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This project uses the environmental issues associated with the management
of water resources in a role-playing setting.
OBJECTIVES: The primary objective for this project is to negotiate
a resolution to a conflict over golf course and resort development project.
Antonio City Council
- San Antonio Water Supply
- Edwards Aquifer Authority
/ Marriott / PGA - developers
Growth Coalition - coalition of several environmental and social
justice groups who oppose PGA Village
Lumbermen's Investment Corporation owns 2,855 acres just north of San
Antonio's city limits. It plans to develop that land within the next several
years. In 2000, Texas Legislature approved a bill that would deem that
land Cibolo Canyon Conservation and Improvement District No. 1, a special
taxing district belonging to Lumbermen's. In order for this taxing district
to actually come into being, Lumbermen's would have to negotiate an acceptable
development plan with the city of San Antonio (or more specifically, it's
was written largely by Lumbermen's lawyers and lobbyists and was passed
with almost no modifications. (The only significant modification came
after legislators realized that the company was being given powers of
eminent domain for up to three miles beyond its property-whoops.)
by the City Council, the developer basically gains all the powers of a
city, including the power to sell tax-free, discount-rate bonds (usually
reserved for cities) to finance the "public" infrastructure,
and to levy property, sales and occupancy taxes and fees to repay those
bonds. It is important to note that the infrastructure costs of any resort
development are most frequently paid by the developer.
would be "governed" by a board. The first board members have
been chosen by Lumbermen's, since there are currently no residents on
the land to elect members. This temporary board will remain for four years,
after which time, board members will be elected for four-year terms by
certain number of agreed-upon years (which throughout negotiations has
ranged from 15 to 20 to 13 and back to 15 years) the city of San Antonio
would have the right to annex this district, and would then begin collecting
the taxes that were previously going to the developer's governing board.
If annexation occurs at 13 years, the developers will have recouped $51.7
million. At 15 years, that number becomes $57 million, and at 20 years,
a whopping $82.8 million. These numbers are exceptionally higher than
corporate tax abatements given by that city in the past.
council has made it clear that it will only accept the terms of the taxing
district if the development includes (as originally proposed) a world-class
golf resort, built by Lumbermen's, Marriott International, and the Professional
Golfers' Association. For the first phase of development, these companies
plan to build at least two golf courses, a 500-room hotel resort, a residential
community composed of 4,000 homes, condos and apartments, and 100,000
square feet of commercial office space.
Antonio Economic Development Foundation released a study projecting that
the economic impact of the first phase of the project would be more than
development is said to bring between 600-800 full time jobs. Part of the
current agreement calls for a living wage, meaning all jobs start at least
at $8.50 an hour. However, people are concerned that, because the resort
and surrounding areas will be developed almost exclusively with upscale
housing, there won't be any housing for employees working low-paying jobs.
a similar golf and hotel resort in the area, is also far away from neighborhoods
where the low-wage workers live. This resort found that workers wouldn't
ride the bus hours daily from the city's South Side for $7 an hour, and
as a result, hired dozens of low-wage workers from Jamaica. Through various
tax-breaks to the company, taxpayers subsidized the creation of these
jobs, which were subsequently filled with out-of-town (indeed, out-of-country)
The 2,855 acres of the proposed development are situated in the Edwards
Aquifer recharge zone. This is the area that contributes to replenishing
the Edwards Aquifer, a 175-mile long limestone aquifer that is the primary
source for drinking water for San Antonio and surrounding rural areas
(providing for about 1.5 million people). Water enters the Edwards Aquifer
through the porous limestone, as well as through cracks and caverns in
the limestone. Limestone aquifers do not filter water like sand aquifers
do, and are thus highly sensitive to contamination in their recharge zone.
a development of this sort in the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone is a sensitive
issue for two main reasons. The first is water contamination, and the
second is water availability. Golf courses are notorious users of both
excessive amounts of water for irrigation, and tremendous amounts of chemicals
for fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc. Both of these concerns are
As part of the original agreement, Lumbermen's was going to turn over
1,100 acres of open space to the tax financing district (and thereby to
San Antonio, after annexation) for a park and permanent green space. It
would then reimburse itself up to $20 million for that land from the tax
revenue of the district. However, San Antonio's mayor, Ed Garza, decided
that because much of the 1,100 acres in question was restricted and couldn't
be intensely developed anyway, and wasn't as environmentally sensitive
as other land in the district, it wouldn't be in the city's best interest
to buy it.
then came up with a second plan. Rather than selling the land to the tax
district (and in turn, the city of San Antonio), they'd donate it to a
nonprofit organization for preservation. They would then get a federal
income tax deduction for the value of that land -- a deduction that has
been estimated at around $5.25 million.
they would sell the tax district 865 acres which has been set aside for
the resort's PGA golf courses. Under the first plan, Lumbermen's was going
to donate that land to the PGA. Under this plan, after paying Lumbermen's
fair market value for the land, the district would donate it to the PGA.
Further, because this land has fewer applicable restrictions than the
1,100 acres originally offered, it will actually have a higher value.
Lumbermen's will be able to reimburse itself a projected amount of between
$17.3 million and $26 million.
Studies show there is a strong relationship between location of golf courses
and contamination of groundwater.
certain regulations written into the agreement about the kinds and quantities
of chemicals the resort will be allowed to use. The agreement also prohibits
the use of fertilizers on the golf courses if the probability of rain
exceeds 30 percent that day, 35 percent the next day or 45 percent the
day after that because rainfall runoff can easily carry pollutants to
the agreement is that Lumbermen's set aside $1 million for mitigation
in case contamination does appear in the aquifer. Most experts agree that
$1 million set aside for groundwater cleanup is not nearly enough. They
also feel that there are too few aquifer monitoring wells, and are wary
because no groundwater cleanup levels have been specified as part of the
negotiations. When it comes to water quality, they say, the agreements
leave too many loopholes for Lumbermen's to exploit down the road.
This land is also possible nesting ground for an endangered bird species,
the golden-cheeked warbler. The golden-cheeked warbler is a small migratory
song bird that spends several spring and summer months in Central Texas,
where it nests and raises its young. They leave Texas in July to spend
the winter in Mexico and Central America. The warbler is believed to be
endangered because much of its nesting area -- tall juniper and oak woodlands
-- have been cleared for agricultural or residential development.
and Wildlife Service surveys show the precise locations where warblers
were found during four spring breeding seasons in the late 1990s on a
1,812-acre tract owned by Lumbermen's. Most of the proposed resort would
be built on this parcel. A comparison of those warbler location maps with
Lumbermen's latest PGA Village site development map on file with the city
indicates seven of 19 places where the birds have been documented could
be lost to resort development. Experts believe that the resort likely
would cause the birds to abandon territories where they have been documented
because they would "find themselves on the edges of development,
and from all documented evidence golden-cheeked warblers will not tolerate
says that they have no plans to make improvements on one edge of their
property where at most two golden-cheeked warblers have been observed
over the past five years. They also contend that no nesting warblers ever
have been observed at the site and the area where the two birds were seen
was graded as "very marginal" habitat at best, the Lumbermen's
statement said. They still say, however, that said they will comply with
the demands of the Endangered Species Act. (from S.A. Express News)
Water experts say that the typical 18-hole golf course consumes approximately
400 acre-feet of water each year, about the same amount of water as 800
typical families of four. There are 325,851 gallons in an acre-foot.
for the proposed development should not exceed 293 million gallons a year,
but as part of the agreement, Lumbermen's has to agree to purchase water
rights of twice that amount - 586 million gallons. The remainder (what
they don't use) will be left in the aquifer for use and distribution by
SAWS. This "extra" water "ensures that they're not putting
a strain on the water supply for the rest of the community" (whatever
that means) according to a SAWS spokesman. It also ensures, according
to the agreement, that the golf courses will be exempt from any water
use restrictions in times of drought.
golf courses would apparently use several high tech devices to ensure
that water "waste" is kept to a minimum. The watering systems
for the golf courses use underground monitors that check the moisture
content of the soil, to help prevent unnecessary irrigation. The grounds
will also be equipped with a Doppler weather radar when to irrigate and
when to fertilize.
Although the city passed a law in 1995 regulating the development of any
land in the recharge zone, Lumbermen's has "grandfathered" rights
to develop their land outside of those newer regulations. The 1995 legislation
says that all development in the recharge zone must be limited to 15%
impervious cover. However, because Lumbermen's filed a preliminary residential
development plan before that time, they are exempt from following those
has threatened that if this tax district is not approved, they will proceed
to develop their land as intensely as possible. They say they can build
as many as 9,060 homes, although later reports show they only have sewer
rights to about half as many homes. In any case, they could still arrange
for sewer service from a private contractor, or build their own waste
has made it clear that it feels the resort development is the most ecologically
friendly development option. One heavily regulated resort, it implies,
is better for the environment than 9,000 individual homeowners putting
whatever sorts of bug and weed killer on their lawns and using as much
water as they'd like.
Antonio citizens are outraged by this threat, especially because it comes
from a company who claims to place high priority on environmental stewardship
Many San Antonio citizens feel that the city should purchase the proposed
resort area from Lumbermen's, and turn it into a park. They feel this
is the only way to ensure that this land is not developed and that the
aquifer is protected.
In May 2000,
before the PGA Village was proposed, San Antonio voters approved a 1/8-cent
sales tax increase to raise $65 million for protection of the Edwards
Aquifer, including $45 million for aquifer land purchases. As of 2001,
the city had spent $20 million to buy 2,700 acres, and it has about $16
million left for such purchases. The city hadn't purchased any land in
the highly sensitive area east near the proposed development.
$16 million is not enough to buy the PGA Village property. Lumbermen's
places a high value on the land (estimated at $20,000 an acre), because
of the leverage it holds with the threat of intense development allowed
by its grandfathered development rights.
officials and several environmental groups have proposed extending the
sales tax past it's original 2004 deadline to raise the additional money
for this purchase. Others feel that Lumbermen's should be allowed to develop,
but still support extending this tax for other land purchases in the area.
Something to be considered, however, is what a world-class golf resort
will do to property values and the likelihood of development in that area.
Lumbermen's land is a possible outcome of this debate, but comes to the
city with one of the highest financial price tags of all the options.
Each group will develop a river basin management system for the region
that includes specific policy considerations for the Council. Each recommendation
from a stakeholder group must include the combination of proposed strategies,
the overall costs and benefits of the program (qualitatively), and a justification
of why this is the best plan. On the scheduled date, each group
will have 5 minutes each to present its plan to the Regional Planning
Council. The Regional Planning Council will have a total of 10 minutes
to ask the groups questions. The Council may allow some questions from
the rest of the audience. The Council will then incorporate these comments
into their pre-prepared plan and announce the final decision. Each
of the groups must also turn in a 3-page written position piece outlining
its rationale - this means the plan and justification for why it should
be adopted. The written deliverable must include a concept map highlighting
the issues and a decision matrix to decide between alternatives (these
can be in addition to the 3 pages).
free to research this as much as you want. Your grade will depend on the
extent of substantiated points. Cite all references used. Be careful to
both use reliable sources and to adopt the role of the stakeholder
you represent. Besides the internet (especially newspaper articles), the
following books have substantial relevant information: Compass and Gyroscope
by Kai Lee, Island Press, 1993; and Upstream, National Research Council,
PREPARE: As you are researching ask yourself these questions:
is the problem that must be solved? Why is it complicated? What are
the case with tools we are using (e.g. concept map, the decision matrix)
- Who are
the main stakeholder groups? What are their objectives? Are they conflicting?
are the alternative solutions to the problem?
criteria can be used to evaluate the options?
map of factors that influence your recommended plan
of recommendation (written)