GUADALUPE COUNTY, Texas – In the face of the impending drainage of four lakes controlled by the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, homeowners and surrounding community members are worried property values could wash away with the lakes.
A drop in property values would affect the budgets of local governments and school districts. There aren't any clear answers, however, about what will happen to the value of more than $800 million in property on the lakes once the GBRA begins opening spill gates.
The GBRA is scheduled to deliberately drain Lake Gonzales, Meadow Lake, Lake Placid and Lake McQueeney one-by-one beginning Sept. 16 because of safety concerns over their aging hydroelectric dams. The plans follow spill gate failures at its dams at Lake Wood in 2016 and Lake Dunlap in May of this year. All six dams were completed in the late 1920s through early 1930s.
Should the remaining four lakes, which are split between Guadalupe and Gonzales County, be drained as planned, some worry that it will cause surrounding property values to plummet.
There's no guarantee, however, how much any one value would change. Appraisal districts assign property values based on market activity. So if nobody wants to buy a home next to a mostly drained lake, there wouldn't be any data to prompt a change in the property values.
Anticipating the possibility for limited market activity around Lake Dunlap after its failure this year, the Guadalupe Appraisal District announced Monday that it had entered into an agreement with an outside company to help figure out "appropriate discounts" in 2020 for affected properties around the lake.
However, Chief Appraiser Jamie Osborne told KSAT in an email Tuesday that she was "unable to speculate on the results of the scope of work to be provided in November to our office, nor am I able to predetermine or speculate on possibilities on other lakes."
By extension, that means entities such as school districts, which rely on property tax revenue, can't tell how they'll be affected yet by either Lake Dunlap's drainage or the planned drainages of the other lakes.
"We could guess and say properties around McQueeney may be affected," said Sean Hoffmann, spokesman for the Seguin Independent School District. "But again, to what degree are those properties going to be affected? Is it going to be waterfront homes only? Is it going to be homes across the street from waterfront homes that are not directly on the water? Again, it's anyone's guess."
There's a lot of money about which to make guesses. Three of the soon-to-be-drained lakes are in Guadalupe County, as is Lake Dunlap. The Guadalupe Appraisal District put the combined 2019 market values for properties on those four lakes at more than $1 billion.
Lake Dunlap: $271,746,135
Lake Placid: $159,815,696
Lake McQueeney: $582,538,951
Meadow Lake: $63,515,589
Lake Gonzales and the previously drained Lake Wood are both in neighboring Gonzales County and are not included in the figures.
The only one of the six GBRA lakes that has had time for property values to be affected is Lake Wood, a rural lake in Gonzales County at the end of the GBRA's string of dams.
John Liford, chief appraiser for the Gonzales County Appraisal District, said the "waterfront value" has been removed off two people's residential properties. That equated to about a 35 percent drop in their land value, though not the structures.
However, since there have been no home sales that would have affected the values, those drops came only after the property owners had protested their valuations to the Appraisal Review Board, which set the new value.