MARBLE FALLS, Texas (KXAN) — Three central Texas cities oppose an asphalt company’s plans to build a rock crushing plant and quarry right where they all three come together. But because of a zoning loophole, they can’t do much about it.
Asphalt Inc. applied to the Texas Commission on Environmental Equality for permitting to build the plant on US 281 just south of Marble Falls. The land it would be built on is unincorporated. It falls in the ETJ — or extraterritorial jurisdiction — for Marble Falls, Horseshoe Bay and Round Mountain, but because it’s not in the city limits, none of them have zoning authority to stop it. Neither does Burnet County.
Therefore, the only agency the company needs permission from is TCEQ.
Local leaders say they didn’t even find out the permit application had been filed until about a week ago. Marble Falls Mayor John Packer says it could put a big wrench in the city’s plans to annex nearby land and expand the city limits.
“We’re concerned that we’ve spent millions of dollars to get infrastructure to that area, and now we’re not going to be able to get our return investment to get our money back,” Packer said.
The city already used tax dollars to extend utilities to the unincorporated area, in hopes of eventually attracting property developers and big-name restaurants and retailers. But Packer says the dust, traffic and environmental concerns that come along with a rock quarry could halt the city’s comprehensive plan.
“It’s going to be tough to sell homes within less than a mile of this operation,” Packer said.
Without subdivisions in place, he worries commercial investors will no longer consider Marble Falls either.
“They aren’t going to build in areas where there’s no houses around,” he said. “So if you take out the residential development, they’re not just going to plop a big-box retail or something at the corner of a couple highways out in the country. You really need the whole package with the residential single family, multi family and the commercial, and without being able to sell homes in the area, it’s just not logical that that’s ever going to be able to happen.”
“It’s put everything on hold,” said Grant Dean, one local developer who was already laying the groundwork for a future subdivision in the area.
Dean has called Marble Falls home for decades, and he worries Asphalt Inc. is taking advantage of state laws by scouting out and building on plots of land that don’t require city or county permit approval.
“We’re doing everything we can to make this go away,” he said. “Because this is the last thing we need in our beautiful community.”
Grant is leading efforts to get the word out about the company’s TCEQ application, paying for newspaper and radio ads, and even working with a team of locals who designed a website. It pushes visitors to send complaints to TCEQ, Gov. Greg Abbott and State Senator Dawn Buckingham. It also lists information for protests planned this Saturday and Sunday.
Grant says he expects a couple hundred protesters to picket Saturday. Meanwhile, the cities of Marble Falls, Horseshoe Bay and Round Mountain have all passed resolutions against the plant building in their ETJ. They’re also pushing the TCEQ to hold a contested hearing on Asphalt Inc.’s permit application, where opponents could voice their concerns. Burnet County also sent a letter to TCEQ Tuesday asking for a contested hearing.
TCEQ spokeswoman Andrea Morrow told KXAN the public can submit comments about the application until Oct. 9.
“There is not an opportunity to have a contested case hearing under this standard permit,” she said, however. “An informational meeting will be held to give the community an opportunity to ask questions of the TCEQ and the applicant regarding the application but has not yet been scheduled.”
An executive with Asphault Inc. told KXAN the company will comply with all Texas laws.
Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed by a Spicewood resident against the TCEQ for permitting Asphalt Inc’s Spicewood plant is pending in Travis County court. It claims the plant there received a permit without having a storm water pollution prevention plan. The concern is that contaminants could end up in Cypress Creek, and, eventually, Lake Travis.