The Say-Town Lowdown – Guest Column

Really. This coming May 12. We’ll finally have our say on the PGA. No issue has generated as much open political conflict in recent years as the battle over the PGA Village development. For its proponents, the arrival of the PGA (there were two different entrances, it turned out) represented the opportunity to add a “world-class” golf resort to the city’s tourism industry and economic status. The PGA development was, in the words of one backer, “the gold standard.”

Opponents criticized a PGA scheme because it would be supported with public subsidies — first, in the form of a special-improvement district that would collect taxes in the area and support its development, then in the form of a long-term, non-annexation agreement given by the City.

Others who opposed the PGA deal expressed broader concerns about the environment and the increasing pace of new development over the Edwards Aquifer, our community’s primary source of drinking water. To promote and subsidize that development — and to contribute to large-scale paving and development over the recharge zone — appeared the height of folly.

Some 77,000 people signed petitions to put the PGA-development deal on the ballot in 2002 and allow the public to decide. Some argued that the promised golf courses and hotels were a far better alternative to thousands of houses on the 2,800 acres owned by Temple-Inland — at least there would be the possibility of some serious environmental controls and monitoring with PGA, they said.

A public vote didn’t happen. City Council went ahead with a non-annexation agreement that served much the same purpose as the special-improvement district, neatly avoiding petitions signed by thousands of our citizens. Then Bexar County approved precisely the same sort of improvement district that was the focus of much of the opposition in the first place.

Today, the Cibolo Canyon special-improvement district intended to capture county taxes for PGA Tour improvements is up and running, and the rolling hills east of 281 are growing with subdivisions and houses by the thousands — a scene reminiscent of Malvina Reynolds’ song “Little Boxes.”

Newmark Homes offers new homes there starting at $350,000 in Sueños: “Seemingly a world away from the clutter of urban existence, this blossoming tranquil paradise is only a short trip from downtown San Antonio and approximately 10 minutes from the San Antonio International Airport.”

Ten minutes from the airport? With the traffic lights off 281? Or driving two-lane Bulverde Road? The residents of that “blossoming tranquil paradise” won’t be able to manage quick trips to the airport or downtown without the road improvements tied to the proposed $550-million bond package. And what that relatively isolated golf resort needs to be saleable and workable is access. Making those trips work is now the responsibility of greater San Antonio, and building that world-class golf destination has given rise to the single largest street project in the City’s proposed bond program.

The $30 million for Bulverde Road from 1604 to Evans will artfully improve the traffic flow to the next project, $306,000 for Bulverde Road from Evans to Marshall Road. The latter project is a “cooperative initiative” with Bexar County, the North East Independent School District, and the “Cibolo Canyon PID.” That, of course, is the special-improvement district for the PGA

Another project, with $1.49 million in promised City-bond funds, would extend Stone Oak Parkway from 281 east to Bulverde Road. More cooperation, once again with the “Cibolo Canyon PID.”

All told, that comes to almost $32 million in our bond funds committed directly to provide those in that tranquil paradise direct access to 281 and 1604: or, more accurately, to aid Temple-Inland in the value and development of its property. That amounts to more than twice the funding for city parks (not including the $33.5 million Voelcker Ranch property) and a whole lot of youth soccer fields.

By signing the non-annexation agreement, the City adeptly exempted Temple-Inland and homeowners in the Cibolo Canyon district from contributing to the cost of their own development. They also won’t contribute anything to all of the other new roads, parks, and libraries the new development will require. We’ll pay for them instead.

Voting against the bond could certainly make some developers’ lives a whole lot different. 


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