By Kathi Bliss
To the outward eye, it may appear that development in rural Caldwell County has stalled. However, those “in the know” suggest that plans are on track for the development of several major, multi-use developments in rural Caldwell County, as well as commercial- and industrial-use properties inside the Lockhart City Limits.
“A lot of the things that have to do be done with these developments can’t really be done in the public eye,” said Sandra Mauldin of the Caldwell County Economic Development Board. “Some of the interest and negotiations have to be done behind closed doors to protect the interest of the businesses getting involved.”
Still, she said, and other Caldwell County officials agreed, negotiations remain in full swing for several major developments, including the Walton Texas, LP, properties, Caldwell Valley, Caldwell Ranch, Camino Real and Cotton Center, as well as the long-awaited Cherryville development.
“I know that Walton is working toward development agreements with the City of Martindale, Uhland, San Marcos and Caldwell County,” said Caldwell County Sanitation Director Kasi Miles. “That’s up to the Commissioners Court to approve, but I know that they want the same agreement with all the entities.”
Development agreements dictate the construction and coding standards a given developer will follow, including infrastructure and parkland requirements, according to the Caldwell County Development Ordinance.
Any agreement that Walton Texas, LP, enters, would have many moving parts and involve several municipal entities, because their 7,400 acres include the extraterritorial jurisdictions of the cities of Uhland, San Marcos, Lockhart and Martindale, and also fall under the jurisdiction of the Caldwell County and Hays County Commissioners Courts.
Those negotiations, according to Mauldin, are one of the many reasons that development may appear, to the outside eye, to have stalled, but continues to move forward.
“We haven’t heard that they have any intention of changing anything,” said Caldwell County Judge Kenneth Schawe, upon learning that Walton Texas, LP’s parent corporation, Walton International, had removed the Caldwell County properties from their corporate website.
Indeed, just last month, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality received a request for a permit renewal for a Walton Texas, LP water and wastewater treatment facility near the intersection of SH130 and Highway 21 in the Mustang Ridge area. That permit is one of four Walton currently holds in Caldwell and Hays Counties, each having been approved by the Commission until 2020.
Still, Miles said, although talks are moving forward, plans still remain on the horizon.
“We have seen the proposed use plans, but we haven’t seen or talked about any actual platting,” Miles said. “We’re still in the process of going through the development agreements, and then there will be the process of the site plans and the platting.”
This, assuming the infrastructure can be put in place for the developments to take shape. A critical factor, in both the Walton and Cherryville properties has been, and remains, the source of water for the mega-communities, which promise to bring combined thousands of homes, hundreds of businesses and potentially new schools to the area over the course of the next 30 years.
“There is a tremendous amount of interest in Texas and the Austin-San Marcos region these days,” Mauldin said recently. “I feel this is due to the positive business climate in Texas, the negative business climate in other states, and the continued explosive growth of Austin.”
Lockhart and Caldwell County have been attempting to brace for that explosive growth for years, developing the infrastructure and transportation routes that will help offset the problems seen by communities such as Hutto, who experienced massive, unsustainable growth upon the opening of SH130. Indeed, the City of Lockhart applied for and obtained a grant for the expansion of Highway 183, which will be covered in greater detail later in this series.
Development is also moving forward on the controversial 130 Environmental Park.
Late last month, the landfill conglomerate announced that the Texas Department of Public Safety has issued a permit for the construction of access driveway facilities to the property, which will be located on Highway 183, approximately 1,540 feet north of the intersection of Highway 183 and FM 1185.
Also planned as a multi-use facility, the 130 Environmental Park project will include the landfill, but is projected to include parklands, and pending the approval of a Host Agreement with Caldwell County, could also include an industrial park component.
The initial proposal for the facility mirrors a facility developed by 130 Environmental Park’s parent company, Green Group, near Hogansville, Ga. The Meriwether County industrial development, now under the control of the Meriwether County Industrial Development Authority, has attracted several businesses since its opening, creating hundreds of jobs and generating millions in taxable property and personal property values.
Green Group representatives have said recently that consideration of a similar development in Caldwell County is still on the table, should the Commissioners Court choose to reconsider their current stance of refusing to negotiate a host agreement.
Like the others, the130 Environmental Park project remains in stasis, pending the outcome of the ongoing Contested Case Hearing, which is expected to stall the project for two more years, if not more.
Still, Mauldin said, with the promise of development on the horizon, the future looks bright for Lockhart and Caldwell County.