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

April 23rd, 2013
Isaac: In ranch dispute, I won’t flinch on basic rights

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During one of his radio shows nearly forty years ago, Ronald Reagan warns of people and agencies of government that want to “tell you exactly what you can or can’t do with your land, including telling you there’s nothing you can do but pay the taxes and let it lay idle.”

He refers to this as “land planning” in the name of “environmentalism” and warns that it is “the greatest threat in 200 years to our traditional right to own property.”

That threat is being played out right now in the Wimberley valley of Hays County. Local elected officials and other citizens against responsible development are waging a campaign against a landowner exercising his property rights in obtaining a Municipal Utility District (MUD). MUDs have been used for years as an effective tool for responsible development.

Currently, the landowner has the ability to develop his land as he chooses. Additionally, the landowner could currently sell the water on his land to the highest bidder, meaning that the water could leave the Wimberley area. He currently has the right to subdivide his property into over 800 lots, each with their own well and their own septic system. The creation of the Municipal Utility District gives us the opportunity to limit what can be done on the property to protect the natural resources should the property be developed.

The conservation and protection of natural resources in the area are important to me, and I believe that this MUD will help to ensure that the land is managed responsibly with an emphasis on conservation. Here’s why: There is language in the proposed bill that is not standard language for a MUD. The bill states that the district will “provide for the preservation and conservation of the natural resources within the district, while protecting private property rights to develop and beneficially use those resources in an organized and lawfully regulated manner.”

One elected official who opposes the MUD stated in a letter to Sen. Campbell and me that, “there are broad powers of eminent domain currently in the legislation.” I later learned that this letter was distributed far and wide throughout Hays County as an attempt to get people to contact Senator Campbell and me to stop our legislation.

It’s true that most MUDs have eminent domain authority. However, on the last page of the proposed legislation it clearly states: “The district may not exercise the power of eminent domain.”

Some emails I have received question how I could support a MUD for a landowner when I wouldn’t support a Municipal Management District for Wimberley. In the case of the management district, one part of the affected residents wanted the right to tax all of the residents, whether they agreed to the tax or not. In the case of the MUD, there are no taxes to be imposed on current residents, and any future residents (if the property is developed) would be aware of any taxes or fees before choosing to move to the district.

I believe that people have a right to manage their own property within the limits of the law. The public, through the government, owns about 30 percent of the land in this country. I’ll quote Reagan again, “If more is needed, we should do collectively exactly what we do individually. Go buy it! What we must not do is give to ourselves collectively, in the name of government, rights we don’t possess as individuals. We can have all of the open space and recreational land we need. We don’t have the right to tell someone who owns a beach lot that he can’t build on it because we like the view as we drive by on the highway. If the view is that important to us, we should buy it.”

We are all concerned about the preservation of our natural resources, and I believe the language of this bill allows for thoughtful management of this land in the future. However, I will not waver when it comes to one of our most basic rights as Americans.

UPDATED 10:03 a.m. APRIL 23: Isaac sent this clarification to the portion of his commentary on the Needmore Ranch Municipal Utility District in which he criticized opponents of the project for arguing that the MUD would have “broad powers of eminent domain” despite a clause in his bill that excludes the MUD from exercising condemnation:

“The draft of the language of the bill I was working from was not publicly available and therefore no one would have known that eminent domain powers had been removed. I apologize for any misunderstanding that this caused. The major concerns regarding this legislation involve water conservation for the Wimberley valley, and I am continuing to work to preserve our natural resources while protecting private property rights.”

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State Rep. JASON ISAAC, a Dripping Springs Republican who represents Hays and Blanco counties, sits on the House’s Environmental Regulations and Economic & Small Business Development committees. This commentary was written April 23 as a letter distributed to constituents. Isaac can be reached by email here.

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Read more

» HB 3918 – Municipal utility district on former O’Quinn Ranch by San Marcos Mercury

Editor’s Note

Proposed legislation that would create a municipal utility district on the more than 5,000-acres former Fulton Ranch has a considerable number of Wimberley Valley residents up in arms.

Known variously as the McCoy or the O’Quinn ranch — the name has changed over the decades along with the owners — the legendary spread was bought in 2011 by McAllen beer distributorship owner Greg Lamantia after Houston superlawyer John O’Quinn’s died in a car wreck in 2009. The ranch is located between San Marcos and Wimberley on a particularly scenic stretch of the Blanco River, known historically as Little Arkansas.

Municipal utility districts are typically vehicles created by state legislators at developers’ behest to fund costly construction of water, wastewater and other infrastructure in areas out of reach of existing municipal or rural utility services. LaMantia, however, has reportedly said he intends to sell off development rights to the property in the form of a conservation easement; positioning the land for theoretical development would increase the value of those development rights.

A group of Wimberley and Woodcreek residents organized as Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development is trying to marshal public opposition to scuttle the Needmore Ranch MUD, which would require a two-thirds vote of both the Texas House and Senate. They have found allies in Hays County County Judge Bert Cobb and Commissioner Will Conley, whose precinct includes the ranch.

State Rep. Jason Isaac, who represents Hays and Blanco counties, is doubling down on his sponsorship of the district, casting the issue as a bellwether decision for private property rights. In addition, if the land is developed, Isaac says, it would be done more responsibly with a water and wastewater system rather than personal wells and septic tanks on each lot.

Isaac’s HB 3918 is scheduled for a public hearing Wednesday, April 23 in the House’s Special Purpose Districts committee. On the other side of the capitol, State Sen. Donna Campbell’s SB 1868 has been recommended favorably by the Intergovernmental Relations committee and is awaiting a vote by the full Senate.

Today in the Mercury

State Rep. Jason Isaac writes in support of the Needmore Ranch MUD

Wimberley resident Louis B. Parks writes in opposition to the potential development


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10 thoughts on “Isaac: In ranch dispute, I won’t flinch on basic rights

  1. I just read this Isaac bio quote:

    “State Rep. JASON ISAAC, a Dripping Springs Republican who represents Hays and Blanco counties, sits on the House’s Environmental Regulations and Economic & Small Business Development committees.”

    What a joke! Isaac being on the Environmental Regulations committee is like hiring an executive at Wal-Mart to be your union representative.

    Btw, I stand corrected about “State Senator” Mandatory Sonogram. He is only State Rep. Mandatory Sonogram, who sits on the Texas Legislature’s Christian Misogyny sub-committee.

  2. Rocky

    Quit complaining and get your liberal buddies together and try to defeat him in the next election.

  3. Jerry, you are one of these people who think because I criticize a blatantly hypocritical right wing nut that I am a “liberal.” You would be wise to stop thinking in a mindless black and white manner.

    This is exactly why Republicans are no longer conservatives anymore. They talk about small government but they use big government legislation to suppress people – in the case of the hypocrite Isaac – with invasive mandatory sonograms for women.

    Isaac and his shamefully unchristian colleagues in the Texas House play God with their small government rhetotic, but act just the opposite. And his foolish voters go along with it, supporting his lies and hypocrisy. Does being Christian mean being ignorant? I don’t think so.

    But if me thinking woman are smart enough to make their own decisions for themselves and their families, and is self-respecting enough to live with her ethical choices, then yes I guess I am a liberal.

    And if not supporting a largely racist and homophobic party of big government politicians is liberal, hey, I proudly stand up.

    Jerry, in case you don’t remember, “conservative” means small government. Passing laws forcing women to undergo medical procedures against their will is stuff Joseph Mengele did in Nazi Germany. Tell me. How Christian is that?

  4. In the last post I wrote:

    “Isaac and his shamefully unchristian colleagues….”

    I was wrong to write that. I’m sure Isaac believes he is a good Christian.

    Clearly, my definition of Christian is different from his. I believe free will and living with your consequences and to ask God for help in making the right decision is what true Christians believe.

    I don’t believe a politician – especially one who espouses small government values – should be playing God with their power. It is wrong, plain and simple.

  5. Rocky,

    Based on your comments above, it is useless to argue with you. Every sentence you write makes me realize that you haven’t put much thought into your comments.

  6. Jerry, I totally agree…Rocky has no clue what he is talking about and to bring Christianity into this, in this manner, is decidedly UN-Christian on the part of Mr B!

  7. It is so typical for Fox News lemmings like Jerry and Jaci to make it look like I don’t know what I am talking about.

    The truth is you two are unable to comprehend anything but black and white right wing nonsense.

    You don’t even attempt do discuss what “conservative” really means because you have no ability to think for yourselves.

    So you just write me off – hiding behind the veil of a blanket cowardly dismissal.

    And if you have any courage or integrity at all, Jerry and Jaci, put up your last names to let everyone know who the mice in the dark are. Don’t hide behind fear and ignorance.

    At least Jason Isaac had the chutzpah to take responsibility for his words.

  8. Rocky,

    From your posts, most people would agree that it is you who thinks in the “black and white” manner. I didn’t rush to judgement about you before your rantings about “mandatory sonograms” and “Christian Misogyny”. Your comments gave me a glimpse of who you are and what you believe. I’m smart enough to discern quite a bit assuming you are writing truthfully.

    You write “Conservative means small government”. Do you believe that is the only characteristic that makes someone conservative? What does “small government” really mean? You write “passing laws forcing women to undergo medical procedures against their will is stuff like Joseph Mengele did in Nazi Germany”. That is an extreme comment in my view when you compare mandatory sonograms to Joseph Mengele who, by injecting chloroform into people’s hearts, killed them just to dissect them.

    Therefore, from your writings, I can conclude that you are possibly extreme or “black and white” on issues. You have the right to think, say or write what you believe, but I also have the right to form an opinion about you. I may be completely wrong, and you may be a passive person in life, but, of course, I will not include may last name, just in case.

  9. Jerry – with the fake fear to use your real name:

    You and your phony fear to leave your last name is nonsense. Trying to make me look dangerous because I call out your mindless support of State Senator Mandatory Sonogram is typical of the fake indignation out of touch right wingers use to twist opinions into facts.

    And you are semantically wrong. “Conservative” – politically, economically, and socially, means “keep the damn government out of our lives.”

    You bogus conservatives always try to redefine what conservative is, so you can force your sad life on others. Jason Isaac – and you apparently – may be Republican, but not conservative. You fool no one with any intelligence or historical perspective.

    Finally, Christian extremists, in fact any religious extremist, is not working in the name of their prophet. They are making Jesus (or Mohammed) work toward their ugly delusional vision.

    It is not hard for an average human brain to comprehend. You can’t say you believe in individual rights and then force a woman to undergo a medical procedure that neither the woman or her partner choose.

    Of course as a man who supports Isaac’s God complex, then you must think women are cattle first and a human being second.

    Finally, if you are also a black and white supporter of the NRA, I think I am the one who should be worried.

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