Bexar County Residents Near Military Bases Nix SA Annexation

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Scene outside Lackland Air Force Base on Friday morning, April 8, 2016. Photo by Scott Ball

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

The entrance to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

Thousands of Bexar County residents living near military bases north and west of San Antonio voted Tuesday night against being annexed by the City of San Antonio.

More than 21,000 county residents near Camp Bullis, Camp Stanley, Lackland Air Force Base, and the Medina Annex voted to let San Antonio extend land-use regulations instead of being annexed. In the Camp Bullis area, 96 percent voted for the land-use option while 84 percent living near Lackland Air Force Base did the same. Fewer than 60,000 people live in the affected areas.

Following the votes, San Antonio City Council will need to pass an ordinance to establish land-use control in the areas according to the area’s most recent Joint Land Use Study, said Jeff Coyle, the City’s government and public affairs director. The study recommends rules governing light pollution, noise, building height, and preservation of natural habitat.

The annexation option would have been considerably more expensive for the City, Bridgett White, director of the City’s Planning Department, told the Rivard Report in August. Annexing the approximate 43 square miles would have cost the City $188 million over 20 years to provide city services, while the approved land-use option would have minimal costs.

Both options were offered to require “compatible” development around the bases, Coyle said. Ordinances that the City will apply to the areas around the bases include requiring light to point downward to keep skies dark to ensure that military bases can conduct training exercises at night, and making sure developers protect new development near the bases from unwanted noise from military activities. For example, Coyle said, the City can require homes are built near Lackland’s shooting range to be constructed so that the noises do not interrupt people’s sleep.

“A lot of the ordinances, like the lighting, sound, and tree ordinances, were put into place because of the [Joint Land Use Study] and they worked really well,” Coyle said. “Even the Rim near Camp Bullis is compatible, because they use the right lighting, they often turn their lights off at night.”

Residents around Camp Bullis and Lackland largely opposed annexation because they would pay higher taxes if incorporated into San Antonio. Mike Stewart, who lives near Camp Bullis and leads a group called Homeowners Against Annexation, said he and his community objected when the City first told them they planned to annex their area.

Bexar County put annexation of the areas near Camp Bullis and Lackland on the ballot after Senate Bill 6 passed during the special session in 2017. SB 6 gave Texans who live in large counties the ability to vote on potential annexation. Before then, cities could annex areas outside city limits without residents’ consent.

Stewart said he was elated at voters’ rejection of annexation but unhappy about the propositions’ phrasing.

“The ballot language is vague and confusing,” he said. “Every person I talked to, everybody was confused on what the ballot meant.”

Retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Juan Ayala, the City’s director of military and veteran affairs, said the intent behind the ballot propositions was to pave a way for compatible land use in future development near the bases. His priority was to help keep base training effective and people near the bases safe, he said.

“Compatible land use means you’re able to train, train safely, the community is safe, and we’re able to reap economic benefits,” Ayala said

Ayala added that the military continues to be a top employer in San Antonio and Bexar County. In 2015, the City found that Joint Base San Antonio, which includes JBSA Randolph, Fort Sam Houston, Camp Bullis, and Lackland Air Force Base, contributed $48.7 billion to the Texas economy.

“The economic impact is huge,” he said. “We want to keep that, but at the same time we don’t want to squash development or economic impact. The military is not opposed to development, the military just wants to train. And we want to keep the military here.”

Stewart said there are people in his neighborhood who know the Joint Land Use Study inside and out, and one of them will “have to keep an eye on San Antonio” to make sure they’re staying within the parameters of the study’s recommendations. He also said he was skeptical of the City’s claim of wanting to protect the military’s mission.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg (right) speaks with anti-anexation community member Mike Stewart.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Mayor Ron Nirenberg (right) speaks with Mike Stewart, who opposes annexation of his community near Camp Bullis, in August.

“There is a huge distrust of government in my community,” he said. “Those people at City Hall, we didn’t vote for them and they don’t always have the same ideas we have.”

Land use rules applied to the areas around the bases would only affect new development, Coyle said.

“All the existing conditions today are grandfathered in … So long the existing conditions remain, it wouldn’t affect existing homeowners,” Coyle said.

5 thoughts on “Bexar County Residents Near Military Bases Nix SA Annexation

  1. Yes, I agree San Antonio could be landlocked in the future. SB 6 allowed non-city residents to use the infrastructure, resources and services of the city without chipping in to pay for them. A more equitable law would have allowed the citizens of San Antonio to also be included in the decision to annex.

    • Analogous situation:
      You are a family of four living in your house. I, and 10 other people, have gathered together and want to live in your house. 11 is more than 4, which means we now get to take your house. So sorry.

      The people, like myself, who purposely and specifically built a house outside of San Antonio do not want to become a part of San Antonio. The denizens of the area that will be affected by a vote should be the people who get to vote on what happens in that area.

  2. I’d check your facts again, non-city residents do not get city services (police, fire, etc). Non-city residents do pay for CPS and SAWS. Is there something missing that non-city residents do not “chip-in” for?

  3. As a “non-city resident” I pay monthly payments to San Antonio’s CPS for electric and gas and SAWS for my water; plus, I pay a separate charge for my trash service; I also pay a separate tax to support the River Walk and San Antonio River maintenance; I also pay a separate tax for Emergency Fire and Ambulance service; and I pay a separate tax for the UT Health Complex on Medical Drive in San Antonio. I only use San Antonio streets to go shopping in San Antonio to support the restaurants and retail stores so that they can hire S.A residents with the profits. I also pay an 8.25% sales tax while in San Antonio. I also pay a tax for my automobile tags and a tax on the fuel that I put into my automobile, of which San Antonio gets a share. So, Marcial, please tell me again why I need to pay the City of San Antonio an additional $2000 a year. And why should you get to vote on taxing ME?

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