Water study ordered for vineyard colony
Tuesday, March 25, 2014 8:40 PM
The future of the High Plains Winery Estates -- like most things in West Texas -- depends on water.
The Brownfield Industrial Development Corp. board of directors voted Monday to authorize a test of the 100-acre site’s ability to provide enough water to establish vineyards on the city’s southwest side.
The vineyard colony, currently a dream on paper only, would see the Industrial Park transformed into a tourist attraction highlighting Brownfield’s unparalleled dominance of the Texas wine grape industry.
However, before BIDCorp. moves forward on the project and invests any more time or resources on developing the site, they have to know what’s underneath the land.
The board appointed member Mike Swaringen, owner of Brownfield Irrigation, to lead the investigation into whether or not the former farmland can produce enough water from its subterranean aquifer.
The discussion of High Plains began with a presentation by Holly Holder and Jeremy Cheatham of Lubbock engineering firm Parkhill, Smith & Cooper.
The engineers were advising the BIDCorp. board on the infrastructure already in place at the Industrial Park.
Board chairman Jay Youngblood halted the conversation with his thoughts on the water table.
“Before we go too far in any plan, we need to check the water out there to make sure we have enough to do this,” he said.
Youngblood said he remains hopeful the project comes to fruition, but reiterated that the water study is an important step.
“Without water, this is the greatest plan ever that won’t work.”
The buildings within High Plains would be serviced by city utilities, but water for irrigation would come from wells installed individually by each vineyard.
Two existing wells already in place and owned by BIDCorp could be used to water the grass and other landscaping planned for the park, Holder said.
The board tabled an agenda item to set a date for further workshops concerning the vineyard colony, but executive director David Partlow said he believes the water feasibility would be complete in time to hold the workshops in mid-May.
Holder told the board that he is familiar with the site because he helped develop it in the 1990s as the city’s first industrial park.
“I have worked with the City of Brownfield for a lot of years on this land,” he said. “We have a few ideas to open the dialogue and the next step will be to come together in that work session to put together a good final product that you can move forward on.”
Some ideas included building berms around the entire site to isolate it from surrounding businesses and highway views, as well as replacing the lake included in the original plans with a large lawn and possible statuary instead.
Youngblood also asked that vineyard owners be invited to future meetings to establish their wants and needs in a park being built to cater to that industry.
Local attorney Bill McGowan II was present at the meeting and said that the site already is zoned correctly with deed restrictions, which would aid BIDCorp. steering the design of the buildings constructed as part of the project.
In other business, the board received a clean audit, which showed a net position of approximately $2.5 million at the end of the last fiscal year.
The auditor presenting the report assured the board that the organization’s finances are in good shape.
Partlow also presented current financials showing cash reserves of $1.7 million.
The amount is less than previous months because BIDCorp paid out more than $350,000 recently for development of the rail spur in the Brownfield Industrial Park #2.
Youngblood presided over the meeting and board members present were Swaringen, Alan Bayer and John Lochridge.
Randy Anthony was absent.