Bandera County Commissioners unanimously voted against the final plat application of 96 five-acre lots for the Grand View Ranch Subdivision in Tarpley following recommendations from the Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District (BCRAGD).
According to County Engineer Dieter Werner, the developer of the Grand View Ranch Subdivision met all current application requirements of the Bandera County Subdivision & Land Development Regulations but are still subject to the approval of BCRAGD’s.
BCRAGD General Manager Dave Mauk recommended a minimum of ten acres.
“We gotta have spacing between those wells,” Mauk told the court,” adding BCRAGD has a duty to protect the aquifer and property rights of both the applicant and existing residents, Mauk suggested ten acres might not be sustainable as more land is pounded out for water.
“We just can’t have 106 ft drawdowns into the aquifer. That’s our position. The science is always evolving in the way the drought is behaving, the way the aquifer is behaving, and the way the river is behaving,” he said, adding new BCRAGD rules for 10-acre lots go into effect September 1.
Mauk added he did not believe there was enough water to support five-acre tracts for the subdivision.
“With 106ft drawdowns? No. Per the state, we are only supposed to have 30— foot drawdowns in this county’s aquifer. I can’t, I just can’t.” replied Mauk.
A representative for the developer of Grand View, Patten Properties, told the court they were caught in a difficult position.
“We have 96 lots that met all of the requirements at the time. If we receive final plan approval today, we’ll be fine. If we do not, that’s an issue – were we misled by obtaining final plan approval? If we already had preliminary plan approval and the plans have not yet changed, where does that leave us and where does that leave you as a board? Understand that as of today, the regulations still allow for five acres. Water availability was not a requirement of the preliminary plan per your regulations.”
Harris responded, “But you haven’t proved to this court, in your final plan approval, that you have the water availability.”
Applause broke out in the audience to Harris’s rebuttal.
Cal Chapman of Chapman Engineering, the firm that conducted the water availability study for Grand View, told the court the available water column in the middle trinity wells is almost 400 feet of thickness, concluding the subdivision will only use a quarter of the available water underneath it in a 10-year span.
“We are conservative in everything we do,” said Chapman.
Commissioner Jody Rutherford stated, “Where we are is, these people spent millions of dollars following the rules, and today the rules changed.”
Judge Evans said, “Everything here is subject to water availability. So, we’re not changing the rules.”
“No, you’re not,” said Mauk. “Our priority is water management, and we are in a drought.”.
Werner emphasized BCRAGD changing rules is completely independent of the regulations of the Bandera County Subdivision and Land Development Regulations.
“We are not changing the rules halfway through the game. Final plat approval, as of today, is contingent on water availability, period,” he said.
Following a query from Harris, Chapman said it was the engineer’s job to be held accountable if water runs out.
“When I drew this professional opinion, yes, I believe this has a sustainable water supply. That’s my license on the line,” said Chapman. “If you all see that this water supply runs out, you’re going to come talk to me about it. Again, 106 feet of local drawdown using only the Calcreek aquifer.”
A second representative for Patten Properties told the court, “You won’t see even development out there for 10-15 years. This idea that we’re going to have 96 wells there in the next 10 years is insanity. I doubt that we’d have 96 wells in 25 years. It’s never going to happen.”
County Attorney Janna emphasized the item up for consideration was the approval of the final plat, contingent on BCRAGD’s recommendation from the BCRAGD.
“I’m sorry that this is a bitter pill for some people and if anyone wants to argue with me, that’s fine, but not right now,” she said.
After two motions were made to not approve the final plat for Grand View’s plat of five-acre lots, four out of four commissioners voted in favor.