Concerns over fire and subdivision regulations sparks attention of county’s need to revisit rules

In the wake of the 1,000-acre plus Das Goat wildfire in March, fire protection became a hot topic April 7 when Medina County Commissioners reviewed progress on various subdivisions under development.

“We had this fire and nobody got killed,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Larry Sittre said. “This can’t happen again. It’s not going to happen on my watch.”
Subdivision on the agenda included Mountain Valley Ranch in precinct 1, Potranco Oaks in precinct 2 and Owl Fields, Coyote Crossing Arroyo Crossing, Bronco Fields, Vaquero Pass in precinct 3.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Timothy Neuman questioned Kim Wells with Rothe and Associates about fire protection for four subdivisions located off County Road 640.
“What are we doing for a fire station,” Neuman said. “We should have something even if it is just a storage tank with a water well feeding it so the fire department can get water.”
Although the subdivisions belong to one developer each is owned by a different entity, Wells said. Medina County subdivision regulations only address fire protection in subdivisions with 15 or more lots and no public water system, Precinct 3 Commissioner David Lynch said.
Those subdivisions that fall under county fire protection requirements must have fire water storage tanks available. Although the four subdivisions in question do not actually touch, commissioner Sittre said he regards them as one big project.
“The problem is he’s busted this thing up into four different names when to me it is all the same,” Sittre said.
County Judge Chris Schuchart suggested withholding action by the commissioners’ court on approval of the preliminary plats submitted until Wells can talk further with the developer.
“Before we take a vote we would like to hear from him on fire protection,” Schuchart said.
Schuchart and Lynch called for a commissioners’ workshop to further address fire protection in subdivision rules. Notice of a special commissioners’ court workshop at 2 p.m. Tuesday, April 12, was later posted online.
The High Mountain Ranch subdivision lost three homes in the Das Goat wildfire, Sittre said. Other than well water the subdivision had no water supply. Fortunately, aerial firefighters were able to draw water from drought affected Medina Lake.
“Once the fire burned down the telephone poles and electrical line those people were helpless,” Sittre said.
Fire protection again became an issue during discussion of preliminary approval of the Vaquero Pass subdivision off County Road 6710. Initially, the trouble being discussed had to do with the court’s preliminary approval of drawings with a road width of 24 feet, four feet less than county requirement.
The developer’s engineer, Ray Baca of Rakowitz Engineering, has produced documents showing that the width of 24 feet was approved, Commissioner Lynch told commissioners.
“Technically, our subdivision regulations require that the road be 28 feet,” Lynch said. “But the road was built at 24 feet because they were operating under the assumption that’s what our regulations required.”
Lynch said he has notified Baca that the court is not likely to accept the 24-foot-wide road for county maintenance.
“That’s been made very clear to Mr. Baca and the developer,” Lynch said.
One solution suggested as a remedy to the situation is the establishment of a homeowner’s association or property owners association. The HOA or POA would make and enforce rules for the residents, including accessing fees to cover road maintenance.
Lynch said Medina County would need to have written proof that such an association exists before final approval of Vaquero Pass.
“They might say ‘Yes, we’ll do that,’ then it may or may not happen,” Lynch said. “We need documentation that it has been formed.”
Commissioner Sittre said that his and Commissioner Neuman’s districts now include more than 13,800 subdivision lots.
“We’re not taking care of one square foot of that,” Sittre said. “I am not going down here on a piece of property I inherited through redistricting and okay this, as far as doing maintenance on it.”
Sittre also questions Baca closely as to fire protection since Vaquero Pass is serviced by a public water system. In particular, Sittre said he can find no fire hydrants in the subdivision.
Medina County Emergency Services District No. 1 Chief Clint Cooke told the commissioners that a fire hydrant requires a flow of at least 500 gallons per minute. Wayne Rodgers with Wayne Rodgers Construction shared that both the Yancey Water Corporation and the East Medina County Special Utility District only allows firefighters to fill their trucks from their systems.
“Because of the flow they will not guarantee a hydrant where you could hook a pumper truck up and use it,” Rodgers said. Special hydrants painted black are used to fill fire trucks.
Lynch told the commissioners that further study of the subdivision regulations with regard to fire protection is in order.
“Even though we think we’ve got some good subdivision regulations and have spent a lot of time doing it, obviously a couple of things regarding this project need to be addressed,” he said.
Commissioners did take action to replat a single lot in Moutain Valley Ranch subdivision off private road 2532 after a public hearing on the matter went unattended.
The court approved action on preliminary approval to change a lot in the Cantu subdivision northwest of Devine on County Road 655. However, Commissioner Sittre criticized Garry Allen of Garry T. Allen and Associates, representing the developer, for not taking up the matter with Precinct 4 Commissioner Jerry Beck before approaching the Commissioners Court.
Beck was absent from the April 7 meeting. Schuchart said that the changes requested met county requirement regardless of if Beck had been consulted.
The board gave preliminary approval for the replat of the lot.

By Anton Riecher
Devine News Correspondent