The City’s Planning Commission gave on Friday its first formal recommendation on San Antonio’s newest series of annexations.
The panel unanimously approved the plan for limited purpose annexation of nearly 15 square miles along Interstate 10 West. Many of the 7,000 parcels affected here lie west of the interstate, north of Loop 1604 and extend toward the Kendall County line.
Currently, more than 12,800 people live in this area, which is expected to have a population of nearly 23,000 within 20 years.
City leaders have been debating the pros and cons of using an aggressive annexation plan to manage the growth of residential and commercial developments in outerlying areas such as the I-10 corridor between Boerne and San Antonio.
Local officials say annexation, in the long run, can regulate the type and character of development, extend zoning, and require building permits and inspections. Some critics say San Antonio should concentrate on issues inside existing city limits. Other critics in areas targeted for annexation say they are better off with existing Bexar County services, and are worried about higher taxes under San Antonio’s jurisdiction.
John Dugan, director for the City’s Planning and Community Development Department, said San Antonio can provide greater value and more comprehensive services in areas eyed for annexation.
“Without zoning, you don’t have coordinated planning,” he added.
Planning Commission Chairman Marcello Diego Martinez agreed with the notion that annexation is a positive tool for addressing a large city’s growth. City Planning Administrator Nina Nixon-Mendez said that in recent years “suburban tier use has expanded also I-10 (West) while country tier has been reduced.”
“Development is coming no matter what. It’s important that we guide it,” Chairman Martinez said from the dais.
A dozen people, including residents from the area proposed for annexation, were in the audience Friday. But only one attendee, Susan Vogel, provided input during the public hearing part of the meting. For many reasons, she is against annexation.
Vogel explained she moved from Pennsylvania to San Antonio more than 30 years ago. But dealing with traffic and the other things that come with urban living compelled Vogel to seek more peace and quiet after just one year in the city.
Vogel found what she called “a little slice of heaven” in what is now San Antonio’s extraterritorial jurisdiction but close to the City of Boerne. Joining her sister in the area, Vogel said she knew she would have to provide for her own septic system on her one-acre property.
But she enjoys the level of basic services currently provided by Bexar County, such as law enforcement, infrastructure, as well as fire protection from Emergency Services District No. 4.
She said she feels San Antonio emergency first responders could not provide her neighborhood with a faster response time than what is already available from the ESD fire station or the nearby Leon Springs Volunteer Fire Department.
Vogel also told the Commission that she does so much more business and recreation in Boerne than in San Antonio, it is hard for her to see how annexation could benefit her.
“We shop in Boerne, we go to the Boerne library, we support Boerne schools,” Vogel said. “I have larger concern for (stray, wild) animals out there than I do about crime. We would like to be left alone.”
Vogel added that annexation is too critical of an issue for only a handful of elected and appointed leaders to decide when thousands of people will be affected.
“If you think this is such a wonderful thing, you should let people to vote on annexation,” she told commission members.
Limited purpose annexation means the City has up to three years to prepare the affected area for full annexation.
In addition to extending zoning and building codes, limited purpose annexation applies fees for development services, and would allow affected residents to vote in mayoral, council and recall elections, over the three-year period. Residents in a limited annexation area cannot run for the San Antonio City Council until full annexation.
But at the same time, those residents would not be able to vote in a city bond election, which San Antonio is considering for 2017.
Additionally, limited purpose annexation extends the City’s development codes, and waives related fees for 180 days after annexation. The City collects neither property nor sales taxes during the limited annexation period. More than 30 property owners in the area along I-10 West accepted the City’s offer for development agreements. This means their properties can remain for agricultural use for 10 years, and not be included in the annexation plan.
Commission Vice Chairman George Peck asked about how the City would apply its impervious coverage rules to the affected area during limited annexation. John Dugan told Peck that the City Council’s Neighborhoods and Livability Committee will meet Oct. 19 to discuss impervious cover on developments in limited annexation areas. The I-10 area along with another area eyed for annexation, along U.S. 281 North, sit above the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone.
Peck asked whether the City’s impervious coverage limits conflict with the Aquifer Protection Ordinance, which requires certain categorized properties over the recharge zone in Bexar County to have a completed aquifer protection plan before development of a site.
“That’ll be interesting to see how that turns out,” Peck said of the upcoming City committee discussion on impervious cover.
Following the meeting, Commission Chairman Martinez said annexation has benefited some areas but, without making specific references, other annexed areas have suffered because “not enough plans come with enough forethought.”
“The question we need to ask is, should the impact (of annexation) be positive or negative?” Martinez told the Rivard Report.
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“There have been some instances where it’s been a negative because it wasn’t planned well enough. Maybe a neighborhood hasn’t turned out so nice or streets aren’t wide enough for fire trucks to turn. We need to allow for growth and development in a positive way far into the future.”
Next up, the City Council will have its second public hearing at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 7, on proposed limited annexation of I-10 West, as well as U.S. 281 and an area along I-10 East. The Council will act on the I-10 West annexation on Oct. 29.
*Top image: The City of San Antonio has been reviewing a 14.9-square mile zone of land for possible limited purpose annexation. Courtesy image.