How Fair Oaks Ranch residents and CCGCD put a stop to a high-density development
Boerne based Hill Country Weekly gives us a great human interest story that includes the details what can happen when water and politics mix. Kendall County’s Cow Creek Groundwater Conservation District is featured as it applies its rules to help residents of Fair Oaks Ranch stop a high-density development.
Sandra Senecal, Staff Writer
Hill Country Weekly
The mayor and his wife: Winning at life
When Garry Manitzas met Dedie (pronounced Dee Dee) 45 years ago, she was a young woman living in “the valley,” and she wanted out. She wanted to teach school in Austin but had only $400 saved up. Then she met Garry through a friend and they saw each other a couple of times and spoke on the phone a couple of times (Her father would only let them talk for five minutes.) and decided she was going where he was going, which was to Austin.
She got there and got a roommate and got a job at a bank—and she got Garry. They met and married within a year and have been married for 44 years with two children, Heather and Alex, and five grandchildren: Matthew, Katie, Nadia, Alyssa and Christian.
When they married, Garry was in graduate school and when he graduated with a degree in finance, they moved in June, 1973 to San Antonio for his new job at CPS Energy. Garry later moved on to work at Valero and KCI in San Antonio until he retired.
Dedie found a job teaching at Edgewood Jr. High School. “I spent 23 years at that school and after that I became principal for an at-risk school,” she explains. “If the child is a grade level behind we help get them caught up. It was a very successful program.”
“Those kids were considered to be at a high risk of dropping out and she didn’t lose a single student in five years,” Garry adds, giving credit where credit is due. When the program ended, she went into school administration as an assistant principal for 11 years and then retired in 2012.
For years they would drive around the Hill Country and wish they could move there. “We would see the tall tower that was in Fair Oaks Ranch and say oh my word, look how beautiful it is out here,” Dedie says.
After the kids were older, (and they were older), they began to believe their dream could take shape, so they built their house and finally moved from San Antonio.
Dedie loves to play bridge, and, since she retired, plays five times a month with different bridge groups. She and Garry used to play together but “I never got to be good at it,” Garry says. “But that’s okay if you have a good memory and a good partner.”
The book “Bridge for Dummies” states: “Arguably, bridge is the greatest card game ever. It not only is a lifelong friend, it also enables you to make lifelong friends because it’s a partnership game.”
Dedie continues, “When I retired, I got into these groups because it’s a game for older people and they quit or pass away. So they love younger players. Not many younger people are coming into it. If their parents play, they may continue in the group.
“Our two kids never got involved, they never picked it up. In my day, in college, you would play in your down time but nowadays there’s a lot of technology so they don’t do any card games at all really anymore.”
She plays at least one day a week, mostly traveling to San Antonio. She hasn’t joined the Fair Oaks Ranch bridge club because she doesn’t have time, especially because of what has happened in the last two years. But more on that later.
Both Garry and Dedie love to travel and do yard work together. Since being retired, they’ve been to Venice; on both a Mediterranean and a Scandinavian/Russian cruise; and a “Four Corners” trip in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah where they saw in person many famous western landscape scenes.
“The next year, we did the winter wonderland-type trip, you could say, to Montana and Wyoming in January. Yes, January 15 to Montana!” Garry laughs. “We went on a snow mobile and did dog sledding, Dedie was in the seat and I was up front on the runner with the dogs. Some of the dogs pulling the sled were race dogs that just came off the race in Alaska.
“We also swam in a natural hot springs surrounded by snow. You would go outside in 10-degree weather and peel off 10 layers of clothes and literally sprint to the pool. It was wonderful. We would have never thought of taking a trip like this, but our friend suggested it.”
It was a good thing they had a terrific trip, because the next year, in March 2014, Garry received a call from a resident friend in Fair Oaks Ranch.
“He told me he had heard that the city council had approved a very high-density development that some people wanted to do north of Ammann Road. It was done very quietly and had been brought to the city council with three days notice,” he explains. “A lot of people here started to get excited about it because of water and density issues because the developer wanted to put 645 homes on half-acre lots when lots in Fair Oaks Ranch are usually five acres and more. On top of this, the developer needed to get the property annexed by the city because it was sitting on the Cow Creek Groundwater Conservation District (CCGCD), who would have only allowed 86 homes on the same plot of land rather than 645 homes.
“We spoke to a lawyer who advised us that the development was hinged on getting the annexation because without it, they were still sitting in the CCGCD boundaries and had legal issues there, so we decided we had to kill the annexation. We only had six weeks to convince the city council to vote ‘no’ on the annexation, even though they had already approved the development agreement with the developer.”
Thus began a full-scale, grass roots effort with many Fair Oaks Ranch residents hanging signs throughout the city, talking to their neighbors door-to-door, getting a petition signed and asking everyone to write and visit with their city council members to ask them to vote against the annexation.
“Our strategy was for those alderman to be looking at friends and neighbors while making that vote,” Garry explains.
And that’s exactly what happened. So many people showed up for the vote, it was standing room only and they had to open the windows so the crowd outside could see what was happening.
“The city council saw this and thought the citizens don’t want this, and the annexation didn’t pass,” he says with a smile. “We continued to stay very active with this, and you do so much as a citizen that you finally realize that you really want to make a some changes. You kind of have to bite the bullet and go run for office. So, my friend throughout this whole thing, he and I ran for council last year and we both got elected by a landslide.”
Garry ran for mayor of the City of Fair Oaks Ranch in May of this year and again won by a landslide. He suggests that, “the residents want to see transparency in their government, a logical and businesslike approach to running their city, good decision-making and proper diligence and a reasonable approach where you try to manage new growth.”
His main goal now is to change the city from a General Law Charter to a Home Rule Charter (by the citizens), and has put a team of 11 residents together to write the charter by next February.
Then hopefully, it will be put on the May ballot to be voted on by Fair Oaks Ranch citizens.
Whether playing bridge as a team or running a city together, Garry and Dedie do so with determination to do their best, and to share lots of fun and laughter along the way.
Sandra Senecal, Staff Writer
Hill Country Weekly
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