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Can Texas Hill Country Be Preserved?

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Who decides the fate of land use in unincorporated Comal County?

Comal County commissioners say they lack comprehensive zoning authority to stop or oversee controversial projects like Vulcan Quarry, a 1,500-acre proposed rock-crushing plant at SH 46 and FM 3009, even though an estimated 12,000 residents live within five miles of the proposed quarry.

But League of Women Voters, Comal Area (LWVCA) and Greater Edwards Aquifier Alliance (GEAA), and Preserve Our Hill Country Environment think there are ways fast-growing Hill Country counties can assert more control over incompatible land uses and other impacts of development.

They’re inviting Comal County residents to a public forum, Local Control Options for Hill Country Counties, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 5 at GVTC Auditorium, 36101 FM 3159, New Braunfels.

“It’s a well-known fact that Texans hold fast and true to their rights as private property owners, and property owners generally have the right to develop and use their property in compliance with federal, state, and local laws and regulations,” says Annalisa Peace, the GEAA’s executive director. “But what happens when the federal, state or local laws and regulations lend themselves to land fragmentation and degradation? What are land owners to do when their neighbor’s business causes concerns about long term health and safety, with little to no recourse except through expensive nuisance lawsuits? How do you as a land owner protect your property value when your neighbor is allowed by law to compromise it?”

Adds Jensie Madden, land use chair for LWVCA: “LWV-CA’s mission is to encourage informed citizen participation in government. We want to alert residents to the limited powers that county government currently has, and inform them about possible new powers that could be part of legislation considered by our state officials.”

Topics to be discussed at the forum include:

  • Why is county authority needed for land-use decisions?
  • ‘Tools’ elected county cmmissioners could use to manage development and incompatible land use in unincorporated areas of fast-growing counties.

Introductory remarks provided by Carter Casteel, former Comal County judge who also served in the District 73 seat in Texas House of Representatives.

There, she introduced legislation regarding more local control for counties.

LWV-CA’s Bonnie Leitch will moderate a question-and-answer session following the presentations.

“This public forum will provide residents with information about what measures you and your elected officials can take to preserve our beloved Hill Country,” Peace says. “Learn about what local control is versus what it is not.

“Help preserve your Texas Hill Country now because it’s the only one we will ever have.”

 

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