CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER
SPICEWOOD — The Lower Colorado River Authority has issued a second stop-work order in four months for an asphalt company attempting to build a plant on Texas 71 after a landowner filed an appeal critical of the company’s water-quality controls.
On Jan. 7, the LCRA ordered Asphalt Inc. LLC’s operation — referred to in the industry as a “hot mix plant” due to the chemicals used to prepare the gravel for road base — to halt construction on a 15-acre tract at 6755 Texas 71.
The location is adjacent to Little Cypress Creek in the unincorporated community of Spicewood in Burnet County. Subdivisions nearby include Quail Creek and Deerpath Way.
Concerns raised by a group of nearby residents involve dust controls, entryways for trucks on Texas 71, potential runoff of chemicals or other materials into a nearby creek, said Michael Moore, founder of Save Our Spicewood.
The grassroots entity is also in the process of gauging the community’s support of Spicewood becoming a city, township or village.
As part of the stop-work order against the asphalt company, Moore received word that LCRA was considering the validity of an appeal he filed that “raised concerns regarding the issuance of the development permit and compliance with the permit and its conditions,” according to the notice by LCRA’s general counsel.
Moore owns several acres of land adjacent to the asphalt company’s property.
“My concerns are I don’t know what they’re building, how they’re building it, how they’re going to operate it, how they’re going to maintain it,” Moore said. “I believe that, under the LCRA rules, I’m entitled to review that information, take that information to an expert and have them review it from a technical point of view.”
The latest stop-work order further complicates the rocky start for the asphalt plant construction.
In 2015, the asphalt company sought and was granted air quality and stormwater drainage permits from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Around the same time, the company awaited approval of an additional permit application from LCRA.
However, prior to approval, nearby residents reported crews clearing the land in preparation for the plant.
Landowners also complained to LCRA that they did not receive proper notification as required by law of the pending construction.
As a result, LCRA issued the company’s first stop-work order in September, conducted a two-week review, offered a number of erosion and sediment control recommendations and then allowed workers to resume construction of the plant.
Along the same corridor, the asphalt plant would join at least two new concrete batch plants, which have appeared within the last year, a sign of growth in the Spicewood area, according to Burnet County Judge James Oakley.
“It’s just a classic situation that most folks don’t want it in their backyard, and there’s a reaction when that becomes prevalent,” he said.
Spicewood-area residents have approached county officials about their concerns; however, the local entity has no regulatory authority in commercial and industrial operations.
“The county can act as a conduit and be a voice to make sure those state agencies are doing what they should as far as oversight of these types of industrial development,” Oakley said. “(The Texas Department of Public Safety) has a role to play as well to make sure the entrances are responsible and it allows for ingress and egress that doesn’t affect other traffic.”
As the battle continues between the asphalt company and its neighbors, the county judge believes residents should brace for more industry.
“Let’s face it: You have to have rock quarries that produce aggregate for multiple uses for road base, concrete and asphalt,” Oakley said. “The question is: Where is it palatable to have those locations that manufacture and produce those items?”
Moore believes Spicewood residents should take further steps to control development in their community.
“Our local government officials have their hands tied,” Moore said. “The newest avenue we’re going to discuss with the community is whether or not to incorporate into a city or the village of Spicewood.”
To discuss the incorporation proposal, Save Our Spicewood is hosting organizational meetings from 6-8 p.m. Jan. 15 and 4-6 p.m. Jan. 16 at the Spicewood Community Center, 7901 CR 404.
“One commercial asphalt plant is being located just feet away from about 30 homes where families and children live,” Moore said. “That’s unheard of that you don’t have the normal commercial to residential to industrial buffer zones.”
Oakley said he will attend the meeting as an observer and offer information if questions should arise about the county’s role in the process.
“I think it’s good that folks stay informed and make sure they’re getting accurate information, come to meetings and just ask questions,” Oakley said. “Whatever the issue may be, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Because when people say, ’They ought to do something about that,’ we are ’they.’”