It’s been one week since Atascosa County Commissioners stood with the Verdi community by taking no action on the proposed Verdi Acres Subdivision. However, the Verdi community’s work is not done yet.
Assistant County Attorney
Trent Rowell provided County Judge Bob Hurley with a legal opinion, as requested after the Jan. 11 Commissioners Court meeting, on the matter of the subdivision’s fate. As law would have it, the subdivision will proceed as planned despite heavy pushback from Verdi residents.
“My opinion was that the plat was approved by operation of law (automatically) on Jan. 11, 2021, because it was not disapproved with a stated legal reason. It failed due to lack of vote, which is different,” said Rowell. “It was my opinion that on Dec. 28, 2020, the time limit for approving the plat (30 days from the filing of Dec. 1, 2020) was extended because the court had disapproved the plat, reset it for community input and the developer did not contest this extension. And I stated, as I did previously, there was no legal basis for denying the plat based on the law as currently written by the state legislature.”
Due to state legislature, a county government is limited to what they can and cannot do regarding regulations for a subdivision in the county.
With this in mind, Verdi residents are still looking to save the land by pleading with developer, Elias Woloski, to at least preserve the historic oak trees on the property.
“We want him to think about changing the layout of the subdivision,” said Verdi resident and business owner, Camila Mares. “He can downsize the number of homesites and build around the trees. They make a beautiful addition to the property.”
The other plea is to sell the land back to the family who previously owned it.
History of the land
The land has been in Ricky D. Reyes’ family for many generations. When his great-grandfather passed away in 1995, the land was subdivided into 30-acre lots amongst his children and grandchildren. The lot in question was previously owned by one of Reyes’ uncles who lives in San Antonio, has no ties to the land and sold to Woloski.
“This land is very sacred and native to [the rest of] my family. We would gladly buy it back from Woloski if he made a deal with us. In fact, any farmer out here would buy it right back from him,” said Reyes, a Texas architect, artist and Yaqui Mestizo Historian.
As with many, Reyes’ family passes stories down from generation to generation. According to Reyes, the land has significance to the Battle of Medina which was fought in northern Atascosa County on Aug. 18, 1813, and Santa Anna was a first lieutenant. He always managed to win even if he lost a battle and was president of Mexico 11 different times. At the center of the 30 acres is a grove of oak trees. Shaped as an arrowhead pointed west, Reyes says it served as a road marker, map and calendar for people during the time of battle. He further explained that the grove was the launching point of the Republican Army of the North who was fighting the Spanish government in the Independence of Mexico.
“The oaks are Atascosa County and Texas’ connection to our past, our history. It’s such a sacred piece of land that needs to be untouched by a developer like Woloski who plans to cut it down. There is so much more to it. We have to have it here,” said Reyes.
The trees also signify a historical site for just about everything: prayer, playgrounds, hideaways, scouting, burial sites, etc. In fact, one of Reyes’ aunts is said to be buried in the grove.
“My aunt, Mary Lou Luna, was told by my grandma that she has a stillborn sister buried on that land near an oak tree,” explained Reyes, who said oak trees also serve as burial sites.
On Jan. 15, Reyes walked Camila Mares and myself through the grove of trees. During the hike, Reyes sensed his aunt’s burial site. “I was drawn to two particular spots amongst the trees where my aunt might have been buried: where I found a turtle shell or the tip of the grove (arrowhead). I have always felt a presence on this land. That’s how strong of an energy is here. You just know these trees must stay in place. This land holds so much significance to Atascosa County and the Battle of Medina. It’s a thing of the past that must remain.”
Reyes also explained the significance of the land oak trees grow on.
“You don’t see oak trees like you see here in Pleasanton. It’s because of the sand-like dirt that these trees are magnificent in size,” said Reyes.
“I believe everyone has a calling in life. And us Verdi residents are called to be activists in this fight. Together, we can do it. To Mr. Woloski: ‘Si se puede!’ Yes you can … save the trees!”