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Water woes rise as 2,200 homes planned in Hays

Wednesday, October 1, 2014 by Andy Sevilla

An Austin-based developer is proposing 2,200 high-end homes in Mountain City’s extraterritorial jurisdiction in Hays County. And with big development projects come rising water concerns in a drought-stricken area where ground and surface water levels are lowering.

“The main area of concern has been the water issue and where we will be getting water” for the proposed development, builder Clark Wilson told the Hays Free Press, adding that he is in talks with a supplier.

Wilson would not identify the water supplier, citing ongoing negotiations. But he did say that there is plenty of water capacity, and it’s not coming from the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer, nor from any of its formations.

The existing area water suppliers near the proposed development are Mountain City Water System, City of Kyle and Aqua Utilities. Kyle also has a wastewater sanitary sewer near the project.

Mountain City Mayor Tiffany Curnutt said the city is in its preliminary stages of discovery for the proposed development — Anthem.

“I see the pros and cons of it certainly, but we want to take our time with the proposal and make sure we are taking the necessary steps to take care of our residents and do what’s right for them,” she said.

Wilson is proposing 2,200 homes on 673 acres in Mountain City’s extraterritorial jurisdiction. Almost all of the proposed project is slated for single-family homes. There are community parks, open spaces and greenbelts, and an elementary school site also being proposed as part of the project, Wilson said.

“We are planning the community as a move-up area to serve a growing professional population with all of the medical jobs coming to the area,” Wilson said. “There has historically been a lot of first-time buyer product built in the area, and that population is also desiring a move-up product as well.”

The price of the proposed homes would start at a quarter-million dollars, he said. The project is being proposed for build out in several phases, taking about 15 years to complete.

Mountain City residents have had mixed responses toward the project, Curnutt said. Some residents are excited about the growth and development, understanding that it’s inevitable and seeing potential increases to their property values as a positive thing for resale value later. Others, however, are opposed to the change and want the landscape to remain the same, she said. They see the potential increase in property valuations as a negative because their tax bills would likely increase.

“We would like to hear from more folks and make sure that everyone is heard, so we are encouraging everyone to reach out to a Council member and give their two cents,” Curnutt said.

The taxable value of the proposed project is around $750 million, Wilson said. The project is being proposed as a Municipal Utility District — which gives the immediate benefit of Mountain City having a seat at the table and a hand in what occurs, according to Curnutt.

She said that if the city decided to annex the property later — 25 years or so down the road — then Mountain City would be looking at a “very significant” tax revenue stream. But with that growth comes a lot of responsibility, Curnutt admitted, “so we will just have to plan for the future and put Mountain City in a position where annexing the property wouldn’t be a burden.”

For now, Curnutt continued, other issues to consider include the traffic that 2,200 homes would bring to the area as well as the runoff and drainage problems that could potentially affect Mountain City.

“TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) will regulate this and take care of us, but we already have flooding issues in the back portion of Mountain City,” Curnutt said. “So any changes to the landscape back there could really magnify our issue if we aren’t careful.”

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