A New Braunfels company hoping to open a recycling plant on a property in Fair Oaks Ranch may be permanently sidelined because it didn’t request approvals or permits beforehand.

Tobin Maples, the city manager of Fair Oaks Ranch, which is located northwest of San Antonio, was tipped off to Bobcat Trucking’s plans after public notice of its application to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for an air quality standard permit appeared in the Boerne Star last week.

The application requested authorization to construct a permanent rock and concrete crusher, which are typically used in rock quarries or at cement plants, on a piece of property located off Dietz Elkhorn Road, near Ralph Fair Road, which is inside Fair Oaks Ranch city limits.

Worried the application signaled the development of yet another quarry in the area, city officials issued a stop-work order to Bobcat Trucking as well as the owner of the property, on Feb. 8.

In recent years, the Hill Country has become home to a number of new quarries and similar infrastructure, which bring with them increased truck traffic and dust particles that can cause an array of negative health impacts. Several local groups have organized in opposition, such as Preserve Our Hill Country Environment and Stop 3009 Vulcan Quarry.

But the application for a rock crusher wasn’t intended for a quarry, said Bobcat Trucking President Brandon Eagan. Eagan told the San Antonio Report Tuesday that he and his colleagues had been planning to build a recycling plant. Rock crushers can also be used to recycle concrete and asphalt.

“That probably won’t happen now though,” he said, although he added that he is still in talks with the city of Fair Oaks Ranch about the permit.

That’s because, according to Fair Oaks Ranch’s unified development code, the city manager can determine if a particular land use is permissible, based on their interpretation “of the intent and spirt” of zoning ordinances adopted by the city council.

With that power, Maples determined that the proposed rock and concrete crusher operation “IS NOT an allowable use within the city limits, regardless of zoning district,” he wrote in a blog post published on the city’s website on Feb. 8.

The city also issued a stop work order, he wrote, because local municipal approvals and permits have not been obtained. But because Bobcat Trucking has the right to file an appeal of the city manager’s determination, the blog post encourages Fair Oaks Ranch residents to submit public comments on the TCEQ application. Fair Oaks Ranch officials have also requested a TCEQ public hearing.

Eagon did not say if he plans to file an appeal.

Meanwhile, residents have started an online petition protesting the construction of a rock-crushing business in the area. As of Tuesday, more than 750 people have signed it.

“We, the citizens of the City of Fair Oaks Ranch, are signing this petition to notify the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality … that we do NOT support the establishment of a Permanent Rock and Concrete Crusher business in Fair Oaks Ranch as proposed by Bobcat Trucking, Inc.,” the petition states.

The petition lists potential effects residents would like to prevent: air pollution, noise and light pollution, pollution of groundwater and of the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone and negative effects on endangered species.

It also goes on to note three TCEQ permit violations or complaints filed against Bobcat Trucking, calling the company “a poor business neighbor to communities.”

If TCEQ approves the application for an air quality standard permit, the petition warns, that approval “will not supersede the authority of the City of Fair Oaks Ranch jurisdiction to make its own decisions on issuing permits to this business.”

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Lindsey Carnett

Lindsey Carnett covers the environment, science and utilities for the San Antonio Report.