Commentary: Legislation not good for Kendall County
Milan J. Michalec | Boerne Star |
An Open Letter to Sen. Campbell and Rep. Biedermann,
I have been following and actively commenting on SB 2273 to create Kendall County Water Control and Improvement District (WCID) No. 4 by (Sen. Donna) Campbell since it was filed on April 12. Despite my best efforts to offer testimony during the “Public Hearing” before the Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations, this bill was voted out of committee favorably.
Characterized as “local and noncontroversial” it was ordered to be sent to the Local, Consent and Resolutions Calendar where it continues on its way, likely to become law.
I can assure you both, it may be local, but it is far from noncontroversial. A number of Kendall County voters have told you so.
Given a companion bill was recently introduced – HB 4323 by (Rep. Kyle) Biedermann, I wish to say this bill too should be withdrawn until due diligence is completed by the authors to completely understand the ramifications of what laws like these will bring on the local citizenry.
As this bill is scheduled for a “Public Hearing” before the House Committee on Special Purpose Districts on May 18, please consider this letter in its entirety as my written testimony as I am not able to attend due to a military-related special duty assignment.
Here are only three of the many issues I wish to mention at this time. According to the Bill Analysis by Texas Senate Research Center posted with S.B. 2273 on the website of Texas Legislature Online: “S.B. 2273 creates the Kendall County Water Control and Improvement District No. 4 (district) as a political subdivision of the State of Texas. The district will construct and finance water, sewer, drainage, road and recreational facilities to serve property within the district, which is located in the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the City of Boerne in Kendall County.” This analysis contains several significant factual errors.
One, the proposed district does not require a sewer system to serve the property within the district. That is because Kendall County Commissioners Court on January 23 granted a variance from county density rules to use individual septic systems on lots as small as one acre, rather than the standard of three acres. This variance was based on water (not to include local groundwater) coming from an unknown out-of-county source, to an unnamed subdivision development conforming to the boundaries of the proposed WCID No. 4.
Two, at this same meeting the aerial map that was provided to show the boundaries of this proposed subdivision, which has now become WCID No. 4, places both outside of the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the City of Boerne.
Three, the analysis states: “The owners of all of the land in the district and local elected officials support the creation of the district.” I have seen no document, such as a petition to the County Commissioner’s Court to support the creation of WCID No. 4, from any landowner. I have seen no written documentation from the City of Boerne that indicates those elected officials support creation of this district. The Cow Creek Groundwater Conservation District has no stated position only because out-of-county water has been proposed a water source – no local groundwater. When challenged on the assertion that county officials supported the creation of this district, Senator Campbell’s office responded: “The letter sent to Judge Lux and Commissioner Elkins was in fact a letter of acknowledgement, not a letter of support.”
As a final comment, I wish to mention the issue of transparency. Special purpose water districts like this one have escaped public scrutiny only because the public does not know they are being proposed as law through the Legislature until it is too late to affect any outcome. When citizens attempt to participate, the process severely limits their input.
Transparency from our city and city council, our county and county commissioners and our senators and representatives at the Legislature who represent all citizens, not just a special few, can create a dialogue through which elected officials, developers and citizens can all be heard.
As this dialogue is missing on either of these bills, any opportunity for any compromise from any level has been eliminated. As there’s been virtually no formal conversation with any elected office in this county, the voice of the public has been effectively silenced.
A call for transparency can be one of many reasons to call for the reform of this flawed process and I’m willing to participate in any way I can.
Please consider these comments from a citizen, a veteran and an elected representative of Kendall County.
Milan J. Michalec is a retired Air Force Chief Master Sergeant and president of the Cow Creek Groundwater Conservation District