Corpus Christi could grow by a little more than 16 square miles as part of municipal leaders’ pursuit to control the development of a proposed wind farm in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction.
On Tuesday, the City Council will consider supporting a resolution stating its intent to begin annexing the land, located within a portion of the project boundaries for a proposed wind farm in the Chapman Ranch area. The resolution directs city staff to prepare plans to extend municipal services to the identified area, and also to set two public hearings on the annexation. An ordinance – which, if ultimately approved, would make the annexation official – could go before the council as early as September, said Assistant City Manager Wes Pierson.
The council has discussed how best to address the possibility of a wind farm going up in the area since March. Although city leaders have raised a number of concerns about the project, at the crux of opposition are fears the project would stifle the city’s southward march of residential and commercial growth.
Officials have said annexation would give the city the power to regulate development such as a wind farm, which is considered a heavy industrial use of the land.
“It is the only area where the city can grow,” Mayor Nelda Martinez said Monday. “The Southside (has) the largest momentum of our growth corridor, and we’re looking at this long-term and proactively… The resolution is a formality, but it’s also a clear communication of how we want to move forward.”
The move comes about a month after the developer of the project, Apex Clean Energy, wrote a letter to the City Council requesting the groups come up with a compromise that would help address city officials’ concerns.
In the letter, company representatives contended there had been no analysis performed to support the argument that the farm could prevent the city’s growth, asserting that their understanding of “growth trends suggests that there will not be significant growth in the area of Chapman Ranch for 30-50 years.” By that time the wind farm will have reached the end of its operational life, according to the document.
In an email to the Caller-Times on Monday, Apex spokeswoman Dahvi Wilson wrote that the company has offered to voluntarily reduce the size of the wind farm investment within the Corpus Christi extraterritorial jurisdiction by about $125 million. The original amount of investment in the city’s ETJ was $500 million, she said.
Apex originally wanted to build an estimated 20,000-acre wind farm, populated by about 175 turbines, on private lands leased near Chapman Ranch, some of which fell within the city’s ETJ. It was planned to include area south of Farm-to-Market Road 2444 and South Staples Street, much of it west of State Highway 286.
It was not immediately clear Monday afternoon how the city’s prospective annexation plans could impact the future of the project.
In all, it is believed that there are 16 homes within the 16.34 square miles the city is considering annexing, according to council documents.
The resolution is considered the first step toward the formal annexation, Pierson said. If approved, the next steps in the process would involve scheduling two public hearings on the annexation.
In the agenda memo to the council is a provision that council members instead could vote to annex the 16.34 square miles, except for land that has been designated for an agricultural or wildlife management use, or timber land location. Pierson said it would allow the council to consider not annexing the land of property owners who essentially would agree not to have turbines on their property, he said.
Council documents state that because there is a small population in the area, the costs to extend services needed immediately, such as police and fire protection and access to libraries, would be absorbed into the city department budgets. Pierson didn’t give an exact figure but described the costs as “very nominal.”
But it was not immediately clear what the long-term costs would be. Council documents state that as the area grows, capital improvements for wastewater and water would be needed. Preliminary estimates indicate that infrastructure improvements to service the area could run about $13 million to $14 million, although Pierson cautioned that those figures contain a number of changing variables, and the improvements would not be needed for several years.
There are costs associated with any expansion, City Councilman Rudy Garza Jr. said. Those costs concern him, he said, but he was hopeful that if the city were to annex the land, it could guide development in such as way that the revenue generated could help pay for the services provided.
Garza intends to support the resolution on Tuesday, but said he would need to wait for firm figures on the cost to provide services for the annexed land, and listen to the feedback from the hearings, before reaching a conclusion on supporting formal annexation.