Monday, January 24, 2011
HDR's draft report and its supporters are overriding local concerns by imposing functional efficiency, objective organization and manipulative planning. The study proposes merely the best way to achieve narrowly defined technical ends
Note: Texas State graduate student and Wimberley area resident Matt Heinemann raises many passionate points and questions about a water and waterwater study now in final draft form that carries profound implications for future growth in western Hays County and the Wimberley Valley. The study can be downloaded from the county's website, at this link. You should read it, it's got some pretty audacious recommendations. Unfortunately, public comment as been nill to sparse. It remains open through Feb. 3. Send your comments to County Grants Administrator Jeff Hauff at email@example.com or call Hauff's office, 512.393.2211. Commenting on important local development studies is like voting – if you don't you can't complain. According to Hauff, the study's next destination is the Texas Water Development Board. After final approval, the county will prioritize the study's recommended infrastructure improvements and can apply for state assistance to begin implementing them.
Send your comments, questions and news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org, to Mr. Heinemann at email@example.com, to County Commissioner Will Conley at firstname.lastname@example.org, to County Judge Bert Cobb at email@example.com, to the Judge's Chief of Staff Lon Shell at firstname.lastname@example.org, or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story
By Matt Heinemann
What is wrong with Hays County’s consulting firm HDR recommending water from the Guadalupe River via the San Marcos treatment plant transmitted down Ranch Road 12 to Wimberley?
This is, after all, the recommendation that Will Conley intends to support once the year-and-a-half-long water and wastewater facilities study drafted by HDR for Hays County is adopted. It would appear the plan is intended to ensure growth in the Valley up to and beyond the next 15 years.
The first thing wrong with the scenario in the study is that it is not sustainable. Fifteen years of relatively "reliable" water may ensure short-term expansion of residential development, but it does not guarantee a long-term water supply and it will play havoc with our property values. There is a false assumption that growth in the Valley is in the best interest of residents.
Many resist the vision of this report as the inevitable fate for the Wimberley Valley. Many also understand that more growth will bring along with it the burden of substantial tax increases. (See American Farmland Trust – click on Hays County Cost of Community Services Study/pdf). The water & wastewater plan, as now drafted, has a narrowly defined range of alternatives. Unfortunately, there are only a small number of people who view these alternatives as needing to be urgently addressed.
Place is an attitude
How many people do you know in Wimberley who are disgusted by mini-malls, sprawling shopping centers with a uniform sameness, big-box retail department stores and kitsch storefronts practically everywhere? Many of our cities are losing, or have already lost, their authenticity.
In their public meeting last Wednesday (Jan. 19) in Wimberley, the engineers in the HDR study, and Commissioner Will Conley, seem to have prioritized recommendations based on technique over place. Cities in Hays County are not uniform in their composition nor in their desires for growth. In my experience, residents in Wimberley feel deeply about their community and resist drastic changes in its composition.
HDR's draft report and its supporters are overriding local concerns by imposing functional efficiency, objective organization and manipulative planning. The study proposes merely the best way to achieve narrowly defined technical ends. Some politicians have lost sight of the personal structures which give communities meaning. They have ceased to look for or define meaning in their communities. This is an inauthentic attitude. And this is a sorry situation for a representative of a truly authentic place.
The engineers presenting this study have lumped our communities together, all requiring a similar set of strategies to overcome ‘spatial inefficiencies’ with major infrastructure improvements. Why would our community want to allow such detached planning from fullness of place and community? Wimberley "the place" is merely incidental in this report with its countywide implications. Are we to understand that our destiny is common to the other communities in fast growing Hays County? Are we supposed to follow the goals of a narrow group of interests for efficiency sake, for development, profits or greed?
What I heard Commissioner Conley say at the Wednesday night meeting is that this type of plan is “long overdue,” that he is anxious to get moving on the recommendations, and he is not interested in having more open meetings for public comment about the report.
The narrowness of such an approach, with an emphasis on the abstract “future dwellers” and economic interests implied, rather than on the impact that water infrastructure of this scale will have on community life and values is profoundly inauthentic and shameful. This technique-dominated planning is difficult to reconcile with the subjective values of people and place, and it requires a significant investment. It outright ignores the experiences and everyday lives of concerned Wimberley citizens – possibly even threatening to obliterate the sense of place many of us feel in living here.
Matt Heinemann is a Wimberley area resident, graduated from Wimberley High School and now a graduate student in Geography at Texas State University. Matt participated in the committee responsible for the Comprehensive Plan for the City of Wimberley. He can be reached at email@example.com
Posted by RoundUp Editor at 2:45 PM