By Kathi Bliss
Following an informative presentation from the Guadalupe-Blanco River Trust on Tuesday evening, the Lockhart City Council and the Caldwell County Commissioners Court seems likely to walk away from the H.T. Wright Memorial Wetlands Park.
The “park,” is a wetlands reclamation site created by the Texas Department of Public Safety to mitigate the damage to wetlands during the construction of SH130. Early in that process, TxDOT approached the City of Lockhart and Caldwell County to strike a compromise, turning the site into a park for hiking, birding and other outdoor education.
However, recent research and conversation by both City and County leaders has suggested that maintaining the park up to the environmental standards required for such a wetlands mitigation site might be more than the community can handle, either in expertise or funding.
Enter the Guadalupe-Blanco River Trust, a non-profit organization operating under the umbrella of the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA).
The Trust, which includes property from Kerr County to the San Antonio Bay, views the site as an opportunity – no such site exists in Central Texas, where wetlands habitats are maintained in a facility so large. Representatives of the Trust suggested the property, instead of being deeded to Lockhart and Caldwell County, could be deeded to the Trust, which would then use the promised $400,000 in maintenance funds to leverage grant funds to improve and maintain the facility.
Both Lockhart Mayor Lew White and Caldwell County Judge Tom Bonn commented they were in support of the approach during the joint meeting of the two governing bodies, though neither had scheduled the measure for a vote.
The only concern expressed by either body was a question as to whether the facility would be accessible to the public, and whether local residents would have input on the development of the park.
GBRA and Trust board member Oscar Fogle, a Caldwell County resident, offered assurances that public input would be sought, and honored, as the project moves forward.
The Caldwell County Commissioners Court will vote on the measure on Monday, June 23, and the Lockhart City Council will consider the issue during their next regular meeting, on July 1.
In other business, during a brief public hearing, the Council heard a request from a property owner on a zoning change for a small piece of property on Silent Valley Road (FM 2001).
The owner, Fred Wigginton, said he was seeking the zoning change to Agricultural-Open as the first step of a feasibility plan geared toward building an RV park on Silent Valley Road.
The RV facility, Wigginton said, would be a campground-style facility, geared toward attracting overnight visitors. He offered the council assurances that, if allowed, the facility would be clean, well-maintained and attractive.
The zoning change, which would still require Wigginton to acquire a specific-use permit, was approved 5-1 by the Planning and Zoning Commission before coming before the Council.
After asking about the nature of the Commissioners’ concerns, the City Council also voted 5-1 to approve the zoning change. Councilmember John Castillo stood against the measure, and Councilmember Benny Hilburn was not present for the meeting.
As the meeting wound down, White announced that he would not be bringing an item to the agenda asking the council to pass an official resolution against the proposed 130 Environmental Park, a development projects north of Lockhart which includes a landfill.
White said he did not believe it was appropriate, at this time, for the Council to enter a resolution on the matter, frustrating Councilmember Richard Banks, who during the course of the meeting displayed an anti-landfill sign in front of his seat on the dais.
Banks said the citizenry has the right to know where their councilmembers stand on the landfill issue, and accused White of “disguising [his] own position.” White responded that he was not campaigning, but rather believed that the community needs to leave their options open.
White did remind the council that a majority of councilmembers could overrule his decision, and Banks then asked for an agenda item to vote to overrule him be placed on the next agenda. The meeting adjourned with no real resolution being brought to the issue.
The Lockhart City Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, on the third floor of the Masonic Annex to the Dr. Eugene Clark Library. The meetings are open to the public and telecast on Time Warner Cable Channel 10.