Massive Development for 5,000 Acres Next to Wimberley on Fast Track
WIMBERLEY — A public meeting to discuss a proposed municipal utility district (MUD) for a 5,000-acre ranch owned by South Texas beer distributor Greg LaMantia is slated for the Wimberley Community Center this Thursday, April 25, at 7 p.m.
The public is encouraged to attend and Texas Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, and State Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, who introduced the bills, have also been invited to attend. Both lawmakers are being heavily criticized for failing to inform locally elected entities about the decision to file the bill.
The ranch was formerly owned by the late Houston attorney John O'Quinn and abuts a historic property in the Wimberley Valley known as "Little Arkansas" by area residents.
Both Hays County Judge Bert Cobb and Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley have issued letters opposing the proposed MUD.
"This court supports local autonomy and control when that control is consistent with the law," said Cobb in a letter to Campbell. "Courts should only rule on the legality of proposed legislation and not moral or ethical issues. To my knowledge, Mr. LaMantia has done nothing illegal in his machinations to maximize his tax status at this ranch. . . It would have been most helpful if our local representatives had spoken with the court members before filing the bills so that we could have explained related issues as they impinge on the lifestyle of the Wimberley Valley and Hays County. I have been reticent to write hoping above hope that common sense and a sense of common good would prevail."
Conley was equally critical of Campbell and Isaac's failure to work with locally elected officials.
"The offices you hold have a long-standing tradition of requesting local support for these types of districts," Conley wrote. "It makes logical sense to first gain this support within the entities that will be impacted the most by your actions. If this tradition is broken on this issue, it can never be the same again. It will make it discretionary instead of mandatory, which results in local support carrying far less importance that what is has in the past."
The legislation, Senate Bill 1868 and House Bill 3918, if passed, would create "Needmore Ranch MUD #1."
While none of the ranch falls inside the city limits, parts of it are in Wimberley's extra-territorial jurisdiction. Wimberley City Administrator Don Ferguson said he had been given assurances that no bill would be filed in the Texas Legislature without notifying the city first.
Jim McMeans, a member of a political action committee, Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD), will moderate the event.
CARD fears a Municipal Utility District, if enacted, would allow full-scale development of the former O'Quinn Ranch with only minimal oversight from Hays County and challenge the area's scare water resources.
Ferguson and Wimberley Mayor Bob Flocke made a personal visit to the legislature to make the city's opposition to the MUD known to lawmakers.
"What is most disturbing is that Rep. Isaac contacted us several weeks ago and said the legislation would not be filed," Ferguson said. "They did it without support from the city and have not sought authorization from the county. Where we go from here is very difficult."
While none of the ranch falls inside the city limits, parts of it are in Wimberley's extra-territorial jurisdiction. Ferguson said he had been given assurances by Conley that no bill would be filed in the Texas Legislature without notifying the city first, but neither Isaac nor Campbell notified Conley. Critics have alleged that the proposed MUD did not include Wimberley ETJ by design so the city would not have to be notified.
For Conley and Cobb, it was the failure to even notify the county that drew their criticism.
LaMantia plays an active role in Republication politics. The ranch will host a political fundraiser featuring U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, along with a "who's who" of Texas GOP congressmen at a political fundraiser at the ranch on Saturday, April 27, beginning at 3 p.m., with a ranch tour. Both Conley and Cobb are Republicans.