WIMBERLEY — The Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD) and other angry Wimberley area citizens, as well as city and county officials, have stated objections to a move by State Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) and State Senator Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) to create a Municipal Utility District on a ranch adjacent to the city.
ARD is circulating a call for residents to protest two bills introduced by the state officials . Those joining CARD in the protest include Hays County Judge Dr. Bert Cobb, Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley and the Wimberley City Council.
All say the "oddly named Needmore Ranch MUD#1 will be detrimental to Wimberley and Hays County Citizens."
The bills, SB 1868 and HB 3918 introduced by Senator Campbell and Rep. Isaac, respectively, would allow the 5,000-acre ranch formerly owned by the late attorney John O'Quinn, to be developed at a great profit to the current owners. South Texas beer distributor L&F Distributors, a company run by the family of businessman Greg LaMantia, bought the property from the O'Quinn estate.
Judge Cobb has said publicly he does not support the MUD.
ommissioner Conley wrote a two-page letter to Isaac and Campbell stating five reasons he does not believe the MUD is a good idea. Among them, Conley said, "MUDs are created to empower land owners with additional powers and rights for development. These powers and rights go beyond constitutional private property rights we all have as American and Texas landowners."
Overdevelopment of the Needmore Ranch "could have tremendous impacts on water quality and quantity for land owners, local springs and the Blanco River," Conley said. He also expressed concern over the impact on eminent domain and said the legislators should ask the land owners to develop a conceptual design and development agreement with the county.
Finally, the commissioner noted the lack of local support traditionally honored by legislators.
The Wimberley City Council, during special called meeting last Friday, unanimously approved a resolution objecting to the MUD's creation.
"Without consulting with Hays county or Wimberley officials, Campbell and Isacc introduced their bills 9SB 1866) and HB 3918) that would grant Needmore Ranch owners the authority to create urban-type development on the 5,000-acre property," said a statement from the city. "A MUD grants a land owner additional powers and rights for development and are meant to benefit the community as a whole."
The Needmore Ranch is located adjacent to Wimberley's city limits and includes one of Hays County's most famous and prolific springs—Little Arkansas. High-density development could potentially put these springs and other precious natural resources in jeopardy. The city believes overdevelopment of the property could have a tremendous negative impact on Wimberley and on water quality and quantity in the area.
According to the CARD protest, LaMantia has stated to county commissioners and to Representative Isaac that he would like to put the property under a conservation easement, but only after he has enhanced its value as a tax write-off by making it a MUD.
"A conservation easement there would be a great boon to our area," said CARD founder Jim McMeans. "Our concern is that once the ranch becomes a MUD, the conservation easement could be conveniently forgotten or never granted. That would leave a giant taxation district ripe for any kind of exploitation. It could bring on the end of the fabled Wimberley rural style of life, and send tourists and their dollars elsewhere to find weekend escapes."
Ultimately CARD concluded, "It (the legislation to create the MUD) seems like a highly contrived arrangement utilizing special legislation for the benefit of one individual."