City Council voted 9-2 to approve annexation plans for a 1.6 square mile area within the U.S. Highway 281 Commercial Corridor Thursday.

The properties within the area are primarily commercial, but 18 of them are residential, Deputy City Manager Peter Zanoni said. The annexation will go into effect on Dec. 31, thus making the parcels part of the city limits. This means the City must provide full police and fire services and a service plan which includes street lighting, health, and library services by the beginning of 2017. These additional services are estimated to cost $1.2 million.

The decision came as part of a three-year annexation plan that includes a compromise where a larger, more densely-populated residential area on the Northside around U.S. 281 won’t come into city limits until 2034. Two public hearings are scheduled in January and City Council will reconsider the non-annexation agreement in February 2017.

“This is the final step in a series of actions that began two or more years ago when the City was not prepared to provide basic services (in those areas),” Councilman Joe Krier (D9) said, adding that the compromise allows the City to accomplish two important goals.

“It helps bring property into the city in a phased and organized way and allows us be good stewards of the City’s financial resources. Those who buy and sell homes between now and 2034 will know what will happen.”

Mayor Ivy Taylor speaks following the CVB presentation during a city council meeting. Photo by Scott Ball.
Mayor Ivy Taylor speaks during a city council meeting.

Mayor Ivy Taylor said that although many Council members’ views on the plan have evolved over time, implementing it has not been a rushed process.

“We have been working on this plan even before I accepted this seat,” she said, adding that the environment and the city’s economy have been taken into consideration along the way.

Zanoni’s plans Thursday included a revision of the original area in question, where 37 parcels in Comal County and three parcels in Bexar County totaling .37 square miles were removed. An additional parcel in the lower portion of the corridor near Marshall Road also was taken out. A last minute request from a land owner to exclude his property from the plan was brought forth by Councilman Mike Gallagher (D10) through an amendment, but was eventually withdrawn.

“Growth should pay for itself, and we’ve seen overtime that with growth in San Antonio we’ve had to pay for it over and over again,” said Ron Nirenberg (D8), who voted against the annexation alongside Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5). “We’re moving more and more away from the urban core … we must improve services in areas that don’t get them.”

Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5). Photo by Scott Ball.
Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5). Photo by Scott Ball.

Gonzales expressed concern about how the annexation will affect police and fire service response times, adding that she has seen an increase in crime, violence, and drug activity in her community.

“Our goal will not change,” said San Antonio Police Chief William McManus. “We will be adding seven additional officers and additional vehicles to the area. There will be no impact, and (it will be) a seamless transition.”

In addition to adding City services, there was also concern regarding impervious cover rules and possible environmental consequences to the Edwards Aquifer Recharge zone. One mile of the annexation area falls over the Edwards Aquifer, but “60% of that is already developed,” Zanoni said.

Alamo Sierra Club Conservation Co-Chair Meredith Maguire and Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance Executive Director Annalisa Peace, who both stood up to speak, fervently opposed the annexation plans due to the reduction of impervious cover in the area. Peace added that 386 people signed a petition against this annexation.

Zanoni told the Rivard Report that regardless of impervious cover, developers have to deal with “best management practices” and that water quality won’t deteriorate. In addition, “overlay districts that were approved today in the Edward’s Recharge zone have certain restrictions, which actually helps with more regulation, control, and land use management in the area.”

Councilman Ron Nirenberg (D8) calls for more City Council oversight of the Vista Ridge water pipeline project.
Councilman Ron Nirenberg (D8) calls for more City Council oversight of the Vista Ridge water pipeline project. Credit: Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / San Antonio Report

Nirenberg said that concerns not only pertain to impervious cover and water quality, but also to issues with flooding and density. Reducing impervious cover, he added, is not conducive to protecting nearby military bases.

“I’m trying to speak on behalf of a lot of issues,” he said. “We have to be thoughtful about it.”

Zanoni said that the City is also considering annexation of high growth areas near I-10 East. “Right now there’s not enough property value (to annex),” he said. “But we’re working with the City of Converse, trying to give those areas municipal services like fire and police service. We’re trying to find a regional solution.”

The City is also exploring action steps for areas in Alamo Ranch and areas near Loop 1604 and U.S. 90 around Lackland Airforce Base, Zanoni said, but those recommendations won’t be brought to Council until next year.

“This area is doable and there’s sufficient revenue to provide services, but it needs more analysis,” Zanoni told the Rivard Report. “Today was just an update.”

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Rocío Guenther

Rocío Guenther worked as a bilingual reporter and editorial assistant for the Rivard Report from June 2016 to October 2017. She is originally from Guadalajara, Mexico and holds a bachelor's in English...