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Hays County approves revised Mustang Valley development

Monday, November 24, 2008 by Jacob Cottingham

The former True Ranch development, re-christened and re-developed as Mustang Valley, passed through Hays County Commissioners Court with a unanimous vote last week. The developers, Mimi and Russell Hinds, changed the scope of their initial project dramatically and water conservationist Joe Day spoke at length in favor of the development and its water management plan.


The development will consist of 78 units built in four phases on nearly 675 acres between Fischer Store Road and FM 2325. Day is on the Hays Trinity Groundwater Board of Directors and was a stakeholder representative for the Barton Springs-Edwards Aquifer Contributing Zone Regional Water Quality Plan. He has also served on the Wimberley Chamber of Commerce and the Wimberley Economic Development Board.


The new development promises to have a net positive recharge of 4.3 percent during the drought of record, a percentage that increases to 67 when the average rainfall is factored in. These percentages measure what ratio of rainfall is actually making it back into the aquifer. A zero percent would essentially indicate that a development is taking out as much water as is being allowed back in through recharge.


“This is the first time I’ve spoken out for a development, so write that down,” Day joked. He praised the revised plan for the subdivision, noting that lot sizes increased from 2.5 acres to 8.22 acres, decreasing the number of lots from 400 to 79. Day pointed out that the Hinds’ new plan also scaled back the impervious cover from 15 percent to 5.2 percent


For a point of comparison, he referred to the golf course and development outside of Wimberley. “Woodcreek and Quicksand would need to reduce water consumption by 95 percent to reach a break even,” resulting in no aquifer depletion, Day said. “Mustang Valley exceeds the standards for a sustainable development.” He said it would be a model for other developers and show “sustainable development is a win-win in Hays County.” 


Pct. 4 Commissioner Karen Ford, a critic of the original platting of the True Ranch development, said, “A lot of good things have come out of this whole process with Mustang Valley. What you first came up with (True Ranch) wasn’t sustainable. You listened and went back and brought something forward that appears to be exactly the kind of thing we want and need in this county and has brought to the forefront some of the information needed to fuel this process in the future.”


Pct. 4 Commissioner Will Conley said, “I’ve taken a tremendous amount of criticism,” from people in the county but wanted to credit those who have been working on the new subdivision rules and called Mustang Valley “the guinea pig” which tested that process.”


Day told the court that the new plan essentially falls in line with the proposed subdivision rules that Hays is considering. The development has a clause that encourages rainwater harvesting, native plant landscapes, grey water re-use, water conservation fixtures, high performance bio-filtration reuse, on-site wastewater treatment, well meters to track water usage, and buffer strips of land to protect wildlife.


“Exactly the type of proactive behavior that the subdivision development standards try to promote,” he said. However, under questioning from Ford it was clear there are no economic incentives for homebuyers to install rainwater systems.


After the unanimous vote for the subdivision, the Hinds were grateful their ordeal had ended on a pleasant note. “It’s really pleasing to have the court compliment you on a project and members of the community acknowledge what we’ve done and kind of set the record straight that the well yield is good, the water quality is good,” said Russell Hinds. “In terms of the development and the financials, this does set a model and an example of something that works for everybody.”

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