Permitting for controversial subdivision halted

Plans for a controversial subdivision along FM 967 outside of Buda has come to a screeching halt after developers opted to suspend the permitting process earlier this month.

The move now leaves nearby residents worried about what could come of the 1,200-home Rutherford North development.

According to a letter submitted to the city of Dripping Springs, developers of Rutherford North sought to temporarily suspend pursuit of a proposed development agreement for the project “until further notice.”

Rutherford Ranch North, located on 800 acres in Dripping Springs’ extra territorial jurisdiction, falls under the city of Dripping Springs’ purview and all permits and applications are required to go through city staff.

The letter did not specify why the developer opted to suspend the agreement. Mike Rutherford, Jr., owner of the property, declined to comment on the details of the project’s suspension.

According to the proposed development agreement, Rutherford North would abide by Dripping Springs’ comprehensive plan for growth in its ETJ. That includes abiding by Dripping Springs’ zoning, lighting, building, exterior design and landscaping rules. Rutherford North would also develop housing that minimizes “negative environmental impacts and promote the aesthetic enhancement of the city and its ETJ.”

The owners had also planned to obtain permits from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for a wastewater treatment facility. Because the project is within the Edward’s Aquifer recharge zone, the manner of disposal of treated effluent would be irrigation or Chapter 210 beneficial reuse.

For nearby resident Mac Cutler, suspending the project now brings a “wait and see” approach.

Cutler is one of a handful of Rutherford Ranch residents who oppose the project, as they believe it could impact groundwater quality and could cause extensive flooding issues. All residents who live nearby the proposed project obtain water from wells that draw from the Edwards Aquifer.

Cutler referenced a 1990 dye trace study that showed runoff from Bear Creek, which runs through his property, falls into Dahlstrom Cave, which is a direct conduit of the Edwards Aquifer.

“We are sitting here and kind of keeping our ear to the ground, so to speak, to see where this is going next,” Cutler said. “It’s going to be a disaster if it happens because it’s going to contaminate all of the drinking water.”

Jill Swift, who also lives by Rutherford North, said she hopes developers are pausing the process to consider larger lot sizes for proposed homes in the subdivision. Residents at a town hall meeting in late May had issues with a proposed reduction in lot size from 1.5 acres to less than .1 of an acre.

Swift continues to worry about flooding, which has already impacted her home as well as that of neighbors. Swift believes the subdivision, as it was proposed, could further exacerbate flooding problems.

“For us, we’re concerned that once it’s there, and the flood gate is gone, that our house is going to flood even more,” Swift said. “Wastewater and raw sewage is going to go past our house and we’re going to be unable to drink our water.”

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