Coldspring has been mining granite in the Highland Lakes for more than 50 years. A proposed mining ordinance by the city of Granite Shoals is being closely examined by mineral rights owners, including Coldspring, as well as landowners and city leaders. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro
The Granite Shoals City Council decided to wait another two weeks before taking action on a new mining ordinance that would have replaced one it approved in March 2021. After a public hearing on the issue held during the council’s regular meeting Tuesday, Feb. 8, councilors asked City Attorney Joshua Katz to plan to address the issue in executive session at the city’s Feb. 22 meeting.
The council wants Katz to come back to them with more information on how the mining companies will help the city preserve its roads and infrastructure, whether Granite Shoals receives sales tax from the mining companies, who owns the mineral rights and at what percentage, and how passing the ordinance affects owners of large properties such as Linda and Jeff Mezger.
The Mezgers own Honeymoon Ranch, 614 Honeymoon Ranch Road between Granite Shoals and Marble Falls, which borders property owned by Coldspring. In a letter to the council, the Mezgers asked that the section under Definitions/Legacy municipal limits replace “north of RM 1431” with “south of RM 1431.” They also want “west of Valley View Lane and including lots abutting Valley View Lane” with “west of Alvin Wirtz Dam Road” in the new ordinance.
They also requested that, under Definitions/Mining operation, the city add “such property used for the support of mining shall be restricted to no more than 10 acres, be defined by metes and bounds, and have the approval of the city and all property owners.”
The boundaries are important, Councilor Steve Hougen explained to DailyTrib.com after the meeting, because they determine where mining can and cannot occur, which could affect future housing developments.
During the hour-long public hearing, councilors asked Coldspring Chief Financial Officer George Schnepf questions about how the company handles noise and dust and how it quarries its products.
According to Schnepf, traffic on RR 1431 creates more noise than mining. He also noted dust mitigation is equally important to the company because Coldspring wants to protect the health of its employees. Measurements are already in place to address dust, he said.
Schnepf did not answer questions on how much the company’s mineral rights are worth and how much property the company owned, citing confidentiality agreements. As examples, he said that, in some places, Coldspring owns“two-thirds of the property and 100 percent of the rights and, (in some), 50 percent of rights based on one-third of the property.”
He specifically addressed the Mezgers’ concerns voiced in their letter to the council.
“We want to be fair to them, too,” Schnepf said. “Their ancestors owned that property and sold the granite rights off. They could continue to ranch it. They look back and sold the rights for as much as the land was worth.”
Hougen said the council is in a tight spot.
“What we’re trying to do is avoid getting caught in the middle of a fight,” he said. ”I would suggest that the buyers of the surface property and the mineral rights help settle and help this council because one side is going to get upset.”
Schnepf said he could not force anyone to the table.
“That’s an arm’s-length negotiation,” he said.
“Why should the council be for one way or the other?” Hougen asked.
“Leave it at Valley View Lane and don’t extend it to Wirtz Dam Road,” Schnepf answered. “It would be (the same as) before the first ordinance (in March 2021) was put in place.”
At that point, Mayor Will Skinner stepped in, pointing out that the council has given Katz direction on what it wants for the next regular meeting, which is on Feb. 22. Councilors will take up the topic again in executive session.