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2015-12-24

Newspapers never get it right, claims BMA attorney

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

Court hearings are generally rather boring proceedings, in my opinion. The judge, attorneys and those immediately involved in the case may take an interest, but for a newspaper reporter, it can get beyond dull. However, on Thursday, Dec. 15, Judge Rex Emerson of the 198th District Court called another session in his courtroom for case CV 13-361, Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District (BCRAGD) v Bexar, Medina and Atascosa WCID (BMA).
Surprisingly (at least to this writer), BMA attorney Peter B. Gostomski repeatedly attacked the accuracy of newspaper articles written about the case. Apparently a number of such articles were included in submissions by BCRAGD's legal representatives as evidence of long-running "controversy" that exists between residents and governmental entities in Bandera County and BMA. Those articles appeared in the Courier and the San Antonio Express News.
"You can't create your own controversy [in the newspapers]," said Gostomski. A conflict has to have actually happened, "it can't be conjectural," he added.
Both BMA and BCRAGD are WCIDs (Water Control and Improvement Districts) based on their charters under the State Water Code. BCRAGD has filed suit against BMA for a summary judgment that would clarify jurisdictional questions in Bandera County.
BCRAGD contends that under state water law, two WCIDs cannot claim jurisdiction over the same territory.
BMA owns property in Bandera County and contends that it can enforce its rules and regulations on that property. BCRAGD contends that it cannot.
Representing BCRAGD at Thursday's hearing, attorney Greg Ellis said BMA has inspected water wells in Bandera County although they claim to have no use for the information they acquired from the inspections. Ellis also reiterated the limited evidence that BMA actually "owns" property in the county, other than some easements and a waterfront property owners' agreement.
Ellis concluded his arguments by saying, "They have no authority as a WCID [in Bandera County], even on property they own."
About 20 people sat in the courtroom during the hearing, including BCRAGD staffers, and members of an organization called Save Medina Lake.
BCRAGD's board of directors voted way back on Oct. 22, 2013, to file the suit against BMA to clarify the jurisdictional questions.
In June 30, 2013, issue of the Courier, this writer cited an interview with BMA business manager Ed Berger.
Berger asserted that BMA has historically had legal control of lakefront property below the 1084 line. He cited as an example an agreement between BMA and its Waterfront Property Owners Association reached in 2007, in which the WPOA members acquired a perpetual easement to their lakefront property. WPOA members pay BMA one dollar per linear foot of lakefront per year for that easement, Berger said at a Sept. 25, 2015 hearing.
Berger said over 440 people have signed that agreement. According to testimony Berger gave at a previous district court hearing, that represents about 180 properties in Bandera County.
However, not everyone agrees that BMA has a clear title to all the property below the 1084 line. The Lake Medina Conservation Society (LAMCOS) is an organization founded at least in part to support lakefront property owners who disagree with BMA's position of entitlement.
BMA continues to make its claims to the land below the 1084 line in Bandera County despite the fact that the Texas Court of Civil Appeals ruled in 1981 that BMA has no jurisdiction in Bandera County.
In Case No. 16520, BMA v Wallace, the court also ruled that the warranty deed upon which BMA asserts its ownership, executed in 1917 from Joseph F. Spettle et al to The Medina Valley Irrigation Company, had an insufficient description of the disputed tract of land to be enforceable.
But take heed, readers. It's on record in court that newspaper articles are hearsay, and "the newspapers often get it wrong."