Commentary: Alamo Ranch Should Fight San Antonio Annexation

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Alamo Ranch. Photo by Richard Cash.

Entrance to Alamo Ranch. Photo by Richard Cash.

Many property owners have been calling Alamo Ranch home for many years now. They love the quiet neighborhoods and the aesthetic look and feel of the area. Alamo Ranch is located on the far west side of Bexar County just outside Loop 1604 off of Culebra Rd. Currently there are more than 10,000 homes in this area with a population between 8,000 and 10,000 residents. Commercial development is starting to creep in and it will only get worse – especially if San Antonio has its way and annexes the Alamo Ranch area.

San Antonio would more than likely start off with a limited-purpose annexation, which would extend zoning and building regulations to Alamo Ranch and other areas purposed for annexation. This will supposedly allow time for the city of San Antonio to work on a plan to fully annex the purposed areas within the next three years. During the time of a limited purpose annexation we will not receive city services and we will not be taxed. Property owners affected by limited purpose annexation are not allowed to run for public office in San Antonio or vote in city bond elections. Under limited annexation, property owners can vote in elections for mayor and City Council. The city will decide whether to fully annex at the end of the three years. If fully annexed by San Antonio, property owners would see a 20- 25% increase in property taxes.

Click here to view San Antonio’s Annexation Plan 360. San Antonio’s purposed timeline for annexation is a four-year process: a planning study in 2015; public hearings 2016 – 2018; full purpose annexation in 2018.

Most of the residents in the Alamo Ranch area are opposed to the annexation. In November 2014, I began looking for ways to prevent annexation from happening. I took notice of a couple of cities that were able to incorporate just south of San Antonio, such as Von Ormy and Sandy Oaks. Von Ormy Mayor Art Martinez de Vara is largely credited with the incorporation of both cities, so it seemed logical to reach out to the man that has had success and knowledge in this area.

 Von Ormy Mayor Art Martinez de Vara

Von Ormy Mayor Art Martinez de Vara

The Committee to Incorporate Alamo Ranch was formed on Jan. 31. Another meeting was held on Feb. 7 for the property owners in Alamo Ranch to get information on incorporation. Mayor de Vara gave a presentation and answered questions concerning incorporation. The committee is even garnering participation from state officials like state Rep. Rick Galindo, who lives in the District that includes Alamo Ranch who attended the incorporation meeting and is supportive of our efforts to find a solution that works for all our residents and neighbors.

Mayor de Vara is Chief of Staff to Sen. Konni Burton (R-Colleyville). They worked on Senate Bill 615 (SB 615). Mayor de Vara also reached out to have Rep. Galindo to draft a companion bill, HB 2669. These laws will effectively put an end to the forced annexation process that San Antonio or any other municipalities have been using.

area map alamo ranch annexation

San Antonio has municipal debt of $9.9 billion. The city has passed bond issues that have added to that debt. City officials now want to bring in a group of 200,000 Bexar County property owners to help pay for that debt. We don’t have a vote in the matter. I take great issue with the City of San Antonio trying to force me to pay for something that I had no say in. Had I voted for those bond issues that led to the debt, then I would accept that I would need to pay for it. Forced annexation is just plain unconstitutional if you ask me.

I would prefer to remain in Bexar County and have San Antonio leave us alone, but I know this will not be the case and simply hoping for the best is not a good plan to fend off annexation. I’ve have come to the conclusion that the only way to stop annexation is incorporation.

Proposed boundaries of the City of Alamo Ranch by Richard Cash.

Proposed boundaries of the City of Alamo Ranch by Richard Cash.

I had a lengthy phone conversation a couple of weeks ago with Bexar County Commissioner Chico Rodriguez who told me he supports our efforts to incorporate. He told me directly that our new city could continue to receive fire and police services from Bexar County if we chose to enter into a service contract for continued service at no additional tax cost to us (see below). Several incorporated cities are currently doing this.

Points to Consider on Incorporation:

  1. Fire and police service: The residents in Alamo Ranch already pay for police and fire services in our taxes to Bexar County. Emergency Service District 2 (ESD2) already receives $2.3 million in tax revenue per year. If we incorporate we do not have to run out and buy police cars, fire trucks, build fire and police stations or hire policemen and firemen. We already get these services through Bexar County paid with our tax dollars. The new city can enter into service contracts with Bexar County to continue to provide these services at no additional cost. The only time we would ever pay more for these services is if Bexar County raised our taxes. So police and fire services would not cost the new city any more than what we’re already paying.
  2. Trash service: Our new city does not have to get into the trash service business. Property owners and businesses can still contract with their trash service providers for no additional cost to property owners. The only reason cost would go up is if trash service provider raises their fee.
  3. Utilities: Most of us have our power and water provided by CPS Energy and SAWS, public utilities owned by San Antonio. They will continue to provide these services at no additional cost.
  4. Roads: Repair and maintenance can be contracted out on a case-by-case basis with local contractors. I am looking into the possibility of the city entering into service contracts with Bexar County. Most roads in our area are new and will not require immediate or extensive maintenance or repair.
  5. Mowing and irrigation: Most of this is currently being done by individual HOAs, POAs, businesses, and property owners.
  6. Animal Control: I’m still researching this to see if Bexar County will continue this service.
  7. Municipal Offices / Court: – As a new city we do not need to go out and start building new offices and other structures to house our municipal offices. We can simply lease office space until we are ready to build our own.

Sources of Income for the City of Alamo Ranch:

  1. Sales Taxes: When utilities and other industries use city property to distribute their services, cities are permitted by law to collect rental fees, also known as “franchise” fees, for the use of public property. Franchise fees are calculated by various methods, depending on industry type.
  2. Franchises: Cities may collect fees for issuing permits for building construction, environmental regulation, and for other services. Because cities incur costs to regulate in these areas, the permit fees must be tied to the cost of providing the service.
  3. Permits and Fees:  A city that operates a municipal court may impose fines for violations of traffic laws and city ordinances. Maximum fines typically range from $200 for traffic violations, up to $2,000 for city ordinance violations relating to health and safety. Much of a city’s fine revenue offsets the cost of law enforcement and operation of the municipal court system. Builders permit for new homes: San Antonio charges $1,503 per home for homes between 2,501-3,000 sq. ft. Fees depend on the square footage of the home.
  4. Property Tax: We all know what this is.
  5. Interest Earnings: When a city invests its funds, it must closely follow the mandates of the Public Funds Investment Act. Because of the twin concerns of safety and liquidity, investment income is a relatively small source of city revenue.

If we incorporate, all the business heading toward Rio Medina along the left side of Culebra Road after Westwood Loop would be included in the new city. All the future businesses that go in next to the Bush’s Chicken along Westwood Loop would be in our city. One half of the new Santiko’s Casablanca Theater and possibly some of those pad sites will be in our city. We have two Valero’s, a CVS and Walgreens pharmacies. We will soon have an H-E-B, too. We will have five apartment complexes in the Alamo Ranch area. We would easily be able to sustain our new city if we incorporate. I moved out here to be out of San Antonio. Had I wanted to live in San Antonio, I would have moved inside San Antonio.

In a recent interview, City Planning Director John Dugan stated that by 2020 the areas that are annexed would bring in an additional $70 million for San Antonio. He went on to say that those funds could be used to “play catch up” in other areas of San Antonio. Which leads me to believe that there is a very real possibility that we would never see any of our tax dollars invested in our area for development and improvements. Why not incorporate and use our tax dollars in our area and focus on developments and improvements that would benefit us, our children and our children’s children?

I believe we need to keep our money close to home. I do not see any value in paying San Antonio for services that we could get at no additional cost or at a fraction of the millions that San Antonio would have us pay. It’s a value issue: why pay another cable service provider $430.00 dollars a month when you can get service from another one for $130.00? I simply do not see any value in being annexed by San Antonio.

I sat down with both Judge Nelson Wolf and House Representative Rick Galindo, who both stated that they support our efforts to incorporate should we decide to do so.

This is a decision that will affect all the property owners in the Alamo Ranch area and we are trying to get the word out to everyone. A Facebook group has been created to update and inform property owners of the incorporation progress. Additionally a webpage is currently under construction that will provide a way to stay informed of important meeting dates and times.

San Antonio has plans to annex the Alamo Ranch in 2016 so we must act quickly and have a plan in place to present to the property owners. The committee to incorporate Alamo Ranch also is creating an unincorporated nonprofit association and will solicit local business and resident to help fund the fight against annexation by incorporation. If you would like more information or would like to donate please visit www.cityofalamoranch.com.

 

*Featured/top image: Entrance to Alamo Ranch. Photo by Richard Cash.

Related Stories:

San Antonio Focuses on Annexation Strategy

Bexar County Sixth on U.S. Census List for Population Growth

SA Tomorrow: It’s Your Turn to Plan San Antonio’s Future

Comprehensive Planning Not So Easy to Follow

City Planning for San Antonio Growth Bomb

 

2 thoughts on “Commentary: Alamo Ranch Should Fight San Antonio Annexation

  1. So if I am understanding correctly, you are looking to continue enjoying the economic, cultural, and other types of benefits of living just outside a major US city without contributing to that city the way that those of us who live in city boundaries do. Cool.

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