San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger and the board of the San Antonio Water System took a stand against the rampant development of the Hill Country landscape earlier this week. This is a decision that deserves wider recognition.
From the Express-News, Dec 5:
Taking a rare stand against a developer to protect a pristine watershed that drains into the Edwards Aquifer, trustees of the San Antonio Water System unanimously rejected an agreement Tuesday to provide water to a planned subdivision in the remote hills northwest of the city.
Baruch Properties wanted water for the Hills of Castle Rock, a 1,766-acre property near Texas 16 and Park Road 37 in Medina County. The nearest SAWS water main is 7.5 miles away.
Environmentalists and neighbors argued that SAWS water service would allow high-density development that otherwise is not likely to occur because of a lack of available water supplies.
High-density development, they said, would bring polluted runoff and downstream flooding to San Geronimo Creek and an on-site wastewater treatment plant whose effluent would be added to the creek that drains into the aquifer a few miles downstream.
“Density development in a sensitive zone simply is not a good thing for the citizens of San Antonio, for our city, for our neighbors or for our water,” said Mayor Phil Hardberger in explaining his motion to deny the request.
Hardberger said he recognized that to get a SAWS water main to the site, the developer made concessions such as scaling back from 3,500 homes to 2,700, but he said the city's policy should not be to diminish the harm but to do good.
He said the city's “irreversible mistakes” in planning over the aquifer's sensitive areas are on display by driving out Loop 1604 North and U.S. 281.
Later in the article, the developer suggests they can simply go the state agency (TCEQ) and leave San Antonio and SAWS out of the process entirely. Given how the state government works, they would be likely to get their way via that route, so I am unsure how this battle is going to work out.
But I am happy to see that the city government of San Antonio is in no mood to encourage destructive development of the Hill Country and the Edwards Aquifer.