Hill Country groups wanting more local land-use control

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As the second fastest-growing county in the country according to U.S. Census Bureau data, Comal County, like others in the Hill Country, is coming face to face with industries that want to set up shop on land that is becoming more and more precious.

Annalisa Peace, executive director of the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance and a registered state lobbyist, cites incompatible land use as the reason why the GEAA and other groups in the region hope to resurrect a bill in 2019 that did not get through in the 2007 legislative session.

“We have been working for the past more than 10 years to try to get the state to pass legislation that gives nine counties in the Hill Country area the ability to have some limited land-use control that would be contingent on the voters of each county voting to adopt that authority,” Peace said.

According to Peace, one of the most recent examples of incompatible land use in Comal County is a 1,500-acre rock quarry plant that is planned for a rapidly growing residential area.

House Bill 3447 was first introduced by Patrick Rose, a former Texas representative for District 45, which covers Blanco, Caldwell and Hays counties. If passed in 2019, it would give certain counties the authority to set land-use requirements to help protect citizens and the environment from negative impacts.

At its March 22 meeting, the Comal County Commissioners Court heard concerns from citizens regarding the construction of the rock-crushing plant that is being planned at Hwy. 46 and FM 3009 in New Braunfels.

Following the comments, the court voted unanimously to pass a resolution urging the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to consider citizen health and safety concerns before approving an air-quality permit that will authorize the construction and operation of Vulcan Materials Co., which operates 15 facilities in Texas.

“The judge and commissioners made clear that although they do not want a rock quarry to be placed in that area, either, the question is really what is the county authorized to do under state law?” said Paul Anthony, Comal County public information officer.

Because Texas counties are not authorized to make decisions regarding general land use, the resolution is an avenue for Comal County to urge the TCEQ and state legislators to use their expertise and authority “to protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens and environment of Comal County.”

The New Braunfels City Council approved a similar resolution at its March 12 meeting that urges state lawmakers to heed citizen concerns surrounding the quarry, including increased dust emissions, defacement of the scenic hill country, water protection, increased heavy truck traffic and the loss of natural resources.

Around 500 Comal County residents expressed their concerns about the rock-crushing plant at a Feb. 27 public meeting, which concluded a formal public comment period, and TCEQ Spokesperson Andrew Keese said the executive director is currently reviewing the comments and preparing a formal response to them.

Vulcan Materials spokesperson Scott Burnham said Vulcan does not yet have a timetable of when the quarry would open, and Keese said the remaining process steps will take several months.

Burnham said Vulcan Materials Co. will next file for a storm water permit and is preparing a water pollution abatement plan that ensures the protection of water quality. The company is also working with the Texas Department of Transportation regarding road improvements at the property’s entrance.

“We’re committed to environmentally responsible operations and protecting the health and safety of the environment,” Burnham said. “The environment guides us in everything we do. We are a heavily regulated industry and will meet or exceed the guidelines that have been established by local, state and federal laws and regulatory agencies.”

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COMMENT
  1. Michael Maurer, Sr.

    It is unfortunate for ordinary property owners to fall subject to Comal County Commissioners Court’s political ambitions. I have seen this kind of knee-jerk reaction from time to time in other jurisdictions where elected officials use a kind of ‘if we had authority’ we could stop or limit the right of a property owner to ‘harm adjacent property owners. Fact is, citizens have begged Commissioners Court to adopt a resolution denouncing this quarry and to this date… your elected representatives on Comal County Commissioners Court have REFUSED to do this simple task. The TCEQ admits ‘great weight’ would be considered in the permitting process if a political entity where a quarry is to be situated adopts a resolution ‘for’ or ‘against’ such quarry. The only two governmental entities who have a real voice are Comal ISD ( who voted down adopting a resolution against the quarry) and Comal County Commissioners Court ( who have continually and steadfastly REFUSED TO ADOPT a resolution denouncing the quarry). All other entities’ resolutions are meaningless cause the quarry falls outside their respective jurisdictions.
    So to this end, the County officials have continuously asked for more regulatory powers through the legislature. And so now the big government supporters are coming out of the woodwork to promote more regulatory authority for County Commissioners. Fact is… the needed authority would end the end be used by elected officials to so call ‘pick and choose the winners and losers’ in the kind of development the Commissioners fully support. This quarry is an excellent example of government gone wrong as Commissioners seem to fully support this quarry… even with so much harmful dust and other chemicals that will befall adjacent property owners for miles. Even students and faculty attending SVHS will be subjected it appears to harmful dust coming from the quarry. If the Comal County elected officials simply REFUSE to adopt a resolution denouncing the quarry… what make you believe if the County had a whole slew of other powers if they would even use these additional powers on businesses or developments that have the blessing of Comal County Commissioners Court,,, such as the ‘blessings’ this quarry seems to have.

  2. Vulcan’s claims about the environment being so importantbuo them is a joke. They have rediculous Violations at their closest quarry ready mix okant we researched to see if any of this were true. 44 violations in just the past 5 years including 15 Air Violations. The storm water violations resulting in contamination from long term neglect were atrocious. The TSS exceedences in the nearby creek on the Edwards Recharge Zone were 13,600 mg/L the Federal limit is 50 mg/L. That’s the REAL Vulcan Way folks. They also gave more complaints than all other like companies combined in Bexar Co. They are a nightmare we do not want or need in Texas. Go back to Alabama and pollute your own state.

  3. Vulcan’s claims about the environment being so importantbuo them is a joke. They have rediculous Violations at their closest quarry ready mix okant we researched to see if any of this were true. 44 violations in just the past 5 years including 15 Air Violations. The storm water violations resulting in contamination from long term neglect were atrocious. The TSS exceedences in the nearby creek on the Edwards Recharge Zone were 13,600 mg/L the Federal limit is 50 mg/L. That’s the REAL Vulcan Way folks. They also gave more complaints than all other like companies combined in Bexar Co. They are a nightmare we do not want or need in Texas. Go back to Alabama and pollute your own state.

Rachel Nelson
Rachel Nelson is editor of the New Braunfels edition of Community Impact Newspaper. She covers local business, new development, city and county government, health care, education and transportation. Rachel relocated to Central Texas from Amarillo in 2009 and is a graduate of Texas State University's School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
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