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Plan Envisions tripling size of Converse

Posted: 03/09/2017
Author: By Vianna Davila STAFF WRITER

 The city of Converse is holding public meetings over the next week about the proposed annexations:

7 p.m. Thursday - Converse City Hall conference room, 403 S. Seguin Road., Converse.

7 p.m. Monday - Judson High School Cafeteria, 9695 Schaefer Road, Converse.

7 p.m. Tuesday - Copperfield Elementary School Cafeteria, 7595 E. Loop 1604 North, Converse.

7 p.m. March 15 - Converse Elementary School, 6720 FM 1516 North, Converse.

7 p.m. March 17 - Wagner High School Cafeteria, 3000 N. Foster Road, San Antonio.

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As part of a renegotiated agreement with San Antonio, the suburban city of Converse has proposed annexing 12 square miles of northeastern Bexar County, in addition to absorbing several large commercial corridors currently in the Alamo City.

The deal will more than triple Converse’s size but also will bring city services to a notoriously underserved part of the county.

The San Antonio City Council is to vote on the agreement Thursday. The Converse City Council is tentatively set to vote on the deal March 21.

The annexations, if approved, will take place in six phases over the next 17 years.

San Antonio officials had planned to annex part of this area, just north of Interstate 10 East, which includes the Camelot II neighborhood, an area plagued with absentee landlords, high crime and poor services.

In Texas, urban counties have little power to provide municipal-like services, including trash pickup, in unincorporated areas. Homeowners and homeowner associations usually partner with private companies for trash pickup, but often that doesn’t happen in areas like Camelot II, where absentee landlords are less likely to pay for the service.

San Antonio officials eventually abandoned their plan to absorb these neighborhoods after realizing they would lose more money providing services then they’d gain in property tax revenue.

So they partnered with Converse, a suburb of about 22,000 people that’s been looking to grow but was landlocked.

If all of the annexations and land swaps go through, Converse’s population will grow to more than 68,000 people by 2033, the year all of the various annexation deals will be complete. The city will grow from 7 square miles to about 22.7 square miles, San Antonio’s Deputy City Manager Peter Zanoni said.

Converse has been in discussion with San Antonio about such a trade for years. Talks got particularly serious last fall, after San Antonio’s annexation plans fell through, and both cities jointly announced a deal in January.

At that time, the plan was for Converse to take a smaller chunk of the unincorporated county. But Converse agreed to annex a much larger area — roughly twice as big — in exchange for San Antonio turning over control of several profitable commercial corridors currently in the larger city’s limits.

Those include sections of Gibbs Sprawl Road, FM 1516, Foster Road, FM 78, Crestway and Kittyhawk roads, and along Loop 1604 and I-10 East. In the previously proposed deal, Converse only was going to get the Gibbs Sprawl and Loop 1604 commercial corridors.

The addition of the highly-traveled Loop 1604 and I-10 corridors is likely to prove particularly lucrative for Converse in terms of property and sales tax revenue.

By 2033, Converse will have about $4 billion in property evaluation, quadruple the current amount, Converse City Manager Lanny Lambert said.

By turning over these commercial corridors to Converse, San Antonio’s general fund will annually lose about $1.7 million in property tax revenue and $1.1 million in sales tax revenue by the time the annexations are fully implemented. The city also will annually give up $1.1 million in debt service property tax revenue, $70,000 in Advanced Transportation District tax revenue and $66,000 in business and franchise tax revenue, Zanoni said.

Additionally, San Antonio will give up a residential area called Northampton adjacent to Converse and, which already receives Converse fire service.

Converse currently provides fire service to part of the area to-be-annexed, through Emergency Service District 1. The suburban city will provide fire service to the entire area once it’s fully annexed.

The main reason San Antonio can’t afford to annex these areas is because of the cost to provide public safety services to them, Zanoni said. Converse can provide that service at a much cheaper rate, because the suburb’s officers make less and get fewer benefits.

San Antonio will continue to provide trash service to Camelot II, as part of a previous deal worked out with Bexar County, until Converse annexes the neighborhood.

Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Calvert, who represents this part of the county, said he’s already seen more interest and investment in the area since the trash pickup deal was executed.

While “it’s still a hot spot for us,” Calvert said, “this (annexation plan) is only going to make it better.”

Lambert said he’s heard some people remain apprehensive of the deal because they don’t want to annex Camelot II and another neighborhood called the Glen, known for similar issues.

But Zanoni, with San Antonio, emphasized there is an enormous amount of new commercial and residential development happening in this part of the county and that the conditions in Camelot II aren’t characteristic of the entire area.

In terms of the broader effect of the deal, Zanoni said bringing better services to areas that need them will improve Bexar County as a whole.

“If there’s blight and poor economic conditions and other factors … that can spill into your own neighborhood that may be safe and affluent,” Zanoni said.

Besides the specific neighborhoods being added, some Converse residents also are concerned about the city’s growth, Lambert said.

However, he sees this as a positive move, one that means Converse has “the potential to build a community” and to plan that growth. Much of the area to be annexed is undeveloped.

Lambert also sees signs that there is more growth happening to the east of San Antonio, which will benefit Converse.

“I think it’s our turn,” he said.

A presentation and public hearing on the proposed annexation plan was expected to be held Tuesday night at the Converse City Council meeting. More public meetings are planned over the next week. vdavila@express-news.net