by TIM SAMPSON
Special to the Hays Free Press
As many Kyle residents drove down Center Street on their way home from church last Sunday, an unfamiliar sight greeted them.
Several protestors took to the street last weekend to voice their concern in the ongoing tug-of-war between environmental preservation and the city’s plans for continued development. The activists were once again calling for a citywide ordinance to protect Heritage Oak Trees while bemoaning the city’s latest development proposal, a truck stop near I-35 at the Yarrington Road exit.
“I think people driving by in their cars were surprised to find the city is doing this again,” said Tim Miller, a local organic farmer who has been vocal on the issue of preserving Heritage Oaks – older trees that have a trunk diameter of roughly 28 inches or more.
The proposed truck stop is still in the early planning stages, but the city has already approved Site Fill/Grading Permits for the owners of the land, PGI Investment, LLC, of Cypress, Texas. The plans on file with the city indicate the project will impact a number of Heritage Oaks and the Live Oak Spring Pond.
This is a concern for Miller and others, who have been pushing for several years to pass a city ordinance that would protect Heritage Trees. They also want to see an ordinance that protects trees in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ), where much of Kyle’s rapid development is taking place. Miller said these large, old trees are important to his community because they provide cooling shade, aesthetic beauty, enhanced air quality and higher property values.
A tree ordinance has already been passed in Buda, where developers are required to provide for the planting of replacement trees when Heritage trees are leveled, but a similar proposal from the Kyle City Council was tabled last month for further inquiry and public testimony. Council members Becky Selbera and Brad Pickett indicated their opposition to the ordinance, telling the Hays Free Press last month that property owners ought to have the right to modify their land as they see fit.
The proposal, as it exists, would create a formal definition for Heritage Trees and provide stricter requirements for developers seeking to remove such trees. But the ordinance is likely to be modified at a special meeting of the Planning and Zoning board.
“I think we’ll likely see a few tweaks here and there before we send it back to the city council,” said City Planner Sophia Nelson.
Nelson said it’s in the city’s best interest to develop an ordinance that protects wildlife without prohibiting city development.
But trees are not the only concern Miller and others have with the new truck stop. He’s concerned about the potential hazard of underground fuel tanks and their possible impact on the Edwards Aquifer.
“Are these things going to leak into the groundwater?” Miller worries.
But Nelson says no plans for fuel storage have been filed with the city yet.
“This project is still in the very early stages of development,” she said, adding that fuel storage is regulated by the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality.
The regional TCEQ office couldn’t provide details on this specific site, but a spokesperson said there are numerous provisions in place to regulate both underground and aboveground storage tanks, including annual registration and inspections.
In the meantime, Miller plans to continue his plight.