Not one of the more than a dozen people sharing their thoughts July 13 about a proposed sand-excavation project on private property on County Road 309 outside of Kingsland had a good thing to say about it. Several voiced concerns that the Llano County Commissioners Court would even consider allowing such an operation.
But commissioners have little say in the matter.
“The county is pretty limited, frankly, with the authority we have here,” said Llano County Precinct 1 Commissioner Peter Jones. “We do not have land-use authority.”
The discussion during the meeting revolved around Collier Materials’ plans to build a sand-dredging operation on a private ranch near Lake LBJ on CR 309 near the Comanche Rancheria community. Jones put the item on the Commissioners Court agenda to inform the court about the plant and get residents’ input.
As of July 13, Jones said Collier Materials had not filed for required permits through the Lower Colorado Authority for dredging operations or any other permits through state agencies, including the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The discussion’s goal was to inform commissioners and the public about information Jones had on the proposed plant, something he only learned about a few weeks beforehand.
According to Jones, the plant would take up about 60 acres on a private ranch and dredge sand from the Llano River arm of Lake LBJ using barges. Trucks would transport the sand off of the property down CR 309 to Texas 71, a big concern for commissioners and residents.
When in full operation, the plant would move 120 truckloads of sand a day. CR 309, Jones pointed out, isn’t designed to handle large trucks, especially at that level of traffic. The road is a mix of paved and unpaved stretches. It would cost at least $300,000 to bring the portion of road in question up to standards to support such truck traffic, Jones said, but added that is a preliminary number.
He said Collier Materials has indicated it would chip in money for road improvements.
Comanche Rancheria resident Sharon Moore thinks using taxpayer money to reinforce the road for a business’ benefit is a bad idea and expressed concern that Collier Materials would ante up to help fund the improvements.
She added that putting a sand-dredging plant in that area isn’t compatible with surrounding communities and the lake.
“We will not stand for the industrialization of our beautiful Hill Country,” Moore said.
Resident Virgil Yanta of the Kingsland Estate Property Owners Association said a sand plant and corresponding truck traffic in that location would negatively impact local property values, which, in turn, would impact county tax revenues.
In a previous interview, Kevin Collier, vice president of Collier Materials, pointed out the site would not need a rock crusher. And the location would use conveyor belts to move sand from the river, which, he said, would reduce the need for more trucks on site. The system also would be quieter than one Collier Materials had planned on Sandy Creek, which the company subsequently pulled out of.
Still, heavy truck traffic on CR 309 is a big concern for residents. Nancy Tabb pointed out that many people walk and cycle on the road.
“I come from generations of family who have farmed and ranched on CR 309, and this is wrong,” Marsha Scott added.
The proposed Collier Materials facility would produce concrete sand, golf course sand, and mortar sand. Currently, the location could be up and running by March or April of 2021. The plant’s hours of operation would be 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays except for holidays.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Mike Sandoval also voiced his concern over the proposed facility and the idea of the county spending $300,000 of taxpayer money to improve the road for a private business.
“If Collier Materials wants that road improved, let him go to the bank and get a loan and donate it to the county,” he said.
Sandoval also was concerned county crews did not have the time or the expertise to reinforce and upgrade the 3.8-mile stretch of CR 309 from the plant’s exit to Texas 71 by next spring.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Linda Raschke added that it is still early in the process, and the county and residents need more information.
Jones reiterated that, other than possible floodplain issues and CR 309, the county is limited in its options regarding the proposed sand-dredging operation. He added that Kevin Collier and Collier Materials extended an invitation to those who want to see what the plant might look like by touring a similar one in Jarrell.
The tour is Thursday, July 16. Contact Jones’ office at 830-598-2296 if you are interested.