Blanco County residents voice quarry concerns

Grant Dean, left, listens as Davy Roberts talks about the potential for a rock quarry and crushing operation to move into land off RM 962 and Smith West Ranch Road (County Road 308) in Round Mountain.

By Lew K. Cohn

Managing Editor

The Highlander

ROUND MOUNTAIN — Blanco County residents voiced concerns Wednesday evening that a rock quarrying operation may move into the heart of this idyllic, tranquil ranchland west of town.

Denver-based Summit Materials, which sells aggregates, has a subsidiary, Austin Materials, located in Central Texas. According to Davy Roberts, a developer who lives nearby, Summit Materials has made an offer on 350 acres of property owned by the family of the late Donald Edgar Smith.

The land in question is located at the corner of Ranch to Market Road 962 and Smith West Ranch Road (Blanco County Road 308) and includes about one mile of frontage along RM 962 and a half-mile frontage along Smith West Ranch Road. It is part of an overall tract of about 1,340 acres the family owns in northern Blanco County.

The Internal Revenue Service has a lien against the property for failure to pay inheritance taxes on the estate and the Smith family was given a May deadline to pay the IRS or have the property seized. The family has hired a Realtor, who helped connect the family with Summit Materials, which reportedly is willing to pay the family $10,000 per acre for the 350-acre tract, which would be enough to pay off IRS lien and let the family retain the nearly 1,000 acres remaining.

Roberts told citizens gathered at a residence on Smith West Ranch Road Wednesday evening that he and some other area landowners wanted to explore the possibility of buying property to help alleviate the family's debt and prevent the need to sell to a quarrying operation, but were discouraged after speaking to the broker.

“My question to him was, 'Are there any outs on this contract or is there anyway the sellers can get out of this contract?' and he basically said that it's pretty much a tight contract and there's pretty much no way to get out of it,” Robert told the group. “They were supposed to do core samples over the next few days and I think their feasibility lasts until May 29, and I think they're expected to close five days after that if they're feasibility if their option goes through and they find what they're looking for, so the only thing that I've been doing lately is praying that they don't find what they're looking for.”

Grant Dean of the Texas Environmental Protection Coalition, who has been involved in litigation in Burnet County against Asphalt Inc.'s plans to put in a rock crushing operation along US 281 south of Marble Falls, spoke to residents about the fight to stop Asphalt Inc. and the power of the aggregate industry and offered his support to them as well.

At this time, though they have an active air quality permit for their rock crushing operation, the Asphalt Inc. land near Marble Falls is listed for sale with an Austin-based real estate agent. Meanwhile, the city of Marble Falls successfully added the entire property into the city's extraterritorial jurisdiction, making it difficult for Asphalt Inc. to establish a quarry on the property.

“What we're basically trying to do is educate the public and to let folks know that these guys (the aggregates industry) are coming and they're not going to stop,” Dean said. “We have to make changes to get a handle on this, but at this point in time, we are very limited in what can be done. We actually got lucky in Marble Falls with everything that went on there.

“(The aggregate industry) is a very tight group and they all play this game. They go around and they insinuate things and they do not actually say what they are going to do with the land, so the ranchers and everyone else is totally uninformed. They create these holding companies which then lease the land back to the aggregate companies. That's what they were doing in our case on 281 in Marble Falls.”

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