By Kim Hilsenbeck
City council members appear to have a different view of the future of Mountain City than many residents of the tiny town. At least that is the impression after the May 20 public meeting.
About 65 people attended the special called public meeting held at the Plum Creek Golf Club. Roughly 260 households comprise the town, which borders Kyle and Buda. They were there to discuss a possible interlocal agreement (ILA) among Mountain City, the city of Kyle and Hays County that would turn over a portion of Mountain City’s extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) to Kyle.
Speaker after speaker said they oppose any such agreement. Many told the council they don’t want to see changes in their little oasis.
Ryan Porterfield said, “If we wanted what Kyle is offering, we would have just bought in Plum Creek. Say no to Kyle and the ILA.”
Several residents echoed that sentiment over and over in the public meeting, saying they moved to Mountain City for a reason and they want the town to remain the same.
Residents who attended the meeting appear mostly against the ILA, which Mayor Tiffany Curnutt said is in draft form. If signed, it would grant the area where developer Clark Wilson hopes to build a 2,200 home neighborhood called Anthem to Kyle. Wilson is under contract with the landowner, David Leeland, to purchase property in Mountain City’s ETJ.
In exchange for signing the ILA, Hays County would repair the roads in Mountain City. The current version of the ILA says the county would pay up to $22,000 a year for three years to repair the roads in Mountain City. But resident John Wilson told the council they should read the agreement carefully. He said the ILA makes reference to the county repairing the roads at its discretion. He also said $22,000 a year is not enough money to repair roads. And the county can cancel the contract at any time even for reasons other than breach.
Under the ILA, the tiny town would also have the ability to connect with Kyle’s municipal water and wastewater systems, putting it in prime position to attract commercial development along FM 2770, according to proponents of the deal.
However, Mountain City residents would have to pay for the cost to hook up their own homes to Kyle’s water and wastewater. They would also pay “out of district rates” for that privilege.
Two residents who appear in favor are Mountain City’s administrator, Thomas Brown, and his wife. Clark Wilson also is in favor of the deal.
Brown told his fellow neighbors, “Change is coming; we should look at this as an opportunity to decide what that change looks like.”
He touted having a diversified tax base because commercial development would increase the tax base.
“That relieves us of property taxes,” he said.
Resident Suzanne Hallam said her 2014 Mountain City property taxes bill was $272.
“That’s out of a total tax bill of $4,879,” she said.
Mountain City signed a development agreement with Wilson in late 2014. Because its water system wouldn’t have the capacity to serve Anthem, Wilson signed a seperate agreement with private water firm Electro Purification (EP). As with the other Hays County customers who signed deals with EP, Anthem’s contract with the firm came under heavy fire from opposition groups. The entire EP well project has been hotly contested – by residents from Driftwood and Wimberley in particular. Such groups say EP will pump too much out of the Middle Trinity Aquifer, causing damage to area wells and long-term devastation to the aquifer.
Clark Wilson spoke to Mountain City residents Wednesday in favor of the ILA, which would negate his agreement with Mountain City and instead require him to develop under Kyle’s rules. It would also mean he could cancel his contract with EP, making him the second customer in recent weeks to look for a way out from its water deal with the firm. Buda is negotiating a deal with Kyle and the Guadalupe/Blanco River Authority (GBRA) to purchase some of Kyle’s excess water.
When asked if he already terminated his Anthem contract with EP, Wilson said, “I have a way out because they have not been able to prove up water. We are under contract with EP but they have not delivered.”
Under the ILA, Wilson also would avoid having to build a wastewater plant on the Anthem site, a prospect that caught the attention of a few in the audience.
Wilson said Mountain City could still be an oasis even if it put commercial development across FM 2770 from the neighborhood. He told the audience they should think of Sunset Valley near northern Brodie Lane in Austin as an example. That is also an incorporated town that’s not part of the larger city.
Wilson told residents that developing the property across the street into a commercial strip would put about $50 million into the Mountain City’s coffers over the next several decades.
“Mountain City can be the oasis [and]have property tax diminish because of that commercial development,” Wilson said.
Leeland also spoke to the crowd.
“You don’t have to connect the water or sewer now, but you’d have that opportunity to develop on it,” he said. “That’s valuable; even if it doesn’t feel like it today.”
Despite promises of lower taxes and better roads, Mountain City residents, for the most part, held firm to their views that they don’t want any part of the ILA with Kyle and Hays County.