The City of San Antonio is beginning a months-long review of potential regulations for areas of unincorporated Bexar County near Camp Bullis/Camp Stanley and Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

City staff proposes that new regulations be based on the City’s revised land use categories in the SA Tomorrow plan and be aligned with the existing joint land use studies (JLUS) for Lackland and Camp Bullis.

Briefing the City Council on Wednesday, Development Services Director Michael Shannon said new regulations would apply only to future development within what would be designated a Military Protection Area (MPA), a five-mile radius around the two military facilities.

City Council is tentatively slated to consider a set of regulations this June. The regulations, Shannon said, would still afford the City a significant amount of oversight in these areas to protect functions at the bases from encroaching development.

Residents in those areas in November rejected annexation by San Antonio, which would have allowed the City to impose some level of regulation of future development in accordance with the Lackland JLUS.

A new state law passed in 2017 decreased the authority of unilateral annexation by cities in the biggest Texas counties, and gives voters in those areas the ability to vote on proposed annexation.

San Antonio’s new regulations, including any enforcement, would not be imposed on residents and businesses in established neighborhoods in these MPAs.

“This is our opportunity to put appropriate land use controls on those areas – working with the developers moving forward – that have been identified in the JLUS studies,” Shannon said.

The MPA for Lackland and its Medina training annex, according to the City, would cover 20.2 square miles, or nearly 13,000 acres, and currently includes 40,205 people. Nearly 60 percent of the area is vacant.

The MPA for Camp Bullis/Camp Stanley would measure 22.3 square miles, or 14,332 acres, and currently includes a population of 18,780. Thirty-six percent of the area is vacant. All land in both areas is in the City’s extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ).

The City’s review process will involve meetings in February and March with residents in the proposed buffer zones, representatives from the local development community, and property owners who have or are about to begin a master development plan.

The Planning Commission and its Technical Advisory Committee will take up the proposed regulations in April, followed by the Zoning Commission in May. A Council committee will study the proposals between May and June.

Existing regulations currently allowed in the ETJ include ordinances affecting tree preservation and signage, platting, master development plans, and notification of the military bases.

The new regulations specifically addressing the two MPAs would require an amendment to the City’s Unified Development Code (UDC).

Shannon said basing regulations in the MPAs on land use designations instead of zoning still permits property owners and developers flexibility on the future use of their land while providing overall protection to the missions at Camp Bullis and Lackland.

If a future development passes muster, it will be granted a certificate of compliance.

Shannon added: “The land use categories will give a range of uses allowed on that property, not just one typical zoning designation, and working with the military and our stakeholders, we believe that this will have appropriate regulations and safeguards to regulate things like density, appropriate uses, those types of things that the military needs and has identified in the JLUS.”

Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Council members said despite their different views on annexation, some level of regulation must be levied to help protect local military missions from encroaching development.

“The one thing we do agree on is that we need to protect our military bases,” Nirenberg added.

Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) agreed protecting the military missions is important, but expressed concern that the City may impose new regulations based on outdated land use studies. The last Camp Bullis JLUS was published in 2009; the last Lackland study came out in 2011.

He added that if regulations are coming to an area where annexation was rejected via an election, property owners there deserve rules based on the latest data and input from the military and community members.

“If we’re taking initial steps to hinder private property rights of people who’ve clearly stated they don’t want to be annexed, it appears to me that we should probably have the most current [information],” he said.

Juan Ayala, director of the City’s military affairs office, agreed that San Antonio could be a partner in updating joint land use studies for Camp Bullis and Lackland.

He added that Alamo Area Council of Governments is currently applying for a federal grant that could help fund such updates.

Councilman Clayton Perry (D10), a tri-chair of the City’s Military Transformation Task Force, said he likes the idea of updating the land use studies.

“I’ll be the first one to jump and say we need the resources to fund this,” he said.

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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.