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Important Decision Ahead for Woodcreek

(This CARD editorial ran in the Thursday, June 5 Wimberley View.)

Woodcreek City Council makes a very important decision on Wednesday, June 11. It has been asked to amend Woodcreek's Water Quality Ordinance to increase the percentage of impervious cover allowed for future development. In other words, it is being asked to decrease the percentage of open ground required in new construction.

This is an important decision for the people of Woodcreek, and Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development agrees the decision should have full Woodcreek citizen input. After all, Woodcreek water comes from the Trinity aquifer.

Impervious cover is any surface material, such as asphalt, concrete, rooftops, sidewalks, patios, paved surfaces, or compacted soil, that prevents water from filtering into the soil. A higher percent of impervious cover means a greater part of a construction site can be covered in a manner that prevents water from directly reaching the ground.

The percent allowable is important because allowing more impervious cover - preventing water from soaking into the soil - can result in increased run-off, flooding, building density and what is called non-point source pollution, which means materials such as oil, bacteria, insecticides and fertilizers which are accidentally carried into the ground by run-off. Further, impervious cover results in a decrease in aquifer recharge, because there are fewer ways for rainwater to get to the aquifer. When natural vegetation in the area draining into an aquifer watershed is replaced with impervious cover, rainfall that would normally filter through the ground and replenish our aquifer can be lost in runoff.

Impervious cover is necessary and desirable to have places to live, work and drive. Municipalities struggle with setting the proper limit for impervious cover. Developers and realtors typically want the percentage to be higher as this allows for denser development and thereby increases profitability and property sale prices. Others want to have the limit set at a lower level to maintain healthy aquifer recharge, water quality, and to avoid dense development.

The City of Woodcreek presently has a 25% limit on impervious cover. This is reasonable and defendable. However, that limit makes it difficult for builders to construct homes on the remaining 12 lots in the city because the lots are small. Typically, this problem has been handled by granting variances on a case by case basis, allowing construction of homes on small lots with a reasonably higher impervious coverage percentage.

Builders, developers, and realtors are now asking the City of Woodcreek to increase the impervious cover limit to 35%. This will make it easier to build on the remaining 12 lots in Woodcreek. It will allow the builders to avoid the hassle and uncertainty of seeking variances from the City. The change was almost passed at a recent council meeting, but was not allowed because proper notification for public input was not made.

However, if this increase in impervious cover is granted by changing the city's limit, rather than by individual variances, it will affect more than these 12 lots. It will also apply to the City's extensive Extra Territorial Jurisdictional area (ETJ), an area that includes Jacob's Well and Cypress Creek, areas that the City has long fought hard to protect.

If the increase passes, it will increase by 40% the amount of impervious cover that is allowed next to Jacob's Well and Cypress Creek. This means a 40% increase in asphalt, concrete and development density. What seems like a moderate change that will affect only 12 lots may have the much greater effect of harming precious surrounding areas that Woodcreek and the Wimberley Valley have protected.

There is the possibility that the Council will not increase the impervious cover limit to 35%, but instead will seek to compromise at 30%.

The Wednesday, June 11 council meeting is at 6:30 p.m. at the Woodcreek City Hall, 41 Champions Circle, the first street to the left as you enter Woodcreek from Winter Mills Parkway at RR 12. As always, CARD requests all who attend be respectful of the council and the difficult, important decision it must make.

CARD Steering Committee

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PO Box 2905, Wimberley, TX 78676   Email: info@hayscard.org
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