Roughly 20,000 New Braunfels citizens reside in Guadalupe County, east of Interstate 35 along State Highway 46 toward Seguin. In between, residential and commercial growth continues to edge both cities closer together.
“Highway 46 is the main artery between us – and it’s going to need a whole lot of intercity cooperation in the years to come to make sure the (state) gets it working properly for everybody,” Seguin Mayor Don Keil said.
“If you think it’s jammed up now, just wait. With all the development, I think it won’t be long before you won’t be able to tell where one city begins, and the other one ends.”
Keil said he and New Braunfels Mayor Barron Casteel have worked well together. Both term-limited leaders are leaving office within the next 18 months – Casteel in May 2020; Keil the following November.
Both said cooperative efforts led to mutual benefits — such as the Central Texas Technology Center, improvements to New Braunfels Regional Airport, the Economic Development Alliance partnership, and the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.
A while back, Keil thought New Braunfels was trying to get a road connector linking into State Highway 130, providing San Antonio traffic a route that would bypass Seguin.
“That’s all water under the bridge now — we’ve both gotten too big to not discuss all the possibilities when it comes to transportation,” he said.
Casteel agreed, citing a study indicating that without an SH 130 connector and other transportation improvements, both cities would lag economically.
“That analysis showed there was a cost in not promoting greater connectivity between our communities and connections into Interstate 35 and Interstate 10,” he said. “SH 46 is the only connector between both interstates north of Loop 1604, and it is highly trafficked, which lowers values and hinders economic activity.”
New Braunfels and Comal County and Seguin and Guadalupe County have worked together to achieve many goals, but sometimes differ on others, Casteel said. One example of the latter occurred last week during the Guadalupe County Commissioners Court meeting when one commissioner fired out on everything New Braunfels before New Braunfels Utilities’ CEO Ian Taylor.
“I thought that was a little bit odd,” Casteel said. “I don’t think of anything involving the city of New Braunfels, in Comal or Guadalupe counties, as being owned by only the citizens of New Braunfels. They’re one in the same. We all represent the same taxpayers, and those in New Braunfels pay taxes in Guadalupe County, too.”
A prime example of cooperation between the cities came last November when New Braunfels City Council approved a swap of extraterritorial jurisdictions (ETJ) along a boundary extending from Lake McQueeney east of New Braunfels Regional Airport and portions of Farm-to-Market Roads 758 and 725.
Keil proposed the deal after owners of several agricultural tracts in an area within New Braunfels’ ETJ sought annexation by Seguin for its water and wastewater for services; New Braunfels wanted tracts near the airport within Seguin’s ETJ for future connectors linking into State Highway 123 and Texas 130.
The exchange didn’t affect current taxes and services in place by both cities, which agreed to reset the 3.5-mile boundary line to cede 1,363 acres from New Braunfels to Seguin and 1,834 acres from Seguin to New Braunfels.
Minor adjustments were approved to satisfy property owners bordering both jurisdictions. Both mayors endorsed the move, saying it benefited future residential and commercial development and expanded transportation possibilities for both cities.
Supporting area lakes
New Braunfels City Council members on Monday unanimously approved a resolution seeking immediate state funding for six area lakes owned and operated by the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority. The non-binding measure seeks $30 million for the GBRA repairs and maintenance at lakes Dunlap, McQueeney, Placid, Meadow Lake, Gonzales and Wood.
Dozens of Lake Dunlap residents — whose lake was emptied by the May 14 spill gate failure — applauded the resolution, which Casteel said will be submitted to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, area state legislators and U.S. House Reps. Chip Roy, Lloyd Doggett and Vicente Gonzales, all serving portions of Comal and Guadalupe counties.
Seguin City Council and Guadalupe County Commissioners passed similar non-binding resolutions supporting the lakes and residents.
“Three of those dams are within our ETJ – McQueeney, Placid and Meadow Lake, which is actually within our city limits,” Keil said. “It’s a big concern for us. . . and we need some time to come up with a solution. I’ve heard some good ideas about ways to fix the dams.
“Anything can happen. If we could get a temporary stay against draining them, and keep people away from them and preserve the ecosystems and keep the property values up there, we can find an answer that’s workable for everybody. It would be a disaster if they were drained.”
J Harmon, president of the Preserve Lake Dunlap Association, said the organization is lobbying for approval of Proposition 8, which would establish a flood infrastructure fund for drainage, flood mitigation and flood control projects and among 10 state constitutional amendments going before voters on Nov. 5. Residents also hope for part of the $1.7 billion allocated for Houston areas recovering from Hurricane Harvey.
“We certainly appreciate you getting behind us — we’re focused on one thing, which is getting our dam repaired,” he said to council.
In March, the PLDA sought city cooperation in removing weed mats from Landa Lake, which flowed from the Guadalupe River and trapped trash in Lake Dunlap. Casteel said the resolution doesn’t solely reflect the needs of one community, but both.
“We thought the resolution was important and should be sent to our governor and other elected officials,” Casteel said. “We think it’s important to let them know that the Guadalupe is a state waterway and the enormous amount of money needed to fix these dams has to have the support from the state.”