Bexar County Commissioners have postponed a decision on whether a local developer can build hundreds of small-lot homes in far north Bexar County. Commissioners are asking developer Gordon Hartman to meet with attorneys and area homeowners who oppose the subdivision.
Residents of Hidden Oaks near Cibolo Creek fear the development of Century Oaks will cause harm to the environment; specifically, the Golden-Cheeked Warbler, the large oaks trees that are already being cut down, and the water. The land is over the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone.
Barbara Bailey’s neighborhood abuts the first section of Century Oaks, and she said the run-off is already affecting their water wells, and 1,100 additional homes are planned.
"Because we're on our own wells," said Bailey. "Because we've had flooding in our subdivision before and we only have one road that is our ingress and egress out of the subdivision, it's an issue."
It’s a complicated debate. Residents say developer Gordon Hartman has failed to comply with U.S. Fish and Wildlife regulations requiring surveys for endangered species habitat.
They complain that Hartman is applying for platting for enclaves of 150 to 200 homes at a time, thus allowing him to circumvent some of the rules -- and infrastructure improvements that would be required of the larger development.
County Commissioner Paul Elizondo said applying for smaller plats amounted to piece-mealing, and the tactic drew criticism from Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolfe.
"I think it's disingenuous to be filing two plats, 9 and 10, and come back in February for 7 and 8, which might be different," said Wolff.
Gene Dawson of Pape-Dawson Engineers said the development calls for 2.6 houses per acre. But that doesn’t take into account the large piece of land to be used for open space or schools that will be needed in the future.
"The project itself is 422 acres as envisioned by Mr. Hartman at this time. Of that 422 acres, 130 acres is open space. No development will occur on that 130 acres," said Dawson.
Attorney Brad Rockwell, who is representing the homeowners and the Cibolo Creek Conservation Society, was happy with the commissioners’ postponement.
"Yeah, I think there is a very significant attempt to try to come to terms with what's going on and I think that the commissioners recognize that there's more information that they need," said Rockwell.
Wolff said the homeowners raised some legal and technical questions they want to investigate, adding that Hartman should have been at the meeting.
The county has little authority to prevent such development, but Judge Wolff stressed that he’s prepared to apply political pressure to get both sides to the table. He warned that the alternative is legal challenges that could tie up the development for years.
Calls to Gordon Hartman were not returned.