Saturday, April 27, 2013

Commentary on Town Hall Meeting held Thursday, 4/25/2013 at Wimberley Community Center (Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development)

To : Citizens of Wimberley Valley and Hays County
From: CARD Steering Committee
Re: Commentary on Town Hall Meeting held Thursday, 4/25/2013 at Wimberley Community Center

More than 400 concerned Hays County citizens gathered at the Wimberley Community Center Thursday evening, April 25, to speak their mind on legislation affecting the future of our area. Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD) hosted the meeting about plans to turn the 5,000 acre Needmore Ranch – the former O’Quinn Ranch – into a Municipal Utility District (MUD) adjacent to Wimberley. Attendees filled 300 chairs, fully lined back and side walls and over-flowed into the building’s lobby. Brookshire Brothers lot was filled; attendees parked as far away as The Leaning Pear restaurant.

Also invited and attending were State Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dist. 45) and Hays County Commissioner Will Conley (R-Pct. 3), Wimberley Mayor Bob Flocke and several members of the city council. State Senator Donna Campbell (R-Dist. 25) was represented by her communications director John Oliver. All attendees were welcomed to speak; more than 25 signed up to do so.

Needmore Ranch is owned by McAllen businessman Greg LaMantia. At his request, Sen. Campbell and Rep. Isaac recently filed companion bills, SB 1868 and HB 3918, in the State Legislature to create the Needmore Ranch Municipal Utilities District #1, to include all of the ranch property except the estimated 980 acres within the city of Wimberley’s planning jurisdiction (ETJ).  A MUD gives owners rights far beyond standard property rights. Like a municipality it has power to levy taxes, effect eminent domain, get tax exempt bond financing, and other powers listed in the statute.  The bills are being routed through the” local and consent” state legislative process which almost assures their passage unless challenged by another legislator.  Currently the bills are pending near final action in the Senate and House.

Alarmed by the potential impact a 4,000+ acre MUD-empowered development could have on our area’s limited aquifer water supply, roads, schools, and the Blanco River,  CARD called the meeting to allow citizen input and ask the legislators to explain their actions and seek withdrawal of the bills.

Invited to speak first, Rep. Isaac framed the MUD as a simple property rights bill. Isaac contended that Mr. LaMantia has a private property right to obtain government approval of a MUD, which Isaac called a “traditional right”. Oliver, speaking for Sen. Campbell, criticized CARD for calling the meeting.  He also argued Mr. LaMantia’s basic private property right to get the added governmental powers. He claimed the bills were not fast-tracked, though they were filed April 3-4 without support of local government.

The MUD bills are opposed by Hays County and by a resolution from the city of Wimberley. Lila McCall read Com. Conley’s letter of opposition. CARD’s moderator, Jim McMeans read the City of Wimberley’s resolution of opposition. McMeans then began calling speakers from the audience to the podium.

Among the first was an attorney who quietly broke down the details of the MUD. He indicated Rep. Isaac’s representation was misleading, and pointed out that all of the protections for other local property owners that Isaac said were in the legislation were not actually in the bill, but were only oral agreements not valid in court. Isaac eventually conceded this was correct.

·         One speaker noted that Hays County regulations allow development to a variety of residential densities within the ranch – ranging from 1,500 lots with individual wells and septic, and up to 6,900 lots with full piped water and sewer utilities, for a population of up to 16,000 persons.  This development is possible with or without a MUD, but a MUD would give the developer very favorable financing for the project. Many others pointed out the tax breaks of a MUD.

·         Several challenged the premise that LaMantia has a basic property right to a MUD created by governmental action.  One explained that MUDs have been used in Texas to stimulate development where there is a direct benefit to an area and the area desires that development. He added, as did others, that every property owner has a basic property right to use and develop his/her property following established policies that are available to everyone.

·         Another speaker explained the use of MUDs within Texas and shared some of the problems that occur with them.   A speaker from a local home owners association spoke of his concern for traffic that might exit the large development into his subdivision and also problems he had encountered in working with LaMantia on an emergency access easement.

·         A speaker noted the importance of the spring flows from the Fern Bank Springs on the Blanco adjacent to the ranch and the presence of a federally endangered species at that site. She explained that flows along the Blanco River would be threatened by excessive Needmore pumping and noted that Blanco River flows contribute to the flows into Barton Springs during drought.

·         Several speakers questioned Isaac’s and Campbell’s motivation to seek a MUD for Mr. LaMantia.  One detailed the LaMantia family’s high political campaign contributions.  Other speakers expressed their concern for the environment and for the well flows of other property owners from over pumping of groundwater likely with the potential dense development of the ranch property.

After questions from the audience to Conley, Isaac, and Oliver, Rep. Isaac agreed that based on the concerns of the community, certain changes could be made in the bill.  He said he would work with Conley the following day (Friday) to make the bill more acceptable.  Conley stated that both bills would likely be approved by the House and Senate and the best option was to try to revise the bills to achieve a compromise.  Isaac said he will not withdraw the bills, but will work on a compromise.

An estimated 200 people stayed until meeting end at 9:30 p.m., after which many lingered past 10 p.m. to engage in discussions with Isaac, Conley, Oliver and CARD members.

CARD Chair Louis Parks expresses CARD’s gratitude to all the elected officials and citizens who participated. “We are immensely proud of our community for speaking out,” Parks says.

Respectfully, Louis Parks, CARD Chair, and Jim McMeans, Moderator/CARD member.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Urgent! - Town Hall Meeting - 7 pm Thursday, April 25th at Wimberley Community Center



  • The 5,000-acre Needmore Ranch (the former O'Quinn Ranch) adjacent to Wimberley could become a free-standing town thanks to MUD* legislation introduced and fast-tracked by State Senator Donna Campbell and State Representative Jason Isaac.
  • Campbell and Isaac are intent on jeopardizing our scarce water supply and the treasured Blanco River to benefit one single property owner.
  • Most MUD legislation seeks local official support. This one did not. The companion bills (SB 1868 and HB 3918) are strongly opposed by elected Hays County and City of Wimberley officials and by local property owners.
  • Hays County Commissioner Will Conley and County Judge Bert Cobb have written letters opposing the MUD, and the Wimberley City Council has unanimously passed a Resolution opposing the MUD.
    • The boundaries of this MUD were set to exclude the ETJ (planning area) of the City of Wimberley to avoid having to ask for the city's concurrence in creation of the MUD. Bill sponsors also bypassed Hays County Commissioners Court.


  • Hear from our State Officials who have introduced this special purpose legislation creating a MUD for one property owner, Mr. Greg LaMantia, from McAllen.
  • Your presence will help send a message to these State Officials.
*Municipal Utility Districts are created to facilitate development of property outside cities. They have the power to levy taxes, seize property by eminent domain, sell debt, and build subdivisions all under the direction of an appointed - not elected - board of directors. 

Needmore Ranch
Rep. Isaac is trying to push HB 3918  through the Special Districts Committee on Wed. April 24th before the Town Hall meeting April 25th Thursday night.  We need as many people as possible to contact the committee members prior to the hearing this Wed. April 24th. Please email and call all the members of the House Special Purpose Districts Committee and Senate Administration Committee and tell them you and your local elected officials oppose these bills! Ask them to bring these bills to the House and Senate floor for debate. Ask  Senator Campbell and Rep. Issac to debate the Needmore MUD companion bills (SB 1868 and HB 3918) in front of the legislature and the public.

State Representative Jason Isaac - - 512-463-0647 

State Senator Donna Campbell - - 512-463-0125

HB 3918 by Isaac - Needmore Ranch Municipal Utility District #1 is set for public hearing on Wednesday, 4/24 at 8:00 am in Room E2.014 at the Capital in Austin.  It is one of several bills that will be heard by the committee that day.  To register to speak at the hearing, you enter the Capital and find a screen that will allow you to sign up for the hearing electronically.  They no longer use cards.  You must know the bill # - HB 3918 - to sign up to speak before the committee shown below. 

Rep. Dennis Bonnen is the Chairman.

We need lots of contacts from people to all members of this committee before the public hearing date stating opposition to HB 3918.   

HOUSE SPECIAL PURPOSE DISTRICTS COMMITTEE  - Clerk: Steven Schar   Phone: 512-463-0277   
Vice Chair:


Sen. Kevin Eltife - - 512-463-0101 - Chairman

Sen. Carlos Uresti - - 512-463-0119
Sen. John Carona - - 512-463-0116
Sen. Kelly Hancock - - 512-463-0109
Sen. John Whitmire - - 512-463-0115
Sen. Tommy Williams - - 512-463-0104
Sen. Judith Zaffirini - - 512-463-0121

Chairman, Vice Chairman and Members House Special Purpose District and  Senate Administration Committees,

SB 1868 and HB 3918 which resides in your committees has the following points of opposition:

  1. Hays County Commissioner Will Conley opposes this bill which will create the Needmore Ranch MUD #1 in his district.
  1. Hays County Judge Bert Cobb opposes this bill because the Hays County Commissioners' Court has never been contacted by Senator Donna Campbell. 
  1. Mayor Bob Flocke and the Wimberley City Council oppose this bill. 
  1. Citizens of Wimberley and Hays County oppose the proposed MUD and have called an emergency Town Hall Meeting April 24th at 7pm at the Wimberley Community Center.  
SB 1868 also has the following additional problems
  • Support of local elected officials was never obtained.
  • Needmore Ranch does not need a MUD because a significant part of the ranchis within Wimberley's ETJ and is entirely within Hays County jurisdiction.  Both entities have very adequate subdivision regulations to guide any development project, if that should be the final decision of the owner.
  • Overdevelopment of the 5,000 acre Needmore Ranch could have significant impacts on water quality and quantity for local land owners, local springs such as Fern Bank Spring, and the Blanco River

    For immediate release: April 21, 2013

    Wimberley area citizen's group calls for emergency Town Hall Meeting.

    Wimberley - In response to the rushed legislation in the state legislature to grant a MUD (Municipal Utility District) on a 5,000 acre property just east of Wimberley, Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD) has called for an emergency 

    Wimberley Town Hall Meeting
    7 p.m. Thursday, April 25
    Wimberley Community Center
    14068 Ranch Road 12 in Wimberley

    The legislation was introduced and is being rushed through the current legislature by State Senator Donna Campbell and State Representative Jason Isaac, to the benefit of one person, McAllen businessman Greg LaMantia. This is over the vigorous objections of County Judge Bert Cobb, County Commissioner Will Conley, and all members of the Wimberley City Council. 

    Also objecting are many citizens of the Wimberley area, who could be adversely affected by this legislation. None of the local leaders were consulted on this legislation, as tradition, good sense and civic welfare dictate.

    Granting a MUD will allow virtual city stature to the park-like 5,000-acre Needmore ranch (formerly O'Quinn Ranch) located adjacent to Wimberley. The property is one of the most beautiful and environmentally sensitive holdings remaining in Hays County. MUD status would allow the owner the power to levy taxes, sell debt, and build subdivisions all under the direction of an appointed - not elected - board of directors. 

    CARD - a not-for-profit volunteer organization dedicated to maintaining the Wimberley Valley's character and property values FOR ALL - is sponsoring the meeting, and has invited Isaac and Campbell to explain how their legislation, Senate Bill 1868 and House Bill 3918, will benefit the people of Wimberley and Hays County, or anyone other than the owner of the property. Also invited are Cobb, Conley and all area citizens to present their views.

    Attached is a copy of a flier-email release being circulated by CARD and other concerned area organizations and individuals. Also attached is a letter from Commissioner Will Conley. 

    Media: for further information on the Town Hall Meeting:

    Louis Parks, CARD chair: 512-289-8666,
    Jim McMeans, CARD steering committee, 512-847-6578.
    including impact on the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone and scenic Little Arkansas.

Please do not pass SB 1868 when it comes before your Senate Administration Committee.  IT IS STRONGLY OPPOSED!

Thank you for your consideration,  

City of Wimberley Mud Resolution
Conley Lamantia...l ltr pg 2

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Jacob's Well becomes Vortex for Development Fight

By Asher Price 

The fate of Jacob’s Well, a shimmering spring that forms the headwaters of the creek that cuts through this quaint Hill Country town, is at the center of a skirmish involving developers, environmentalists and the local groundwater district.
         David Baker, right, Executive Director of the Jacob’s Well Natural
          Area and Malcolm Harris, left, Attorney & Counselor at Law for the
Fowler Law Firm poses at the iconic spring in Wimberley.

The developer, Wimberley Springs Partners, which has owned property in the vicinity of the spring for about a decade, wants permission to pump more underground water from the Trinity aquifer, the same one that feeds Jacob’s Well, for a growing subdivision and a new golf course.

But an environmental group, the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association, says more pumping could dry up the spring, thus robbing Cypress Creek, a tributary of the Blanco River, of water.

“We believe that if you supplied water (to the subdivision), Jacob’s Well would stop flowing,” said David Baker, executive director of the watershed association.

Despite having survived the drought of the 1950s, the spring has gone dry several times over the past dozen years — Baker blames increased groundwater pumping as the region has grown.
Central Texas is riddled with underground aquifers, oddly shaped, vast, limestone-encased caverns recharged by rainfall. Across the region, whether it be the Trinity, the Edwards Aquifer, or others, the question has become whether these natural buckets can sustain the number of straws sucking out their water.

In the annals of Central Texas water struggles, this dispute distinguished itself after a judge last month contest the permit it had granted to the developers.

Jacob's Well, an iconic spring in Wimberley, on April 11, 2013.
excoriated the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, established to regulate pumping in the region, because it denied the watershed association and some Wimberley residents their request to

Having examined the district’s own rules, Judge Dwight Peschel, a senior judge of the state’s 25th Judicial District, decided the Hays Trinity board’s action was “arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion.”

The scolding wasn’t on the merits of whether further pumping would dry up Jacob’s Well, but about how the board handled a permit protest by the watershed association.

In February 2011, the board had decided in a 3-2 vote to allow Wimberley Springs Partners to pump as much as 160 million gallons as it set about building a long-platted golf course and prepared to build more houses on its subdivision just north of Wimberley. That’s enough water to satisfy the annual needs of about 1,500 average Austin homes.
Some Wimberley residents and the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association then sought a contested case hearing to block the permit. The case has hinged on whether advice from the district’s staff to association members that they could still file protests — even if that advice might be wrong — effectively extended the deadline to protest the permit.
A view of an area where a proposed golf course
may be developed near the Jacob's Well area.

The request was filed in a timely fashion and in accordance “with the board’s then-existing interpretation of its own rules,” according to a lawyer representing the Wimberley residents and the association. But the board balked. In April 2011, it denied the request for a contested case hearing on the grounds that it was filed too late.

The board’s president, a rancher named Jimmy Skipton, didn’t return a call and email for comment. His mission, according to a bio he wrote in 2012, is “to protect our groundwater and the rights of landowners in Hays County.”

In November 2012, the watershed association and some Wimberley residents sued the district in Hays district court.

In a joint filing with the developer, which voluntarily added itself as a defendant, a lawyer for the groundwater district wrote that because they missed a deadline, the “plaintiffs do not have standing in this court, and their attempts to argue the merits of the District’s decision to grant an operating permit to Wimberley Springs are improper and should be overruled.”

But the judge wrote that “Plaintiffs’ relying on what was told to them by (the groundwater district) was reasonable,” since one of the district’s rules doesn’t specify when the request must be filed.
Winton Porterfield, vice president of Wimberley Springs Partners, said the developers want to be good stewards of the land.

The groundwater is meant to irrigate the proposed golf course only until enough treated effluent can be collected from new homes to feed the course, he said. The permit grants far less water than is usually required by two golf courses — Wimberley Springs already operates another golf course in the area and the developers plan to use only drought-tolerant plants around the course, he added.

The subdivision currently has about 1,000 homes, though it could build as many as 1,800 more. The new course is essential to the subdivision’s identity, Porterfield said.

“Property values are dependent on that amenity to keep them up,” he said. “It’s a golf course community. We want to have something that encourages a healthy, active lifestyle.”

But Malcolm Harris, president of the watershed association, said that if Jacob’s Well dries up, it could have economic consequences for Wimberley, with its shops, chock-full of collectibles, vintage clothes and scented candles, and for its most famous swimming hole — Blue Hole — strung along Cypress Creek. Water from the creek, seeping back underground, has also been tracked to Austin’s Barton Springs.

A contested case hearing “would be an opportunity to present scientific evidence on the impact of granting a permit,” Harris said.

Russ Johnson, an attorney for Wimberley Spring Partners, said he plans to appeal the judge’s decision.

Jacob's Well, an iconic spring in Wimberley, on April 11, 2013

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

AgriLife Extension launches Water Education Network online

COLLEGE STATION — A Water Education Network to help people in Texas learn the  best ways to manage the precious resource has been launched by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

The site,,  provides a “front door” for all of AgriLife Extension’s information on water conservation, water management, irrigation and water quality, which makes it easier to navigate, according to the developers.

“With water being our agency’s No. 1 topic, it was crucial that we develop easy access to water materials,” said Dr. Pete Gibbs, AgriLife Extension associate director. “AgriLife can be the go-to source for objective and reliable water information.”