CORPUS CHRISTI – The city won’t expand by 16 square miles – today, anyway.
Although it was thought city leaders would take a second vote Tuesday that could have finalized the proposed annexation of a future wind farm site, the council instead opted to table the vote until its next meeting, Oct. 14.
In all, the council tabled three items related to the proposed annexation of land in the Chapman Ranch area – including a vote on the annexation itself, as well as a resolution for funding utility extensions to the annexed area and approval of proposed development agreements with land owners willing to restrict their land use – following a meeting in executive session.
“We take the annexation issue … seriously,” said City Councilman Rudy Garza Jr., who headed the meeting. “We think that (it is in) the council and the community’s best interest to have our mayor present and allow additional discussion on the item.”
Mayor Nelda Martinez is attending the Texas Municipal League’s annual conference in Houston this week.
The council took a preliminary vote to annex the property Sept. 16, and has the option to postpone a second vote about the annexation until December, according to city staff.
The council has considered annexing the area for several months, since it first came to light that a portion of a planned wind farm project by Apex Clean Energy would be inside the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction. The move to annex was initially discussed in an attempt to halt the project, and if failing to do so, give the city the authority to regulate its development. Among other concerns, officials have expressed fears that the wind farm would eliminate commercial and residential growth in that area, which lies in the path of one of Corpus Christi’s growth corridors. Those who do not support the annexation have raised questions about property rights and Southside sprawl.
Officials advised that the council meet in executive session about the annexation after receiving updated information on the negotiations between the city and Apex on Monday, said City Manager Ron Olson. He declined to elaborate on those discussions, but said he believed negotiations were making progress.
Jeff Ferguson, vice president for project development at Apex, said Tuesday that there have been two or three different iterations of development agreement offers made to the city in lieu of annexation. He was hopeful the city and company would continue negotiations until they had reached their conclusion, instead of be “pre-empted by what we would consider to be an early final vote in the process,” he said.
Among other concessions, Apex has offered to reduce its project size in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction by 7,186 acres from the original 10,458, according to the company’s website. Apex has also offered to make payments to the city that would amount to about 62 percent of what it would pay in ad valorem taxes on the entire property – including portions outside the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction – and restrict the life span of the wind farm to 30 years, Ferguson said. Should the city annex the land, it would incentivize the company to fully build out the wind farm to support the additional taxes it would need to pay on the portions in the extraterritorial jurisdiction, and the company would reserve the right to “repower” the facility for as long as a 100-year term, he said.
Olson would not confirm or deny the details of the negotiations or offers on the table related to the wind farm.
In an email to the Caller-Times, Assistant City Manager Wes Pierson described it as a fluid situation, in which nothing has been finalized.
“We are working hard to ensure that the best interests of the community are protected,” he wrote.
Following the vote to table the item, Shane Torno, spokesman for Citizens for Responsible Growth, said he understood why the council would postpone the final decision in the mayor’s absence, adding he hoped it reached a conclusion soon.
“We’d like to get this resolved,” he said. “There’s a lot of development that’s on hold out there.”
Carol Kirkpatrick, who was raised on Chapman Ranch in a home where her grandparents and parents lived, said she wasn’t sure of all the reasons the council postponed the vote. But she does not believe city leaders are taking Chapman Ranch residents into consideration in their decisions.
“Farming puts clothes and food on people’s tables, not real estate,” she said. “That has been a farming community since 1924, and the city wants to take that away from us.”
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