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OBSERVER A Journal of Free Voices A Window to the South May 25, 1973 250 New Towns, Old Politics San Antonio Two proposed “new towns” are entoiling San Antonio in decisions that may irreversibly determine the city’s future shape and nature. One, “Ranch Town New Town” 25 miles from downtown, would be a city of about 85,000 built on part of the geological formation through which the water supply of a million Texans is recharged. The Ranch Town promoters have won an $18 million commitment for guaranteed federal loans from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, but these loans and more support the promoters want from HUD are tied up by an environmentalists’ lawsuit to protect the Edwards underground reservoir from pollution they allege the new town would cause. The other project, “New Town in Town,” has been proposed by the same promoters who are behind Ranch Town to pacify many objections from city interests, but now the downtown project is also sunk in localand state-level controversy that can make or break it in Washington. Both these projects have been weakened by the extents of their reliances on public moneys, especially the city’s, in each case, it tends to appear, to the potential benefit of a small group of investors and promoters. The stiffest resistance to the Ranch Town has come from urban specialists and city planners who are seeing private investments and the’ placement of University of Texas facilities northwest of the city drawing growth and population out that way despite rational considerations that indicate the city should be growing south. A certain secrecy and slickness with which the promoters are thought to have proceeded have aroused some hostility. There are also many reports and some evidences of high-pressure politics back and forth between San Antonio and Washington, perhaps pulsing into and out of the White House. GEORGE CHRISTIAN, an aide to John Connally for last year’s Nixon operation, before that press secretary for President Johnson, and back before that press secretary for Governor Connally, is a partner in the firm of Christian, Miller and Honts, and financially interested in both the San Antonio new towns. His firm, and most openly Bob Honts, has carried the ball publicly for both projects. Christian has worked behind the scenes, making phone calls, seeing newspaper executives. John Peace’s role is also known now. In 1970 the University of Texas regents, of whom Peace was a prominent one, had to decide where to locate the campus of the new University of Texas at San Antonio. They were offered about a dozen sites everybody making such offers knew that all the land around the new school would fabulously appreciate in value and a group led by Hayden Head, the Corpus Christi politico and lawyer, were sure they had the thing in the bag. Their connections gold-snapped into the Connally and the Nixon circles were superb, and they had this big tract of land called “San Antonio Ranch” in northwest San Antonio. Instead, however, late in May, 1970, upon Connally man John Peace’s motion, the regents chose a site about five miles further west. Subsequently it came out, and was widely publicized, that Charles Kuper and Alfred Negley, the two men who had bought up options on much of the land surrounding the successful site, had gone into business with Connally in two companies, and that Peace’s legal firm had helped incorporate these two companies. But it was Kuper and Negley, not Connally or the companies themselves, that had bought the land on which the killing was made when the regents announced the UT-SA site. Peace loudly and lengthily proclaimed his innocence of any wrongdoing or foreknowledge that his friends had been buying up those options. The Hayden Head group \(which included Lawrence Wood, a South Texas oilman and conservationist, and Randolph Farenthold, the subsequently murdered holding this big tract of land called San Antonio Ranch. What to do with it? In 1970 the Congress had passed the developers’ dream, a law authorizing federal grants and guaranteed loans of millions of dollars directly to private interests that would build “new towns” near or in the urban centers of the country. That was what they would do with it, and they had just the connections to do it. They had an IOU from the regents who had “let them down” by giving the UT-SA