Boot Ranch developer addresses water concerns ahead of expansion
Fredericksburg City Council received updates on the progress of the Seven Hills Resort and Conference Center and from Boot Ranch on their plan to help conserve water.
The meeting, held at 6 p.m. Monday evening at the Law Enforcement Center, answered funding questions for the Seven Hills project, and addressed issues residents have voiced regarding water conservation at Boot Ranch.
The much-anticipated $74.5-million Seven Hills Resort and Conference Center project is now progressing, according to Dennis Murphree, managing general partner of the development company Murphree & Company.
An agreement for the planned 150-room hotel, to be developed on land at the intersection of U.S. Highways 290 West and 87 North, was approved by city council in February 2018. At that time, the hope was to break ground by September of 2018. However, due to slower than expected investment funding, the groundbreaking was delayed.
Murphree “added some horsepower” to their team with a partnership with Griffin Partners, a property investment group based in Houston. Before the partnership, Murphree said Griffin had committed $3 million to the project. When Murphree invited Griffin Partners chairman Fred Griffin to be Co-Managing General Partner of the project, he committed $6 million more to the project.
“He not only brings strength, but he brings a wide network of contacts in the financing arena,” Murphree said of Griffin.
Another addition to the team was the Thayer Leader Development Group (TLDG). They will help keep the hotel full during the week by bringing leadership conferences to the center.
Councilmember Tom Musselman was happy about the partnership with TLDG, saying, “Anything you can do to provide in-the-week hotel business is fine with me.”
City Manager Kent Myers shared Musselman’s excitement, saying his wife, who works with USAA, is happy to have TLDG expand more into Texas, as it is the group they use for developing leadership.
Before ending the presentation, Musselman had a few questions for Murphree: Is the permanent funding in place? When will it break ground? And, is it still associated with Hilton?
Murphree said they had the funding secured and that multiple investment groups are involved.
Murphree was hesitant to provide an exact date, but he did say it would be in the first quarter of 2020.
Lastly, he said the center is still associated with Hilton under its Curio flag sub-brand.
Some city residents are concerned about water use at Boot Ranch, saying they feel the private community doesn’t have to abide by the same water conservation rules as city customers.
The city will soon take action on items including replacement of a sewer lift station at Boot Ranch, expanding city utility service to new area acquired by Boot Ranch, and allowing Boot Ranch to use water from one of the city’s wells to dilute treated wastewater used for golf course maintenance.
But the city council wanted to hear Boot Ranch’s plans for conserving water, set the record straight on the amount of water Boot Ranch uses, and answer residents’ questions.
Mark Enderle, Boot Ranch developer, discussed how they were going to conserve water. He believes property owners at Boot Ranch are just as conservation-minded as other residents and the few who may overwater by city standards may be unaware of the restrictions.
“We want to work together with the city to try to help residents of Boot Ranch understand what that sensitivity (of water conservation) is,” Enderle said.
Boot Ranch will be in constant communication with the city about its water use. Enderle said if someone is misusing water, Boot Ranch will let the resident know.
The developer said Boot Ranch will not fine a resident for overuse of water, but if someone is constantly doing so, the resident’s water will be shut off.
City resident Mo Saiidi said he wants to ensure city residents are being treated fairly when it comes to water usage.
He found that the city sold an average of 98 million gallons of water per year and received a “cheap” fee of $411,000.
“That would support over 800 homes in the city,” Saiidi said.
He also recommended the city conduct a cost-of-service evaluation before allowing for utility service expansion at Boot Ranch.
Saiidi said if more Equivalent Dwelling Units (EDU) were added, then the city might pump more water than they are feasibly able to provide.
Enderle clarified that with the potential expansion at Boot Ranch, no EDUs would be added.
Myers said the numbers Saiidi cited included Boot Ranch’s clubhouse, swimming pool and other major users, along with residential use.
“You almost have to extract that from the residential to figure out your average residential use,” Myers said.
Enderle said Boot Ranch would be willing to pay for water used from the well, along with the treated wastewater they currently use.
“We want to be good neighbors,” Enderle said. “We’re not afraid to pay our way.”
In response to Myers’ comments, Saiidi said the numbers he provided were the given to him by the city.
Enderle said Boot Ranch residents pay double the fee that city residents pay and many have supported various philanthropic endeavors and invested heavily in the local economy.
The city council also:
• OK’d a recount for 9 a.m. Friday for the Nov. 5 special election. The recount will be held at 9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 22, in the Fire Training Room at City Hall. (See related story.)
• Approved a CXT Concrete Buildings Sourcewell quote for a restroom and shower at Lady Bird Johnson Park.
• Approved an additional service proposal from Biggs and Matthews Environmental to perform construction phase services and construction quality assurance services for Landfill Cell No. 8.
• Approved an award of bid for a construction contract to W.L. Contracting for the Landfill Cell No. 8 project.
• Approved an award of bid for a geosynthetics contract to Patriot Environmental for the Landfill Cell No. 8 project.
• Approved an ordinance amending the maximum speed limit for State Highway 16 North within city limits.
• Approved the inter-local agreement for the My Permit Now software access, and permit purchase agreement with My Government Online.