On Tuesday morning, community members packed the city council chambers to discuss parcels of land the City of Lubbock is considering annexing.
There is a northern portion and a southern portion of the annexation, but the bulk of the citizen comment at the council meeting Tuesday was dedicated to questions about the southern portion.
The area covers roughly 2,394 acres and seventy homes, the city said. The southern portion would go from a mile and a half east of University Ave and extending west to Milwaukee Ave, and then all the way south to 660 feet south of County Road 7500.
City officials reminded the meeting-goers several times that today was an initial hearing and that nothing would be voted on yet.
Drew Paxton, Director of Planning for the City of Lubbock, said that these annex proposals have been discussed over the last few years. However residents at the meeting said they first heard about the annexation through letters from the city in February.
“I’ve received two letters from the city, the first letter I received in February which informed me of the annexation, that was the first we had heard of it,” Tommy Jones explained. “And when that happened, myself and some of my neighbors got together and they started talking about it because unanimously our neighborhood is opposed to the annexation.”
Jones explained that he has lived in the area proposed for annexation since 1999.
“Last Saturday I received a letter dated March 3 because I have an ag exemption on part of my property, it was giving me the option to sign an agreement with the city saying they would postpone annexing my property for up to 5 years,” Jones continued. “But I had to sign it by March 31. Something that concerns me with that letter is today is March 8 and today is the first hearing day. In the hearing they told me they wouldn’t vote on this until April 14 yet the city is requiring me to make and agreement by the end of this month to either be annexed into the city or I can sign an agreement saying I will be annexed in 5 years or I can renegotiate in 5 years to see if it can be extended.”
Paxton, who wrote the letter Jones received, explained the letter did note that the annexation depended on Council’s approval.
“The way they had it for this annexation, they have the option to agree to that development agreement for five years to not do any further development other than the ag use. If they approve that, sign that, the city council would not annex that area for five years,” he explained of residents in the area with ag exemptions. However, if the council does pass the annexation, residents without ag exemptions would not be able to opt out, Paxton said.
Paxton explained that adding these new areas would add responsibilities for the city including adjusting voting precincts, signs, local regulations, adding street lighting, and assessing options for storm water drainage.
Paxton said the annexation would add eight center-line miles of thoroughfare roadways the city’s infrastructure.
Because this annexation is involuntary, Paxton explained the city is expected to pay to extend all services to the area which would be seen in any similar area in the city. He also added that preexisting homeowners have the choice if they want to join the city’s water lines, sewage lines, or electric providers.
The city also is expected to complete capital improvement projects in the proposed area within two and a half years of the approval of the annexation. If improvements are not completed in that time, the city can have their timeline extended to four and a half years.
Paxton said that county residents will benefit from the annexation because they will be able to receive city services.
But a handful of residents at the meeting, Jones included, explained that they moved into the county to get away from city services in the first place.
Jones believes the nearby Woodrow Volunteer Fire Department and law enforcement protection from the sheriff’s office already meet the needs of his neighborhood.
“I already have fire service, I already have police service, I don’t want their water or their sewer because I have a water well and I have a septic system,” Jones said. “The only thing they can give me is a fire hydrant and they can’t give that to me for two and a half years.”
All of the 17 families living in Jones’ neighborhood signed a petition presented at the council meeting, saying they don’t want to become part of the city.
Some residents explained that they sell fireworks as a side business on their property, and being annexed into the city would prevent them from earning that extra income.
Robert Henry who lives on County Road 7450 said that he and his neighbors feel their needs are met by the Woodrow Volunteer Fire Department, which typically responds within two minutes of a call.
Lubbock Fire said at the hearing that they will be able to provide service to the annexed area, but hat their response time will be several minutes slower than what their ideal response time would be.
When asked to consider these annexed areas and the whole city of Lubbock, Councilman Hernandez asked how many new fire stations the city needs, a spokesman for Lubbock Fire Rescue said three new stations would be needed. He estimated the cost of each station at $4 million.
Lubbock Police say they are working with the Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office to determine call loads in the proposed annexed area. They added that they hope to develop a substation in southwest Lubbock.
Councilman Victor Hernandez expressed concern that there are “islands” of property within the proposed annexed area which will not be included. He wonders if having areas that are not part of the city but surrounded by city land will cause problems for residents or public employees responding to the area.
Drew Paxton explained those areas:
“There’s an island that’s not being annexed, it includes more than a hundred homes on a hundred lots so without a council annexation plan, we cannot adopt those areas,” he said.
Jones said that because the city is already making exceptions for these islands of property, he thinks the city should make exceptions and avoid annexing residential areas as well.
Which could be a possibility for the council.
“It is not an all or nothing situation, this council can take the proposed annexation as is or we can change it really at will,” explained Mayor Glen Robertson.
Mayor Robertson said that the number of residents in the proposed area who actually want to be annexed will be his deciding factor in whether to vote for the annexation.
A developer attended the city council meeting who owns a plot of land in the proposed area and expressed support for the proposed annex.
Jones said he has no problem with developers in the proposed area having their land annexed, he just doesn’t want his neighborhood to go along with it.
For Jones, the annexation sounds like an unwanted fee on the county life he built for his family.
“I contacted the appraisal district and asked them to look at my property and tell me what my taxes were to be if I were to be in the city today and it would add substantially to my tax burden,” Jones said. “It’s something where my taxes would go up 30 percent and I think if you talk to anyone, any business man in town and you said your taxes would go up 30 percent, you’d have a revolt on your hands.”
He hopes the council members take his concerns into account as they weigh in on the proposed additions to the city.
“My desire for the council would be to honor the request of the individual people in the county who are being annexed,” he said. Besides Jones’ neighborhood, residents dozens of residents from all around the a proposed area also expressed their objection at the hearing.
“I would like the council to think about this statement the Mayor has made in his campaign for Congressman, is that he takes care of the little man. Well we’re the little man, we’re standing up to the big guy, the big guy happens to be the city. Take care of us,” Jones said.