Friday, April 8, 2011
As a result of the lack of requests for contested case status, the board had no reason to not act on the permit and it was granted on 02/21/2011
Note: Last night's vote was 3 to 1, with board member Joan Jernigan (District 5-Wimberley) voting against, in effect, a finding of a lack of standing by protesters (and pretty much dashing any hope of a contested hearing) over the District's groundwater pumping permit issued Feb. 21 to Wimberley Springs Partners Ltd. The permit grants WSP 250 acre-feet (81.5 million gallons) annually for three years and a one-time 250 acre-feet "Re-Growth" permit for its golf course and other development needs. When the gavel dropped at last night's meeting, it freed the District to sign the final permit agreement with WSP.
The groundwater district's office received at least 11 letters from Wimberley area residents and the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association several days after WSP's permit was approved in February. Problem is, the protests requesting a contested hearing did not conform to District rules, most specifically Rule 3.2 (Operating Permit/ Hearings Required). It states: "The Board shall schedule a hearing, which may be held at a regular Board meeting, where the Board shall consider the application (by applicant) and any evidence presented at the hearing. Any interested person may provide oral or written testimony at the hearing, or may file a formal protest against the proposed action."
You can download the District rules at this link: http://haysgroundwater.com/regulatory. Click on HTGCD Rules adopted June 14, 2007. Rule 5.6 governs contested hearings.
Send your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, to the HTGCD office at email@example.com (512-858-9253), to board president Jimmy Skipton at firstname.lastname@example.org, to Mrs. Jernigan at email@example.com or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story
Sent by an attendee at last night's meeting, edited slightly for style:
The meeting of the HTGCD board in Wimberley was well attended last night at the Wimberley Community Center – a pre-hearing conference to determine whether a contested hearing should be granted.
At issue was whether the "requests for contested case status" filed by a number of protesters would be considered timely filed.
A substitute attorney appeared on behalf of the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association's attorney in order to argue their case. David Baker, WVWA's executive director and a member of groundwater district board did not attend although many in attendance were from WVWA.
The protesters argued that (WVWA's letter of protest) was "less than 15 minutes late," lack of adequate notice, and threatened legal action for alleged violations of the open meetings act. The board inquired as to what those violations might be, noted that the 02/21/2011 meeting was in fact well-attended and many of the protesters had attended the meeting as well as prior meetings regarding the same permit application. The notice for 02/21/2011 indicated the proposed permit and identified it as a possible action. Protesters presented opinions at the meeting but none requested to become a party in a legal proceeding. As a result of the lack of requests for contested case status, the board had no reason to not act on the permit and it was granted on 02/21/2011.
WVWA's attorney argued that there was a "lack of explicit instructions" instructing the protesters to file on or before the hearing of 02/21/2011.
The board went into executive session with its attorney (Greg Ellis) and emerged about 1/2 hour later. The board moved to find that the requests were not timely filed and would be denied. The reasoning was that none of the requests were timely filed. All of them were 7-10 days late and made well after the permit had been granted. The 12 minutes WVWA was arguing about did not explain the 10 days delay before that. In addition, there had been no provision in the rules for the protesters to file AFTER the action granting the permit on 02/21/2011.
Posted by RoundUp Editor at 1:05 PM