Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"We’re not just a little Podunk city and you can’t run us over."

Highway plans spurs formation of group

Related Link: Texas 391 Commission Alliance


Elaine Ayo
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2008

St. Hedwig has homes on large lots and a longtime tradition of rural living. And folks there want to keep it that way.

“We want to be able to maintain as best we can the reason we moved out here in the first place,” said Kathy Palmer, the city’s planning and zoning commissioner.

But a new master plan and recently updated zoning maps are no match for a proposed route of Trans-Texas Corridor 35 that would slice straight through the city of about 2,000 people and create headaches for several city departments, officials said.

With neighboring Wilson County, St. Hedwig has created the South Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission , the ninth such commission formed in the state since last year and the first in the San Antonio area.

St. Hedwig officials say the commission is a way to ensure the state hears their concerns about the corridor proposal, which follows FM 1518 and cuts across the western third of the town’s 30 square miles.

An alternate route being considered would follow Interstate 35. None of the routes for the proposed network of statewide toll roads have been finalized.

State law allows the creation of such commissions and requires state agencies to coordinate plans with them “to the greatest extent feasible.” “The term ‘coordination’ is actually very important,” said Dan Byfield, president of the American Land Foundation, an organization dedicated to protecting property rights. “It creates a great amount of power for the local unit of government, that (the state must) work with them. They can’t ignore them.”

Byfield and his wife, Margaret Byfield , executive director of another property rights organization called Stewards of the Range, have been helping local governments in the proposed paths of two TTC projects running between Mexico and the Dallas-Fort Worth area and between Mexico and the Texarkana-Shreveport area.
Concerns over the corridor route may have sparked the formation of the commission, but its potential impact is broader, Wilson County Commissioner Larry Wiley said.

“What we’re wanting is to put ourselves on a more level playing field with other government agencies, to represent the health, safety and welfare of the city, of our county,” Wiley said.

The South Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission had its first meeting July 31 and has another scheduled for Sept. 23 at 2 p.m. at the St. Hedwig City Hall at 13065 FM 1346.

Board members want to finish devising the structure of the commission before inviting other area entities to join, Palmer said.

“It’s making folks aware we’re not just a little Podunk city and you can’t run us over,” Palmer said. “We have a plan.”

Portions © 2008 KENS 5 and the San Antonio

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