Quarry Opponents Want Eccleston Out
Community activists fighting to keep Vulcan Materials from turning an old Comal County ranch into a 1,500-acre limestone rock quarry and crushing plant say they will not endorse incumbent Comal County Commissioner Donna Eccleston, Precinct 1, for the March 3 primary election.
In a Voters Guide posted this week to Stop3009VulcanQuarry.com, the groups Stop 3009 Vulcan Quarry, Preserve Our Hill Country Environment, and Friends of Dry Comal Creek said Eccleston, who has served on Commissioners Court for 11 years, “has done nothing” significant to fight development of the quarry, which would be located in central Comal County between Bulverde and New Braunfels in an area surrounded by 12,000 people.
“Precinct 1 deserves a commissioner who listens to citizens, pursues outside-the-box solutions, and takes appropriate action,” they said. “It’s high time for a change at Comal County Commissioners Court — and Precinct 1 is a great place to start.”
Voters Guide Q&A
Activists have roundly criticized Commissioners Court in the past for saying there is nothing it can do to stop Vulcan Quarry because it lacks zoning authority over unincorporated Comal County.
This week, they pointed out that Eccleston did not join other county judges and commissioners who visited Austin during the 2019 legislative session to fight against unregulated aggregate mining activities, and criticized her for not answering questions they also submitted to her Republican primary challenger, Richard Smith, and Democrat Lindsay Poisel.
To see those questions and answers, click here.
‘A History of Unresponsiveness’
“Unfortunately, Ms. Eccleston has a history of unresponsiveness when it comes to representing her constituents and Comal County citizens,” according to the Voters Guide. “She has ignored many invitations from our group to meet and discuss the planned 1,500-acre open-pit mine. Then on March 22, 2018, in Commissioners Court, citizens urged Ms. Eccleston and her fellow commissioners to postpone a vote on a pointless, do-nothing resolution until it could be revised to effectively support area citizens fighting the quarry. Despite having specific actionable tools and examples of other counties who have led the way opposing TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental) air quality permits, commissioners seemingly ignored their constituents and passed the resolution anyway.
“By supporting this impotent resolution, Ms. Eccleston continued to side with an out-of-state corporation rather than the citizens she was elected to represent,” the post continued.
Eccleston Fires Back
Eccleston fired back on her Facebook page, “Donna Eccleston, Comal Couty Commissioner Pct. 1,” reiterating that the county by statute can only control where sexually oriented businesses are located, and has no statutory authority to create a commission with any powers.
“The authority on environmental issues lies solely with the state,” she said. “The governor appoints TCEQ commissioners and the state creates the regulatory framework. I will continue to advocate with our state representatives in my capacity as your commissioner. For now, our state representatives are the only avenue for remedy.”
On her other Facebook page, “Re-Elect Donna Eccleston Commissioner Pct. 1,” Eccleston also took issue with claims she did not respond to questions for the Voters Guide.
“Mr. (David) Drewa with Preserve Our Texas Hill Country (Environment), the questionnaire you sent out required yes or no answers to questions that were impossible to answer in that way. It also provided options to check off that are not available to counties. I have consulted our attorneys. I have responded to these concerns many, many times, in person, in writing and forums. In every instance, I directed you to our state representatives. Picking and choosing portions out of statutes does not give a clear or correct picture.”
Drewa responded that both Poisel and Smith answered all questions, as did a past sitting commissioner who followed up on a similar 2018 general-election questionnaire.
Other Candidates Weigh In
In an interview with MyCanyonLake.com, Poisel said the question isn’t “being able to do something as it is, but finding the proper channels.”
Stop3009VulcanQuarry.com said it was encouraged by Smith’s focus on transparency and accessibility and wide range of experience in areas important to commissioners court.
“As a candidate, he has been open and communicative with our organization,” it said in its Voters Guide. “Mr. Smith shares many of our concerns and appears willing to think outside the box to find and implement real solutions for Comal County citizens.”
Poisel, the site said, has experience overseeing environmental impact reports and identifying mortgage-related fraud as well as working with various government agencies.
“Ms. Poisel has met with our group and is also very concerned about our natural resources, holding polluters accountable, and protecting the health and safety of Comal County residents.”
Eccleston Stands Her Ground
In an email sent to MyCanyon Lake.com Friday morning, Eccleston defended her position on the Vulcan Quarry issue:
“I formally requested a hearing on the citizen’s behalf from TCEQ in my capacity as commissioner in August of 2017. TCEQ acknowledged my letter. The letter stated the concern that there were existing homes in the area before the decision to build a quarry, unlike other areas in the county where whole residential developments were built next to existing quarries.
“One of the important things as commissioner is to know what counties can and cannot do, then direct the attentions to those who can affect that change, as I have in every instance. County government is an arm of the State and can only do those things they have statutory authority to do. I have never misled or falsely promised things that could not be accomplished. My obligation is to serve the citizens of Pct. 1 and Comal County while working within the law.
“The whole Commissioners Court did not act on this resolution. The County under the law is not an affected party. Just because an action happens in the County does not immediately make us affected parties. It would have been improper to mislead people about our abilities, which have not changed.
“The Vulcan Quarry was a private transaction that became known months after a private sale. I was heartsick as everyone else about the sale of such a beautiful property. TCEQ has a flawed permitting process that allows incomplete and incorrect permits to be filed. Filing starts the clock for “grandfathering” whatever rules were in place at the time – a very real problem that I have been trying to get remedied. I have let our legislators know how such a simple change would help amongst other things. I have said repeatedly that requiring Vulcan to add monitors around their quarry with the readings going to the state is a reasonable and obtainable common sense request. I have said on many occasions the current TCEQ permitting requirements are lacking. State Representatives have the authority to take on this issue, the Commissioners Court does not. To date, the legislature has not affected any changes. However, I will continue to advocate on behalf of Comal County with our legislators for tools to address county issues.
“The questionnaire was impossible to answer appropriately knowing the actual conditions, the county’s authority and the law. They were misleading at best. Answering those questions was designed to have me say I supported their proposals which I could not in my capacity as Commissioner. I have met with this group multiple times in person, in forums including the TCEQ forum in New Braunfels, by telephone and in writing. None of my answers were acceptable to them. Anyone who promises you otherwise lacks the understanding of the limits and responsibilities of the Court.”