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San Antonio will give up a total of 3.6 square miles of land over the next 17 years, some of which was extraterritorial jurisdiction that the City had considered annexing.
Converse, a small town of 22,000 people in San Antonio’s Northeast Side, will add a total of 12 square miles and bring full services to the The Glen and Camelot II neighborhoods.
The San Antonio Council voted unanimously on March 9 to approve the interlocal agreement. Tuesday’s vote in Converse essentially seals the deal.
“This is good for the City. This will change the City,” Mayor Al Suarez said prior to the vote following a lengthy discussion. “It’s a historic decision. We have to control growth or it’ll control us.”
Councilmembers Chris Clark and Deborah James voted against the plan. Clark felt the Council has not had enough time to review the annexation agreement.
“I’m here to make the right decision for what I think citizens want,” James said.
Developer and philanthropist Gordon Hartman told the Converse Council that hundreds of new homes, planned or already built, will add to the tax base after annexation.
He announced plans to develop land between Loop 1604 and FM 1516, a development that could accommodate hundreds more homes, as well as land for a public park and possibly a future school.
More land on the same tract would be donated to Converse that could become an emergency response station.
Hartman added the new development would include an extension of Binz-Engleman Road, giving southern Converse a much-needed west-east route.
“This can help Converse in so many ways. The annexation makes this happen,” Hartman added.
Homebuilders have three communities along Loop 1604, currently outside Converse city limits, that would be added post-annexation.
Several Converse residents spoke for and against the annexation agreement on Tuesday. Most of the speakers live in Converse, but a few others hailed from properties eyed for annexation.
Former Mayor Craig Martin was among a handful of people calling the pursuit of annexation a monumental decision for Converse.
Advocates for annexation say it provides Converse a chance to expand its boundaries and tax base with more room for residential and commercial development.
“You have a chance to plan for growth or wake up one day and say, what happened with all the growth?” Martin said. “Make Converse the city of champions.”
“This is going to be one of the most historic days in Converse,” said Steve Brown. “We’ve talked about this ad nauseam. This isn’t something we’re rushing into.”
Rupesh Patel, owner of a Best Western motel on Interstate 10 near current Converse city limits, said he often refers guests to restaurants and other destinations inside Converse.
Patel said, while annexation in his area is years in the future, it is exciting to think of the business growth that will be coming.
“I support annexation from a commercial aspect,” he added.
Some opponents said Converse should concentrate on improving what it has now, and ensure its basic resources are not stretched thin to cover the new properties.
“There are some things this Council needs to focus on fixing,” said Peggy Clark. “I’m afraid you’ll forget about us, the residents who have lived here a long time.”
Others are worried about the impact of Converse’s taxes, especially for lower income residents.
“So many in the area are elderly, disabled or just trying to make ends meet as it is already,” said Susan Coldewey. “We don’t want taxes added on. We’d have to start deciding what to cut out.”
Detractors from the targeted neighborhoods also wanted the ability to vote on annexation. Texas Legislature is considering a law that would require just that.
“We just want a voice on our destiny,” added Brian Jeffries.
The first phase of annexation would happen by Dec. 31 of this year with San Antonio ceding 1.29 sq. mi. of territory, including most of the Northampton subdivision, part of the Gibbs-Sprawl Road commercial corridor, and part of Loop 1604.
Converse would add nearly 1 square mile of unincorporated land between 1604 and Farm Road 1516 by the same date.
By Dec. 31, 2020, San Antonio would give up the rest of Northampton, and more land along 1604 and on Gibbs-Sprawl. Converse would take in The Glen by then.
By Dec. 31, 2033, San Antonio would cede the rest of Gibbs-Sprawl, and territory along I-10. Converse would annex the entirety of Camelot II.
With their current location in unincorporated Bexar County, The Glen and Camelot II have drawn some scrutiny in recent years for blighted conditions and inconsistency in some basic services.
In late 2015, San Antonio and Bexar County started a pilot program to bring trash service to Camelot II. But the City in 2016 excluded Camelot and I-10 properties from its long-range annexation plans, deeming it too costly to add them.
Deputy San Antonio City Manager Peter Zanoni said the interlocal pact will continue solid waste collection in the current unincorporated areas between the end of the pilot program and full annexation by Converse.
Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Calvert (P3) tried to allay the concerns of those opposed to the deal. He noted that with annexation, Converse would provide full-time fire and EMS protection to neighborhoods currently playing taxes into surrounding Emergency Service Districts.
Therefore, overall tax bills could be reduced for many of the Converse newcomers, especially those homeowners eligible for the City’s tax exemptions, while they enjoy all City services.
Dist. 120 State Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D-San Antonio) expressed confidence that Converse will look out for elderly and disabled residents through annexation.
“Put in the tools to protect the most vulnerable populations,” she said.
Calvert also said the County aims to improve roads in the unincorporated
areas before Converse annexes them.
“There will be no neglect of any of the areas,” Calvert said. “There will be revitalization.”
Zanoni said San Antonio’s annexation deal with Converse means careful direction of future development in the area, protection of Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, promotion of economic growth, and a higher level of services for the affected neighborhoods.
“It’s a financial positive to the City of Converse,” he added.