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Judge Strikes Down New Braunfels' 'Can Ban'

Robert Nagle
Tubers on the Comal River before a ban on disposible containers was enacted.

The New Braunfels "can ban" is poised to disappear.

The rule prohibits disposable food and beverage containers from the Guadalupe and Comal Rivers inside New Braunfels city limits. It was approved in a city referendum in 2011 to combat litter. Tourism businesses and a Budweiser beer distributor sued.

District Judge Don Burgess, who was assigned the case as a visiting judge after local judges recused themselves, emailed lawyers for both sides Monday, saying he intends to rule in favor of the businesses. Lawyers now have to draft competing rulings, and Justice Burgess will sign one after making any changes.

"The other side can move for a motion for a new trial and point out some additional things I should have considered, and I would have to look at that," Justice Burgess said. He said he intends to sign a ruling next week.

“All of this could have been avoided by the city if they had just been reasonable in the way that they drafted the ordinances," said Jim Ewbanks, an attorney for the businesses. "But the ordinances were very difficult to understand.” He says the businesses intend to seek legal fees, which could leave city taxpayers on the hook for more than $150,000.

Ewbanks says the order also overturns a rule limiting cooler sizes to 16 quarts. "The judge's order rules that both these ordinances are unconstitutional, illegal and unenforceable," Ewbanks said. 

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.
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