The City’s Planning Commission on Wednesday recommended the annexation of five corridors and enclaves, denied annexation of a sixth area, and took no action on a seventh.

The Planning Commission also approved five of six land use/sector plan amendments in conjunction with this latest round of annexation proposals.

City Council is scheduled to discuss annexations on Aug. 31, but with only one week left in the Texas Legislature’s special session, local lawmakers are keeping a close watch on Senate Bill 6, championed by State Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), which would restrict the ability of cities to annex unincorporated areas. The House failed to advance the bill on Monday. 

Several commission members and meeting attendees voiced concerns that annexations and land use changes, specifically in western Bexar County and along Interstate 10 East, could harm planned developments or lure undesired development to their area.

The commission endorsed the annexation of the Babcock Road corridor, Potranco Road/Loop 1604 West commercial corridor, Vance Jackson/Northwest 1604 tracts, Foster Road-area tracts, and the I-10 East/1604 East interchange area.

But the commission voted 5-2 to reject the annexation of the Wiseman Boulevard corridor. The commission also, in the end, took no action on annexing the Culebra Road/Alamo Ranch corridor.

Because City Council is set to consider the annexations and land use changes on Aug. 31, and because the commission appears to be taking no action in this case, the Culebra annexation can be deemed as recommended for approval, according to City staff.

City staff originally advised against annexing the Culebra/Alamo Ranch and Wiseman corridors, as well as the I-10 West commercial corridors, arguing that the City would lose money in the long run by adding those areas.

But Planning Manager Priscilla Rosales-Piña said because the Council wanted to wait for the Planning Commission’s position on the latest annexation proposals, City staff would recommend those two areas for annexation.

City staff does not recommend the annexation of an area near Interstate 10 West and Loop 1604.
The annexation of an area near Interstate 10 West and Loop 1604 is no longer on the City’s agenda. Credit: Courtesy / City of San Antonio

Because the 1-10 West corridor annexation proposal has been taken off the table, the City has cancelled a public hearing scheduled for Thursday night at Fair Oaks Ranch City Hall.

San Antonio is looking to address tiny tracts along West Bitters Road through an extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) adjustment with Hill Country Village.

City staff also recommended removing from the Foster Road annexation an existing residential neighborhood of about 150 residents.

As for plan sector/land use changes, the commission unanimously approved all of City staff’s recommendations, save for the Potranco/1604 corridor, which was denied by a 5-2 vote.

A handful of attendees at the commission meeting questioned the proposed annexations and land use changes for various reasons.

Hugo Gutierrez, who owns properties in different areas eyed for annexation, said he’s afraid that the land use amendments could prevent how his tracts are developed under existing master development plans (MDP) he has in hand.

Others in the crowd shared Gutierrez’s sentiment. Attorney Patrick Christensen said a client of his, Meritage Homes, is now worried that homebuyers for its latest development in the Wiseman area will suddenly face City taxes and other cost adjustments they had not expected.

Attorney James McKnight explained how clients of his, property owners in different areas slated for annexation, are concerned that land use changes could impact their planned developments.

“Many of our clients are opposed to annexation, but we’re willing to work with the City,” McKnight added.

Mike Reyna, owner of a 270-acre tract near Loop 1604 and U.S. Highway 90, had similar concerns despite already having a MDP for a regional retail center.

Randy Lejeski, a farmer in the I-10 East annexation area, said annexation and land use changes could put him out of business. He fears undesired development could draw closer to his land, and that land use revisions would force him to relocate much of his farming equipment – an expensive endeavor.

“You’re cutting my lifeline off,” Lejeski added.

City staff said projects with a valid MDP, or a plan that has been recently created or updated, should be able to proceed without much change, if changes are needed at all.

The City reached out to property owners of undeveloped, underdeveloped, and rural tracts in the areas proposed for annexation, offering them non-annexation/development agreements.

Forty-nine of those property owners, representing 1,918 acres in total, signed agreements, meaning those properties could remain as they are.

Staff explained that the City followed state laws by extending extra courtesies in notifying property owners of the proposed annexations and land use changes. The City did get responses from several property owners expressing opposition among the various areas planned for annexation.

Still, a few property owners said they failed to receive notice of the proposed annexations and land use changes, and about annexation open houses held earlier this summer.

A few property owners who received development agreement offers complained they didn’t have enough time to weigh their options. Commission member Kacy Cigarroa asked Lejeski if he thought the City clearly explained the annexation and land use proposals.

“I don’t think it was explained well,” Lejeski said. “I’m older and there are people in the community who are in their 70s or 80s.” Lejeski also said he felt the development agreement offer “was pushed on us [property owners].”

Meg Reyes, executive director of installation encroachment for Joint Base San Antonio, said her agency has been working with the City and several affected property owners, specifically those in the annexation areas near Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

City leaders have defended annexation as a growth management tool to be used to protect local military missions.

“We just want compatible land use,” Reyes said.

But commission members acknowledged the concerns of critics for particular areas.

“I don’t think this has been thought out on how affects certain property owners,” Cigarroa said.

Commission Chairman George Peck said the proposed land use changes have potential to disrupt, if not outright stop, certain projects that are in development or in the planning stages.

“The name of the game is certainty, and that creates uncertainty,” he added.

If annexation were not to go forward in these areas, the affected MDPs would be subject only to Bexar County’s platting/replatting requirements.

The Council was scheduled to host the second of two public hearings Wednesday night on the proposed annexations. The City’s Zoning Commission will hold its own public hearing Aug. 15. Any annexation approved by the Council will go into effect Aug. 31.

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Edmond Ortiz

Edmond Ortiz, a lifelong San Antonian, is a freelance reporter/editor who has worked with the San Antonio Express-News and Prime Time Newspapers.