City Council on Thursday approved a zoning change that paves the way for new development over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone on the Northwest Side.

The change will affect 22 acres close to the intersection of Jones Maltsberger and Redland roads. The land is part of the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone, where water flows underground and adds to the main drinking water supply of the San Antonio region.

Landowner Austin Hagauer, a San Antonio real estate broker, plans to build 67 single-family homes and 12 apartment buildings on the property, a former horse farm.

Some aquifer advocates had opposed the zoning change, saying that the City should have haggled more vigorously for environmental protections in exchange for letting the development proceed. More than 20 people, including a representative of the San Antonio River Authority, spoke up during a May 5 meeting of the San Antonio Zoning Commission, which unanimously approved the changes before forwarding the issue to Council.

“When a developer comes to the City with a request for rezoning, they are asking
you to do them a favor,” Annalisa Peace and Deborah Reid of the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, wrote in a letter to Council members. “The City has the upper hand and should negotiate and require conditions that address all legitimate concerns.”

The specifics involve the percentage of asphalt, concrete, and rooftop that will cover the porous property. Such hard surfaces, known as impervious cover, limit recharge to the aquifer and can allow harmful runoff to flow underground.

Marked with a solid red line, the site of the requested rezoning is 21.6 acres near Jones Maltsberger and Redland roads that is situated entirely within the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. Credit: Courtesy / City of San Antonio

GEAA, along with other aquifer advocates and neighborhood groups, wanted stronger limitations on impervious cover, along with more protections for Mud Creek, where runoff from the site will end up downstream.

Under its former zoning, hard surface can cover 30 percent of one half of the property and 50 percent of the other half. The new zoning rules allow only 35 percent of the whole property to be paved over. For reference, State regulators use 20 percent as a threshold of impervious cover over the recharge zone at which some runoff protections are needed.

In a memo to zoning commissioners, San Antonio Water System officials recommended the zoning change, citing the 35-percent rule and a measure to require a water well on site to meet SAWS standards.

Citing the nod from SAWS, Council members approved the change 8-0 at the end of an eight-hour meeting.

“They’re good to go as far as impervious cover for that entire area,” said Councilman Clayton Perry (D10). “Plus they’re leaving a lot of green space.

This story has been updated.

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Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons is a former senior reporter at the San Antonio Report. He is an environmental journalist for Oil & Gas Watch.