Hutto Wastewater: Is Limmer at it again?
LCRA site selection report for regional wastewater treatment plant outside Hutto transforms what might otherwise be routine battle into darker tale
Public comments regarding site selection for a new, regional wastewater treatment plant just outside the city of Hutto must be filed with the Lower Colorado River Authority by Aug. 15. Plans to locate a regional wastewater facility in eastern Williamson Co. have been in the works for several years, but a site selection report released by the LCRA in April transformed what might otherwise be a routine battle of the NIMBY variety into a far darker tale complete with allegations of political favoritism, public-servant pocket-lining, and what appears to be the willful ignorance of local elected officials.
At issue is the surprising addition of "Site D" an exposed parcel of farmland smack in the middle of Hutto's expected future growth corridor to the list of sites the LCRA is considering for a treatment plant that's projected to treat 16 million gallons a day by 2070. Site D is owned by the Walther family, whose members do not wish to sell meaning that in order to develop the site, officials would have to first pay for a costly and likely nasty condemnation suit. Prior to April, the prevailing wisdom was that the plant would wind up on Site A, a large rectangular swath of land abutting Brushy Creek, heavily forested on all sides, which would help hide the sights and smells of the plant. Moreover, the Site A landowners are willing sellers.
The April LCRA report stunned many locals, and especially the Walthers. According to the LCRA, the merits of sites A and D had mysteriously equalized. Among the report's fascinating or perhaps absurd conclusions were that the sites have comparable vegetative barriers and that the Walther property will somehow cost less to condemn than Site A will cost to buy. Walther family spokesman, attorney Jason Collins, says that according to the LCRA's stated needs, Site D, at just 64 acres, isn't even large enough to contain the plant and provide the planned 500-foot buffer between it and any adjoining land which would mean the agency would have to initiate additional condemnation proceedings just to acquire sufficient land for the plant.
Such considerations are never even mentioned in the LCRA's report nor is there any mention of the impact Site D would have on residents of neighboring Norman's Crossing, a small historic village just southeast of the proposed site (nor of the impact on other sites of historic interest, such as a small slave graveyard just south of the property). And although the treatment plant is intended to be a regional facility meaning the report should anticipate the plant's impact on the entire community one factor the report returns to again and again is the question of cost to and impact of plant placement on the relatively small, undeveloped Water Control Improvement District No. 2.
Surprise: WCID No. 2 is controlled by Williamson Co. Commissioner Frankie Limmer. Although it might be expensive for the reasons above, according to the LCRA report, Site D would be the least costly option to bring wastewater access to Limmer's WCID property that the lame duck commissioner reportedly plans to develop into a housing and office/retail community.
Additionally, Collins notes that the engineering data the LCRA used to develop the site study was compiled by none other than Hejl, Lee, and Associates, which has ties to Limmer's development business Chien Lee is a former board member of WCID No. 2. Although Limmer told the Statesman that he did mention the Walther tract to LCRA officials who were reportedly researching what property was available in the area, he has denied that he had anything to do with LCRA including the Walther property as a possible site for the plant. "I have had nothing to do with site selection," he told the daily.
Exhibits are available at the LCRA Web site. For the entire study, go to www.lcra.org/docs/lower_brushy_creek_study.pdf.
Richard Whittaker, Fri., May 17, 2013
Fri., May 17, 2013
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Amy Smith, Fri., May 17, 2013
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