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The Lead April 11, 2022: We're headed for more dry weather in Kerr County

There are some chances of rain in the coming days — but slim.

Good morning, Kerr County!

Dry and dry. If you happened to be at Schreiner University at about 1 p.m. on Sunday, you might have felt something strange falling from the sky — moisture. It was fleeting and seemingly dried within seconds. Kerr County faces a prolonged dry period with no measurable rain in the forecast for the next 10 days. We dug into some data compiled by Iowa State University that tracks relative humidity — it's hardly reassuring. April is on pace to be the driest month in more than 20 years.

So, what does relative humidity mean? That's the amount of water vapor in the air. The facts:

  • April is trending at 44% relative humidity — the driest weather since 2003.
  • March was the driest month since 2003.
  • February was the second driest month since 2003.
  • January was the third driest month since 2003.

The National Weather Service makes it clear that dry weather requires vigilance. "Elevated to near critical fire weather conditions are forecast on Wednesday across much of South Central Texas," the weather service said in its forecast.

On today's The Lead Live!

We will dig deeper into the weather when the American Red Cross meteorologist Richard McAlister discusses potentially extreme weather across the U.S. McAlister is based here in Kerrville, and we had a chance to chat with him last month after he lectured at the Riverside Nature Center. "Nearly all of the models show drought in increasing magnitude," McAlister said. "We could be doing this for five years." The Republican Women of Kerr County will also stop by to discuss their upcoming events. Join us for the conversation at 9 a.m.

Fire and fire

There was a significant brush fire burning north of Leon Springs on Saturday — burning more than 2,800 acres. We were able (not well) to snap a photo of one of the big firefighting tankers sent to help contain the blaze. It is a converted MD-87 passenger jet that can drop thousands of gallons of fire retardant.

On Saturday morning, Kerrville firefighters fought a structure fire in the 500 block of Water Street. They were able to knock the fire down but it did significant damage to the home. The cause was not immediately available.

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Need something to do this week?

Check out our Easter Week listings here:

Join us live at 6 p.m. for Texas Hill Country Advisors

On the agenda today at The Court

Today's agenda at the Kerr County's Commissioner's Court feels light, but there are two interesting updates. The court will hear updates on its website redesign by Clint Morris and an update about the cost of a new radio system for the Kerr County Sheriff's Office and the county's volunteer fire department. In practical terms, these proposed improvements are long overdue. Commissioner's Court is at 9 a.m.

A look ahead to Tuesday's City Council meeting

Last Thursday night, the Kerrville Planning and Zoning Commission presented a preview of what to expect in the coming months regarding community input on zoning. On Tuesday night the City Council will dig into some of the issues discussed in previous planning meetings.

The City Council could approve — likely approve — a pair of short-term rentals, which was an issue that bore down on the Planning and Zoning last week. It will be an ongoing issue for the City Council, including facing appeals from those turned down for conditional use permits by the planning and zoning commission.

And what about those short-term rentals?

The question Kerrville will wrestle with is how many short-term rentals are too many? Kerrville Development Services Director Drew Paxton said the city has more than 70 rentals with conditional-use permits. A short-term rental is housing that doesn't require a long-term lease or vacation.

We chatted with Bruce Stracke about the issue of short-term rentals, and he said it could require the city to revisit the zoning or the ordinance. There's a policy in place that requires a conditional use permit. Still, websites that track short-term rentals, especially those listed on VRBO and AIRBNB, suggest that many 180 short-term rentals are operating in Kerrville — more than twice what the city has permitted.

And the issue is a divisive one — potentially. It's also one that has played out across the country. Here's a sample of what some from Kerrville shared about the issue:

  • Brandi Martin wrote: "The issue for me is that the short term rentals are in neighborhoods where there are children. They are turning neighborhoods into commercial areas."
  • Greg Peschel wrote: "I'm torn. On one hand short term rentals are great for for travelers and add business to our town. On the other hand, we are already short on workforce housing and taking this many houses off of the market is tough."
  • Barbara Johnston wrote: "I don't think short term rentals should be in the middle of neighborhoods. Maybe on the edge, but one reason people live in neighborhoods because of the community that develops. It probably lowers property values since people looking for a home don't want to live near a house that has different renters over and over. That is not stability that is desired in neighborhoods. Maybe they can limit them in some way to the edge of neighborhoods or only so many in each section of town."

In most cases, the short-term rentals coming across the city are those for vacation rentals — commanding an estimated $198 per night. One website, AirDna, estimates that Kerrville's short-term occupancy is 66%.

On the campaign trail

In the race to be Kerrville's next mayor, Judy Eychner has built a campaign finance war chest more than 10 times the size of rival Brent Bates.

Eychner, currently representing Place 3 on the City Council, is looking to succeed Bill Blackburn as mayor, and she's raised more than $8,000 from 28 donors. The fundraising has allowed Eychner to spend more than $4,000 on her campaign.

According to campaign finance reports filed last week, Eychner's largest contribution comes from Cecil Atkisson Insurance Services — a $1,500 donation.

Bates has raised $600.

Read more of the story here:

Schreiner University is hot on the softball diamond

Schreiner University's softball team put up four runs in the bottom of the first inning, got a tremendous pitching effort and earned its first shutout win of the season, 4-0, over visiting Dallas University.

More importantly, the Mountaineers swept Dallas in a three-game series, Schreiner's second consecutive Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference series. With six games left, the victory boosted Schreiner to 9-6 in the conference.

Read more here:


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