Monday, January 24, 2011

Are we teetering on the edge of placelessness? Now's the time to weigh in

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

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 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, to Mr. Heinemann at, to County Commissioner Will Conley at, to County Judge Bert Cobb at, to the Judge's Chief of Staff Lon Shell at, or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

By Matt Heinemann

Guest Commentary

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


Anonymous said...

Be aware that Matt is a shill for the WVWA and David Baker. Somehow he failed to mention that fact. It is interesting that he and Baker did not criticize Conley when he and David were feeding at the County trough last month.

The thing that is interesting was the lack of attendance for the public meeting held last Wednesday at the Wimberley Community Center. It was embarrassing how few people seemed to care about the study of our future in western Hays County and how we will deal with the accelerating growth and development that is coming our way. Sticking your head in the sand and drifting off to denial wont hack it. I have read the whole 269-page draft report and I think it is a very good report and tells it like it is.

Some of it may not come to pass but it is something to work with. The growth is reality and we need to plan for it regardless of what the water fairies have to say. If we don’t import water via pipeline from other areas, I’m afraid that Jacob’s Well and Cypress Creek will eventually be sacrificed. It may happen anyway, because of the human propensity to reproduce itself into overcrowding. Those two luxuries are going the way of so many other springs and streams that only flow when it rains. People are more important than either of them and we have to provide for people’s health and safety, especially drinking water. It is a shame that the County has already spent millions ostensibly to save Jacob’s Well and most of us may live to see it and the creek dry up.

The one thing that is seldom discussed is wastewater, in other words, what are we going to do with or crap? Due to EPA regulations and more to come, that is going to be a real challenge. The study does a pretty good job exploring the problems facing us for wastewater disposal and/or recycling.

Thinking long-term said...

Matt echoes the sentiments of thousands of us who live and love Wimberley the way it is, not the way Conley and his road companies, pipeline moguls and corporate homebuilders would like to bulldoze it into.

"Growth is a reality" is like saying that starting a fire is a reality just because you have a match and intend to light it. This growth is a business plan, nothing more. Plans can change when circumstances no longer support your intentions.

Growth should be shifted to those parts of Texas where the land and water supplies can support that growth. Growth is neither inevitable nor desirable when one risks outgrowing one's habitat.

These development plans by people who see Wimberley as a cash cow for fast roads and lots of new houses are not thinking about the long-term consequences of these actions, often because they do not care, they do not even live here.

The money behind Wimberley Springs partners is from Midland, no wonder they don't worry what sucking the aquifer dry for another godforsaken golf course or dense,suburban-style housing scheme will be on THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE HERE NOW and their kids who might like to stay here and raise their families.

People whose solution to the lack of water for these imagined future populations is a pipeline from Bastrop rather than conservation, rainwater harvesting and living lightly on the land are undoubtedly somehow connected to a profit motive because otherwise it doesn't make any sense.

Follow the money, follow the money...and start with where Will Conley gets his.

Treehugger said...

Why does the Wimberley need another strip center, big box store, highway or suburb?


It doesn't.

Bluebird said...

First anonymous, you are a rat fink. I don't know which side of David Baker's or the WVWA's mouth Matt was a shill for, but I believe he has long since parted ways. Probably for good reason.

Anonymous said...

@Thinking long term....

about the only thing agreed with is that Conley should be investigated more closely - especially regarding the WVWA deal.

Other than that "the people that live here now" aren't entitled to anything special. They are property owners no different than others who own property in the area.

Anonymous said...

These reports, like the transportation plans, are ways to fool the public into thinking growth most people don't want is good idea. The developers and land speculators are coming to Hays County, but they need water and roads to make it happen. Conley's eager to oblige.

Ta da! Here is the new RR 12 Parkway to make it feasible for strip shopping centers and new housing subdivisions on either side. And now a study to justify an expensive water pipeline. (They'll "sell" it to you as "saving the springs and creeks", but that's BS)

Wake up, Hays County. Growth like this will take away everything you hold dear. If you keep voting for Conley, this place will soon look like Round Rock and your taxes will hit the ceiling. Vote 'em out!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone care that too much growth jeapordizes our public health in Hays County, either due to not enough water or water that gets polluted by development and does not have adequate disposal technology to deal with it?

What is wrong with all you people who call others water fairies and other such ignorant labels - just because they want to protect the region from water scarcity and water pollution? Do you cold hearted unlimited growth nuts care at all about your children and grandchildren's health (or Texas children in general)?

I feel sorry for you and your ilk's attitude in life. You people must be really unhappy to be so angry at those in the community who have a sense of responsibility to the community.

More mindless growth at this point is not what we need. We need thoughtful planning and input from all of Hays County's special interests.

Good article, Matt. Screw those who aren't smart enough to read your thoughts with an intelligent, open mind. That is their problem.

They call you a shill for someone's agenda. Well, they are shills for ignorance and their own self-loathing.

Anonymous said...

@Thinking long term...

We have all heard your talking points before and we know you are one of the “I was here first” club. In today’s world, nothing lasts forever including your way of life, especially when you are willing to settle for a grungy status quo, because you feel it is somehow pure and unspoiled. Change is coming, so trying to stop it is futile; it would be better to get involved in the process with more of a plan to mitigate the harm you perceive. Your ideas are welcome but your bitching is a turn-off.

The type of world that you and Matt espouse sounds more like a feel-good trip than and actual solution. There will always be things like the flat earth society since there are people without vision for the future mostly based on a doctrine of complacency. Population control will not be adopted at this time in our country so we are stuck with expanding numbers and needs; we need to prepare for it.

Anonymous said...

I believe what we have here is a failure to communicate, two sides talking past one another while the infrastructure and development steam roller with Conley at the wheel rolling right on by. People must speak up, make their views known, organize and effectuate change for the good of western Hays County. Barring that, there will be a lot of wasted breath right up until the time the hills of western Hays County are as densely populated as the western hills of Travis County around Lake Travis and around Buda and Kyle. What nightmares those places have become! Best use real estate practices in plain overpopulated, ugly and unsustainable view. Property taxes going One Way - UP! Is that what we want here?? Surely there must be a better vision. I think newcomers to the Valley are being sold the same bill of goods by the likes of Conley, his backers, the local chambers and the real estate crowd about a bright water supply future. I don't think prospective home buyers and shopping mall developers are being told the whole truth about present and future natural resource conditions. What home buyer who is new to the area would think to ask about a secure water supply for their beautiful new home? Perhaps that is one reason Mr. Conley is reported to want to implement recommendations of this HDR report post haste. I have no argument about people's rights to sell and buy private property or to make their home where they please. I do have a big problem with sellers and agents not providing full disclosure on something so fundamental and vital as water supply. What's a beautiful home without water. What's a beautiful Valley filled with beautiful new homes without a secure future water source? What have we got left, 10, 20, 30 years? Our public officials and governmental bodies must be on the front lines educating the public they represent and newcomers about the natural resource facts of life around here. That would be an honest way of leveling the playing field. Forcing new water in and thereby forcing new development that was never meant to be is not only dishonest, it goes against the laws of nature. Please, let's not buy in to fooling Mother Nature. It just will not work.

Anonymous said...

Well, we do need to steal water from somewhere. Otherwise, how are we ever going to supply water to all those program builder ticky tacky homes and water two golf courses.

On another sour note: Anonymous #1 your constant slander against others is really getting old.

Roadrunner said...

Time has shown that forced growth and temporary water supplies into places like Nevada and Arizona does not work.

The far West is in a deep and prolonged drought. There simply is not enough water to go around.

What will they all do, move to drought prone Hays County for another false promise of water.

I agree with the last anonymous. It is not nice to fool Mother Nature.

And I have a question, why is our HT groundwater district helping people and water drillers find the best locations for underground water? Is that part of their mission? Do the board members know this?

Thirsty Man said...

Roadrunner, When, who and where did our local groundwater district help people and water drillers find the best locations for underground water? Their mission is to protect the aquifers from waste and monitor usage where possible.

It is a little known fact that most wells (5000+) in the district are known as exempt wells, which means they are not monitored, metered or controlled in any meaningful way. These wells are the Mom and Pop wells that individual property owners have for their own personal and agricultural use. It is interesting that the County passed laws denying anyone with less than 6 acres to drill a well, thereby favoring large property owners. No one knows how much water is pumped up from the aquifer daily and that is a fact. The only data is from certain large pumping operations such as Aqua Texas and Wimberley Water Supply. Most of the figures you hear are just estimates or guesses as to how much water is in the aquifer and how much is pumped out.

The HTGCD is so under funded they can’t really control even the non-exempt wells. For instance, Dripping Springs Water Supply has been pumping and selling water for decades and they have no permit and don’t intend to get one. Many entities are likewise ignoring the rules and the district has no police powers and can’t sue them because they have insufficient funds to sustain any kind of a lawsuit. The funds that the district gets, they have to beg the County for and the County gets it from fees charged to the MUDs in Belterra and Hipointe. Still the district has to beg. All other GCDs get funding from a small ad valorem tax on property in their districts, which is denied to the HTGCD by the Legislature.

If the district denies a pumping permit the applicant usually keeps on pumping. Sadly, the larger property owners and politicians want it that way so it is “drill baby drill” in Hays County. BTW if any of you that bitch here about our water issues and have a lawn or a swimming pool, you are hypocrites.

Anonymous said...

@Thirsty Man: case 'n' point regarding applicants being denied permits but pumping anyway: Wimberley Springs Partners!! Check out last week's Wimberley View! Word has it that they WILL get the permit for their golf course. Will that golf course be any more profitable than the one in the City of Woodcreek...NO! Who is this golf course for? The Odessa-Midland moneyman only!! So to that end, we all must suffer the loss of millions of gallons to be pumped over it along with the millions of gallons wasted via AquaTexas faulty, unrepaired system!

And thank you, Blue Bird, for noting that Matt Heinemann is no shill, especially not for David Baker!! The dark faery posting those comments could have probably done abit more research in that regard.

Get smart! said...

The mantra Will Conley and his
developer-owners repeat constantly
is "Population growth is inevitable, and so we need to
prepare for it." And that means to
them that they should have unfettered approval to build all
the water-guzzling houses they
want to.

But, population growth (in the
numbers they invite) is NOT
inevitable. If people who are
thinking about moving here are
made aware that water is in short
supply, and that Aqua Texas'
wastewater plant is already
beyond its capacity to process,
they WON'T move here.

Conley will say, look, you voted
for the bond issue which provides
for RR 12 to be widened. What he
doesn't say is that we voted
AGAINST that bond issue the first
time it was proposed, but then
Conley and Jeff Barton put their fine, tiny, crafty minds together and lumped the RR 12 proposal with some propositions that Barton's district did want, and the total package passed.

Don't accept Conley's premise
that growth is inevitable. We
must get out the word that
water is scarce in the Wimberley

Anonymous said...

Get Smart: Thank you for bringing the truth. That is exactly what happened.

Get Smart! said...

Be aware that our county commissioner, Will Conley, surely
will use the small attendance at the HDR water presentation on Jan. 19 as an excuse to push through swift implementation of everything that HDR (consulting firm) recommended. Conley will say that people didn't show up to raise objections about anything in the HDR report, and so we must be okay with it. (And HDR surely wants further business from the Commissioners Court, and
so they provided, for $200,000, the report that Conley wanted.)

Further, there was little notice
of that water meeting. None in
the Wimberley View that came out
on the day of the meeting. I
really felt Conley "did protest
too much" when he said, at least 3
times, he was sorry attendance at the meeting was small. Seemed to
me he was relieved not to have to
field many questions. (Although
there were several pointed questions that Conley sometimes
answered in a rambling non-
answer way.)

If you want to read the current
draft of the HDR report, go to
546. You can email your comments
on it through Feb. 2. Shortly
after that the report will be
presented to Commissioners Court.
Conley hopes the Court will adopt
the water plan as is.

Get Smart! said...


I said that the HDR water report
will next go to Commissioners Court
for approval. Apparently that is
incorrect. The report next goes to
the Texas Water Development Board
(TWDB)for approval. Unhappily,
TWDB often rules in favor of water
suppliers instead of water supplier
customers (as in Bastrop, where
TWDB ruled for water suppliers
instead of customers, agreeing that
water can be piped from Bastrop &
Lee counties to San Marcos and San

Anyhow, after TWDB gives its
blessing to the HDR report, it will
go to Hays County Commissioners
Court, which (being heavily stacked
with land development backers) will then give the report ITS blessing.

Anonymous said...

If Public Comment doesn't end until Feb 3, then why does Conley have it on the Commissioners Court agenda Tuesday, Feb 1st? Guess he doesn't want or care to hear/read what citizens have to say about the report.