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City Council rejects grandfathering claim

August 3, 2006
In an 8-3 vote, City Council rejected a grandfathering claim on a 1,700 acre aquifer recharge zone development by Bitterblue, Inc.. According to the Express-News, the decision could lead to a court fight between Bitterblue, which is headed by developer Gene Powell, and the City. Bitterblue was seeking an exemption from development codes passed since 1993, which include the Aquifer Protection and Tree Preservation ordinances.

Express-News coverage
Land rights spat being kicked up a notch today
City Council rejects developer's claim of vested rights
Big Brother act at City Hall leads to unsettling speculation
Developers pulling strings at the Capitol and City Hall
Hard to separate trees from forest, developers and donations
Builders paying to avoid City Hall

The E-N story says the claim is based on a water service agreement between Bitterblue and SAWS. It further notes that the Texas Legislature passed a law in 2005 adding "a contract or other agreement for construction related to, or provision of, service from a water or wastewater utility" to the list of grandfatherable permits.

However, an October, 2005 Express-News story states that "A flurry of spending occurred in December 2004, just before the start of the most recent Legislative session. On that same day, Kuempel received $2,000 from Powell and $1,000 from Powell's business partner, Laddie Denton. San Antonio builders gave him $1,000."

It says that "... Kuempel and Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, wrote companion bills that said contracts signed between a developer and a city-owned utility can count as a type of permit that triggers exemptions. But as a San Antonio task force was preparing to recommend to the City Council that water contracts generally shouldn't count as vesting permits, Shapiro's bill was signed into law."

In addition, it notes that "an Austin lawyer representing interests tied to Sheldon and Powell ... testified in support of … bills (that) appeared to target San Antonio. Their language said water contracts signed by a developer and a city-owned utility can be considered permits under the state grandfathering law.”