissioners, the
    >> Wimberley City Council, and residents of Hays County. (SB 1868 is on
    >> a fast track, so write these Senators of the Administration
    >> Commmittee today or as soon as you
    >> can.)
    >> ;
    >> ;
    >> ;
    >> ;
    >> ;
    >> ;
    >> Then when you can, send a similar email to these Representatives of
    >> the House Special Purpose Districts Committee:
    >> Then, ask these two, who are supposed to represent our area, to
    >> withdraw their bad bills immediately for the same reasons:
    >> State Representative Jason Isaac –
    >> State Senator Donna Campbell –
    >> And then please take the time to thank these two below, for NOT
    >> supporting this MUD. Without their opposition to this bad bill by
    >> Hays County, this MUD would be easy for La Mantia and Isaac and
    >> Campbell to pass, so we owe the county folks big-time:
    >> Hays County Commissioner Will Conley –
    >> and County Judge Bert Cobb
    >> DW

  11. I live just down the street from the Fulton (needmore) Ranch, on a patch of land I have tended for decades, and I echo the sentiment that residents of my area are most concerned about maintaining the character of their land, and privacy, but would also like a practical solution for alternate egress, but not necessarily just for emergencies.

  12. Melissa:
    Be careful thanking Commissioner Conley on this. Jason Isaac seems to suggest that Will Conley does not support the MUD just outside of Wimberley, but the honorable Commissioner will not fight it. I suppose he could be thanked for his opposition and then reprimanded for his inaction on this matter. Great strategy for Mr. Conley: publicly oppose an issue that some of his constituents oppose, but take no action on behalf of those constituents.

  13. Interesting Ellie, by nature I don’t trust politicians as far as I can throw them, but his email back to me said he intended to fight it. I suppose we shall see, and believe me if he doesn’t fight, I’ll be one of the first to question his inaction if that is the path it takes.

  14. The hard truth is that we live in the fastest growing area in the United States (depending on which survey you look at). The days of San Marcos and the surrounding parts of Hays County being a quiet rural area are done. Within 50 years, the population of Hays County is projected to triple. To adequately handle that growth, we need additional infrastructure – yeah, roads.

    I feel for those of you who want to preserve your previous way of life and your reclusive existence at the end of a long dead end road….but it simply can’t last forever. The time will come – and it will be in the lifetimes of many of us here – where this whole area will be one large urban area stretching from Round Rock to San Antonio….and it’s just a matter of time until “quaint villages” like Wimberley and Dripping get sucked in too. Heck, you can see it happening in Dripping already…..

  15. Dano, I appreciate the fact that you are not so caustic these days, really, not meant snarky at all.

    We all know that’s what is intended, we’ve all known since we were dubbed the Austin/San Antonio Corridor. The simple fact is, that your government officials are elected to be YOUR voice ~ is it a way uphill, stinkin battle, YES, but it can be done.

    There are many historic cities across the US (and yes we are historic, we are the oldest neighborhood in North America and our springs have been featured on National Geographic) That have preserved their unique characteristics well, even while totally surrounded by huge cities.

    IMO we can’t allow SM to just be bulldozed over by those in power who stand to make a fortune off or turning our city into Katy TX, we as citizens need to make sure that as our town grows, it protects all that makes it unique, and keep all of it’s environmental features in tact or we have failed.

  16. I rather expect the O’Quinn ranch to have a conservation easement placed on it. Perhaps with some governmental/tax money to help. It will most likely limited development to 100+ acre tracts. The purchase price makes small tracts unlikely, too much development/infrastructure cost to go 5 acre or so. But 100 acre, that’s a different proposition.

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