NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas - Voters in New Braunfels have upheld a controversial ordinance that prohibits disposable containers in the Comal and Guadalupe rivers.
According to unofficial results Tuesday, 58 percent of voters approved the ordinance while 42 percent voted against it.
The ordinance will go into effect in January.
The City Council enacted the ban in August, but local businesses led a backlash to force the ballot referendum.
"I feel like I'm running an election campaign for myself. It's very weird," said Mark McGonigal, a business owner who led the effort against the container ban.
On Tuesday afternoon, the exhausted-looking print shop owner said he was looking forward to getting back to running his business. McGonigal has spent the past several weeks campaigning against the city's proposed ban on disposable containers.
"It's not a litter issue. Go to the river, it's clean, there's nothing in there. The contractors do their jobs, this is a real estate issue, McGonigal said. "If you put Wurstfest by those people's houses, they'd shut Wurstfest down."
The fight has been a nasty one with both sides of the issue alleging misconduct. The most recent incident happened over the weekend when a ban supporter was caught on surveillance video stealing a sign opposing the ban posted at a local business.
McGonigal said he expects the battle to continue and he's in it for the long haul.
"I'm not going to give up, this is just the beginning," McGonigal said.
Supporters of the ban say it's necessary to keep the rivers clean and to attract more family friendly tourists.
"We had to do something to get control of the litter problem on our river and I would have done the same thing (again) but I didn't envision it being quite this controversial," said New Braunfels Mayor Gale Pospisil.
Pospisil said she never imagined the proposed ordinance, meant to protect the rivers from litter, would cause such a rift in the community.
But she said has no regrets and believes river tourism will remain strong.
"I think in the long run we'll have maybe a better quality of tourism," Pospisil said. "I think we'll be able to come back together and I'm certainly going to be working on that from my end."
Pospisil said the city is planning an aggressive public relations campaign to let tourists know what to expect.
Those opposed to the ban said they will immediately file suit against the city challenging the constitutionality of the law.
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