Tension over riverside developments is nothing new


“Proposals for new use of the river’s tree-lined course as a park gained momentum … when irate citizens went before city commissioners to protest overzealous clearing of overgrowth along the river.”


That’s how the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) summarized strong feelings expressed about the San Antonio River … in 1904.


About a decade later, some San Antonio businessmen wanted to send the dwindling river through a conduit underground in order to create more room for downtown development.


A newly formed San Antonio River Improvement Association opposed the idea and city commissioners took no action.


In 1920, when flood control measures required the river’s banks to be cleared of all trees and shrubs so as not to impede flow, a “wave of protest” persuaded officials to leave the trees.


By 1933, when the mastermind of the Riverwalk, Robert Hugman, proposed his Venice- and Aragon-inspired vision, city planners sided with a master plan to keep the River Park a natural area.


Just a few years later, hotelier Jack White championed a taxing authority to raise funds for Hugman’s idea. City and federal dollars soon followed and the Riverwalk as we know it began to take shape.


“But leaders of the Conservation Society and others still loyal to the River Park were dismayed at the lavish amount of fanciful stonework Hugman insisted upon adding to the once sedate park,” TSHA notes. The activists got Hugman fired from his own project.


For survival, civilizations are built beside bodies of water. Like San Antonio and the river that bears its name, Boerne, Texas, grew up where it did because of Cibolo Creek.


Naturally, citizens prize their water sources. No one, including the developers of the proposed 17 Herff Road project in Boerne, wants Cibolo Creek to degrade. The project’s stakeholders, especially those who live in Kendall County, would be shooting themselves in the foot if they did.


Like good neighbors, 17 Herff’s developers have accommodated many requests and alleviated many concerns of conservationists.


Through tree preservation, drainage filters, building height restrictions and other efforts, project designers are trying to maximize the property’s unique location and its natural beauty.


Given the alternative of not annexing 17 Herff into the city’s limits and leaving it subject to any industrial use county development regulations allow, the pending 17 Herff proposal should be a sigh of relief.


Boerne adds more rooftops every month as approved residential developments come on line. Boerne needs additional commercial services and commercial property tax base to keep schools and infrastructure solid.


17 Herff’s mix of high quality retail, office, medical and residential uses meets many of the public policy goals city planners have advocated for years. We would be wise to accept it, welcome it, shape it and patronize it.


Along with water sources, road construction predicts an area’s growth prospects. When interstate planners put IH-10 through Boerne, the city’s growth trajectory was set. And when Herff Road was widened and extended, the areas along it became prime for development.


Not everyone loves the Riverwalk. I don’t hang out there every weekend. But no one can argue the billions of dollars of positive economic impact the attraction has brought to our region.


All because conservationists and visionaries worked together to achieve common goals.

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