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City And Homeowners Squaring Off Over Annexation Bill That May Face Final Vote Sunday

Ryan E. Poppe
A bill that would allow property owners to decide whether they want to be annexed by a city may face a final debate in the Texas House on Sunday.

This weekend state lawmakers have a packed calendar as they race to decide bills before the end of the session on May 29.

  One bill they’re scheduled to debate would allow residents to vote on whether they want to be annexed by a city.  The City of San Antonio is lobbying hard to kill the bill.  Some area homeowners are working just as hard to make sure it passes. 

Mike Stewart lives in the upscale subdivision of Sable Chase, North of Loop 1604 and just East of I-10. Right now residents there don’t pay city taxes because the neighborhood sits just outside the San Antonio City limits.  But in September the San Antonio City Council voted to annex Sable Chase. It’s a process that will take about three years.

Stewart says most of the Sable Chase homeowners oppose annexation because about all they’d get out of it is a bigger property tax bill.

“We have phenomenal service at a great value so we don’t see anything that the City San Antonio can provide to us in addition to what we have today.  Yet it’s about a 23 percent tax increase for us to do that,” said Stewart.

The battle over his neighborhood prompted Stewart to organize Homeowners Against Annexation.  He’s the president.  The group is now pressing state lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 715, authored by Republican Sen. Donna Campbell of New Braunfels.  It would require cities like San Antonio to gain the approval of property owners before annexing them.

“We support this bill that gives us the right to vote on whether we want to be annexed or not.  We’re not saying don’t annex.  We’re just saying ask us.  If it’s good for the community it should be an easy sell, right?”

Jeff Coyle, the city’s Director of Government and Public Affairs, says he understands how the homeowners feel,  but says the city opposes the bill because it would prevent the city from protecting military bases from light exposure and development that could jeopardize military operations.  Stewart’s subdivision sits on the border of Camp Bullis.

“It is critically important for San Antonio that we protect our military bases from the encroachment of development around them.  In the city we’ve largely done that, but in the areas in the county we don’t have those protections.   So our City Council is moving forward with annexations that bring in areas around our bases so we can protect them,” said Coyle.

Stewart believes the city already has tools to control those potential problems and that local officials just want to increase the city’s tax base with the addition of a fairly wealthy subdivision.  

The annexation legislation is scheduled for what could be a final debate in the Texas House on Sunday. 

Shelley Kofler is Texas Public Radio’s news director. She joined the San Antonio station in December 2014 and leads a growing staff that produces two weekly programs; a daily talk show, news features, reports and online content. Prior to TPR, Shelley served as the managing editor and news director at KERA in Dallas-Fort Worth, and the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.