New subdivision, drainage issues worry Buda City Council members

Buda City Council approved a plan Dec. 1 for a new residential subdivision off FM 967, but council members raised concerns new construction could worsen drainage issues.

Council voted 5-1 in favor of approving the plan for White Oak Preserve, a 59-acre subdivision that will be located between Cullen Country and Stonewood Commons off FM 967.

"We've gotten a lot of questions about flooding recently, and really [the October 2015 flood] was an anomaly," Mayor Todd Ruge said. "It's something we pray doesn't happen again."

Ruge was among the five votes in favor of approving the final plat for White Oak Preserve. Council Member Wiley Hopkins voted against the measure. Council Member Angela Kennedy abstained.

Hopkins and Kennedy expressed hesitancy to move the project forward because of recent flooding in residential areas in the city.

“I understand the engineering constraints, but after seeing what has happened to my neighbors—and they weren’t even in the floodplain; this was just a drainage issue from the engineering—I’m very hesitant to see a project move forward when we know they’ll be building houses in an area that is susceptible to another event like the two that we just saw,” Kennedy said.

Buda resident T.J. Higginbotham said he is meeting with Texas Department of Transportation officials Dec. 7 to discuss an unrelated TxDOT project that could have an impact on drainage in the city.

TxDOT is working to respond to a Community Impact Newspaper request for information about the meeting.

Council Member Eileen Altmiller said discussion of the TxDOT project was relevant because projects constructed by the department have diverted water to neighborhoods, causing drainage issues in the past.

White Oak Preserve, which is being developed by Austin firm M/I Homes, is up to code and had received preliminary approval in July.

Because the project meets code the approval by Buda City Council was simply a ministerial act, which means the council cannot use individual judgment in approving or disapproving the item, City Attorney Catarina Gonzales said.

If the council had denied approval, it would have had to certify reasons for doing so, risking legal action against it, Gonzales said.

“It’s a ministerial act, so you’re not protected from personal liability because you’re not using your discretion if you choose to disapprove it contrary to it meeting code,” she said.

Planning Director Chance Sparks said the city is reviewing technical standards for drainage in Buda.