UPDATE: The draft of the language of the bill I was working from was not publicly available and therefore no one would have known that eminent domain powers had been removed. I apologize for any misunderstanding that this caused. The major concerns regarding this legislation involve water conservation for the Wimberley valley, and I am continuing to work to preserve our natural resources while protecting private property rights.
In response to the attacks on our private property rights regarding a bill I filed that creates the Needmore Ranch Mud #1 between San Marcos and Wimberley I put the following letter together:
During one of his radio shows nearly forty years ago, Ronald Reagan warns of people and agencies of government that want to “tell you exactly what you can or can’t do with your land, including telling you there’s nothing you can do but pay the taxes and let it lay idle.” He refers to this as “Land Planning” in the name of “environmentalism” and warns that it is “the greatest threat in 200 years to our traditional right to own property.”
That threat is being played out right now in the Wimberley valley of Hays County. Local elected officials and other citizens against responsible development are waging a campaign against a landowner exercising his property rights in obtaining a Municipal Utility District (MUD). MUDs have been used for years as an effective tool for responsible development. Currently, the landowner has the ability to develop his land as he chooses. Additionally, the landowner could currently sell the water on his land to the highest bidder, meaning that the water could leave the Wimberley area. He currently has the right to subdivide his property into over 800 lots, each with their own well and their own septic system. The creation of the Municipal Utility District gives us the opportunity to limit what can be done on the property to protect the natural resources should the property be developed.
The conservation and protection of natural resources in the area are important to me, and I believe that this MUD will help to ensure that the land is managed responsibly with an emphasis on conservation. Here’s why: there is language in the proposed bill that is not standard language for a MUD. The bill states that the district will “provide for the preservation and conservation of the natural resources within the district, while protecting private property rights to develop and beneficially use those resources in an organized and lawfully regulated manner.”
One elected official who opposes the MUD stated in a letter to Senator Campbell and me that, “there are broad powers of eminent domain currently in the legislation.” It’s true that most MUDs have eminent domain authority. However, the language I am working on would not allow the power of eminent domain unless that power is used to bring in surface water to serve any potential development.
Some emails I have received question how I could support a MUD for a landowner when I wouldn’t support a Municipal Management District (MMD) for Wimberley. In the case of the MMD, one part of the affected residents wanted the right to tax all of the residents, whether they agreed to the tax or not. In the case of the MUD, there are no taxes to be imposed on current residents, and any future residents (if developed) would be aware of any taxes or fees before choosing to move to the district.
I believe that people have a right to manage their own property within the limits of the law. The public, through government owned property, owns about 30% of the land in this country. I’ll quote Reagan again, “If more is needed, we should do collectively exactly what we do individually. Go buy it! What we must not do is give to ourselves collectively, in the name of government, rights we don’t possess as individuals. We can have all of the open space and recreational land we need. We don’t have the right to tell someone who owns a beach lot that he can’t build on it because we like the view as we drive by on the highway. If the view is that important to us, we should buy it.”
We are all concerned about the preservation of our natural resources, and I believe the language of this bill allows for thoughtful management of this land in the future. However, I will not waver when it comes to one of our most basic rights as Americans.