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Free Speech on ropes in Helotes?


One of many offended Helotes residents who objected to the handling of the public hearing portion of the council meeting, when 10 opponents had their rights trashed.

Greg Harman

Cracking open the Helotes file again after Thursday's brow-beating of local residents by Mayor Tom Schoolcraft.

Hard nut: Mayor Schoolcraft

Significance: Helotes Gavel Thumper (and bad teleprompter reader)

Offense: Iron-fisted ignoramus

Schooly opened the Thursday meeting to a packed house, thanks to a prominent (read: Balous Miller) parcel up for commercial rezoning, a property once eyed by one of those incendiary neighbor-against-neighbor issues â?? that ever-present fear of a Wal-Mart Supercenter moving into town.

"The purpose of these hearings is to give you, if you so choose, a chance to present your thoughts and concerns and ideas on the items we will be discussing," Schooly piped.

Then he set about trashing half of the comment forms filed by opponents of the rezoning request â?? a request the town's planning committee itself had recommended be denied â?? to better even out the fors and againsts, while making sure "we won't be here all night listening to much of the same rhetoric."

Expectedly, the vulgar display of censorship didn't sit well with those who bothered to fight traffic from work, ditching family and tube for the rancor of development hostilities.

Even to those allowed to speak, Schoolcraft displayed little concern for the concerns of others.

Experienced groundwater hydrologist George Rice warned the Council that the property being discussed either sat atop of or near the recharge zone for the Trinity Aquifer, then draining on to the Edwards Aquifer.

"One thing we know is there is a strong relationship between the amount of impervious cover in an area and contaminants in surface water. Once the impervious cover of an area gets above 15 percent the amount of contaminants rises very rapidly," Rice said. "So any contaminated groundwater that's generated as it crosses this site, a portion of that would either enter the Trinity Aquifer or the Edwards Aquifer."

Are you saying the property owner should leave 25 acres undeveloped? Schoolcraft gasped. "In a perfect world that might be greatâ?¦ but I don't think there's any conceivable way we could demand someone to do that."

Citing City of San Antonio regulations regarding the Edwards, Rice corrected Schooly.

"All it requires is the will of elected officials to do it," Rice said.

Still, in Helotes one needn't waste one's breath. Helotes' finest has it under control.

Said Schooly, "We're not going to do anything knowingly that would hurt the property or the city."

Funny. He didn't mention impairing public drinking water.

Following the announcement that the public meeting portion of the meeting was over (and before the council approved the rezone - a move some suggested represented a "backroom deal" to settle a lawsuit with property-owning Miller), tempers flared:


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