New Braunfels council votes to appeal “can ban” ruling

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas (KXAN) — The New Braunfels City Council voted 5-2 Monday to appeal a judge’s decision that struck down its “can ban”, Mayor Gale Pospisil tells KXAN.

“(After the new rules,) I noticed that our rivers were cleaner. We had more families visiting. Our sales tax numbers were up. Our hotel taxes were up. And it seemed to work very well,” Pospisil said.

A judge in Comal County on Friday ruled the City of New Braunfels’ “can ban” unconstitutional.

In his ruling, Judge Don Burgess, declared that the disposable container ordinance as well as part of the ordinance that limits the size of coolers were both unconstitutional.

He also said the City was ‘illegally expending taxpayer funds to enforce the Ordinances.’

Even though the City now plans to appeal the decision, the ruling will stay in place throughout any appeals process. The mayor says that process could take a couple years.

“Every year that we don’t have that can ban, business will pick up,” said Scott Gromacki, manager of Gruene River Company, which is an outfitter for floats and tubing on the river. “(We saw an) about 70 percent drop in business (after the ban).

In addition to striking down the ban, the Order awarded more than $250,00 in attorney’s fees to the river outfitters.

Rockin “R” River Rides, Texas Tubes and several other businesses were involved in the suit against the City.

In 2012, the City implemented the new ordinance where tubers on the Comal and Guadalupe River were not allowed to bring any disposable containers, such as beer/soda cans, plastic baggies and water bottles on the river.

The plaintiffs in the case believed the ordinance had a negative impact on their businesses.

“These businesses have tried to work with the City to develop a workable framework that meets both goals: a clean river and the ability of river users to enjoy the river without the threat of unfair and uncertain criminal prosecution for violating an Ordinance no one understood,” said Jim Ewbank, the plaintiffs attorney, in a statement.

According to the City, the ordinance helped cut down on the litter in the rivers by more than 90 percent.

In 2011 — before the ordinance went into effect — 112,429 pounds of litter was collected from the Comal and Guadalupe Rivers.

In 2012 — after the ban — 8,562 pounds of litter was collected.

The collection numbers for 2013 came in at 13,977 pounds.

Earlier this year, the New Braunfels City Council discussed the idea of charging a fee to enter the parks that have direct access to the Comal River, but ended up not moving forward with the fee.

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