Daily Record graphic by Colton Ashabranner
ETJ issues surface ahead of vote
The San Marcos City Council is set to have its final vote on annexing and rezoning a tract of land for the SMART (San Marcos Air, Rail and Truck) Terminal industrial park, along with a vote on an economic development agreement with the owners. However, a group of residents opposed to the development’s location says there are too many unresolved issues — including the issue of whether the property up for annexation and rezoning belongs to San Marcos in the first place.
City staff has said that a part of the initial 934 acres up for annexation was in an area of the San Marcos ETJ that overlaps with the Martindale ETJ. Council is set to vote tonight on annexing and rezoning 734.6 acres, with the remaining 200 acres still under dispute with Martindale. However, SMARTER San Marcos, the group opposed to the development’s location on land situated near State Highway 80 and Farm to Market Road 1984, noted that a 2016 map from the Caldwell County Appraisal District shows that the entire tract slated for annexation tonight lies within Martindale’s ETJ.
In a letter dated Feb. 20, 2019, Martindale City Attorney Kent Wymore argued that the 2007 ordinance that San Marcos passed expanding its ETJ was a faulty one that overstated the population of the city of San Marcos. State law allows a city with a population of 50,000 to have an ETJ that extends 3.5 miles out from its city limits. The 2007 San Marcos resolution stated that the city’s population had grown by 5 percent per year since 2000. The U.S. Census in 2000 had the city’s population at 34,733. Wymore argues that if the city had achieved 5 percent growth each year through 2007, the population would have been 46,543 — and that if 5 percent growth continued through 2008, the city’s population would have been 49,000. The most recent U.S. Census, from 2010, shows a population of 44,894 for San Marcos.
Moreover, starting in August 2007 — a month before San Marcos passed its ordinance extending its ETJ to 3.5 miles — Martindale passed numerous ordinances bringing properties into the Martindale ETJ, Wymore stated. The ordinances were passed at the request of the property owners.
“Martindale believes the ordinances show a substantial portion of the disputed area is located in Martindale’s ETJ,” the letter from Wymore states.
Also, the letter calls San Marcos’ initial ETJ swap proposal “fundamentally unacceptable” but that the city of Martindale wants to work in good faith with the city of San Marcos to resolve the ETJ issue.
After two emails asking about the state of ETJ talks between San Marcos and Martindale went unanswered, the Daily Record submitted a public records request to the city of San Marcos on March 4 asking for “all communications between the city of San Marcos and/or its representatives and the city of Martindale and/or its representatives regarding extraterritorial jurisdiction overlaps or conflicts, including potential ETJ swaps.” As of press time on March 18, the request was still “in progress.”
Attorney David Sergi, who represents SMARTER San Marcos, said that if the city’s ETJ ordinance proves to be faulty, then the maps from the Caldwell County Appraisal District would be valid.
“Number one, we need to slow down and let Martindale and San Marcos work out their issues,” he said. “Number, two, we need to figure out if San Marcos even has the ability to have an ETJ over there.”
Sergi also pointed out other questions about the development that have not been answered yet, such as whether the airport can handle cargo, whether the acreage could be an archeological site, whether allowing part of the land to remain under ag exemption can be done if it is zoned heavy industrial and whether digging for a water filtration facility at the site could hit the water table.
As to whether SMARTER San Marcos has a lawsuit planned, Sergi said it is a possibility.
“We’ve invited the city of Martindale, if we file a lawsuit, to join us, we have several adjoining landowners — at least one, if not two, that have asked us to include them in the lawsuit,” he said. “But I think all of that is unnecessary if we stop the rush to judgment, sit down, start talking about it, and work it through.”
Sergi and Schroeder both spoke to the Martindale City Council at its March 5 meeting about the project, with Sergi stating, “Our group is not opposed to growth. It is for intelligent growth.”
Schroeder noted that it was the first time he had spoken to the Martindale council and said, “I’m just seeking fairness and something good.”
The San Marcos City Council will meet at 6 p.m. tonight to vote on annexing the 734.6-acre tract, rezoning the land to Heavy Industrial and approving an economic development agreement with the SMART Terminal. Developers have said the terminal could bring as many as 2,500 jobs to the area and approximately double the tax base for the city of San Marcos. The developer, Michael Schroeder, has requested annexation into the city of San Marcos. If it is annexed, the SMART Terminal development would have to follow the rules of Code SMTX, including requirements to mitigate flooding and manage stormwater runoff.
Katerra, the first tenant of the proposed industrial rail park, already has a development agreement with the city that requires it to provide nearly 550 jobs at a pay rate above $15 per hour. Caldwell County officials have voiced support for both Katerra and the SMART Terminal.
Council will meet in the council chambers at City Hall, 630 E. Hopkins St. City council meetings are televised live on Spectrum Ch. 10 and Grande Ch. 16 or 123-16 and streamed online.