Rock crusher lawsuit could plow new ground

By Glynis Crawford Smith

The Highlander

They may be plowing new legal ground, but the City of Marble Falls appears set to make a court challenge to the proposed Asphalt Inc. rock crushing plant south of Texas 71.

Following an hour and a half executive session early Monday morning, Dec. 18, the Marble Falls City Council authorized City Manager Mike Hodge and City Attorney Patty Akers to move forward with legal action. That action would be suits, not just against Asphalt Inc., but also against the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for issuing an air quality permit for the proposed plant.

“The council's meeting was focusing basically on what to do legally,” said Hodge. “Our attorney said this probably is going to be one of the first suits to challenge an air quality permit.

“We are on new ground, legally.”

That ground has been surveyed since 2016 by the fledgling Spicewood Community Alliance and Save our Spicewood (SOS) organizations. Members rallied when they learned Asphalt, Inc. was about to be approved for air and water permits for an asphalt plant on Texas 71.

Where hundreds attended meetings and hearings this fall regarding the Marble Falls crushing facility near Baylor Scott & White Hospital and new housing developments, dozens came to SOS meetings last year.

“We had heard opposition was successful for a while in the Dripping Springs and Wimberley environs when people got together,” said Bob Johnson, one of the Spicewood community organizers.

“We styled suits and we were told by our lawyers we could continue with a few more thousands of dollars and one or two years in court,” said Johnson. “In the end, it was not enough money and not enough people and, I guess you could say, a failure of will.”

The situation sparked new interest in some kind of incorporation in the sprawling community of Spicewood.

“We heard people saying, 'You don't have any standing,' and that seemed to be the fact.”

“But we haven't given up,” Johnson continued. “We still meet once a week and discuss what can be done about truck traffic (from all the different materials sites along Texas 71) and the micro-fine stuff in the air.”

Marble Falls did address the matter of standing to some extent when, on Nov. 21, the city council completed the annexation process for 442 acres of land on it's southwestern city limits. That placed the plant, in part, in the city limits and the rest solidly in the one-mile extraterritorial jurisdiction.

Their protest of the Asphalt Inc. permit was not successful, however. The company has 18 months to begin construction, according to the TCEQ permit issued on Nov. 30.

The new Asphalt Inc. facility will have an entrance 90 feet west of US 281 and approximately 2.6 miles south of the intersection of Texas 71 near Flat Rock Road, which is Burnet County Road 403. The plant will generate about 300,000 to 400,000 tons of raw materials per year for the company's Spicewood concrete plant.

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