by Crystal Gottfried
The past two Monday evenings brought considerable activity to the Bulverde City Hall as Spring Branch residents poured into public hearings with concerns over potential annexations.
Mayor Pro Tem Richard Parker estimated the non-city resident group to be approximately 40 people as compared to his estimate of only six Bulverde City residents in attendance on Jan. 22. On Jan. 29, Spring Branch residents once again outnumbered Bulverde residents, this time by a margin of about three to one.
Early in the final public hearing on Jan. 29, Bulverde Mayor Sarah A. Stevick said, “I would ask that you be cordial.” She assured those waiting to speak, “You can voice your questions and concerns.” Frequently during the proceedings, council members asked Bulverde City Attorney Frank Garza for clarification of the laws surrounding the residents’ questions.
Although annexation authority is only a small part of the home rule charter, it dominated the discussion as person after person came forward to address the council. One Spring Branch resident in the path of potential annexation seemed to sum up the feeling of the crowd in general by saying, “If I wanted to live in Bulverde, I would have bought in Bulverde.”
In the Jan. 22 meeting, with regard to participants from outlying areas, Parker said, “The general disposition seemed that the home rule charter in their eyes would eventually be a land grab opportunity for Bulverde where we would annex roof tops because of being tax hungry.”
Dr. John James of Spring Branch said, “One of my main concerns at the meeting Monday night was about the discontent it would cause if Bulverde could not or would not provide the expected level of services to an annexed area. For example, some areas have newer streets, fire hydrants, and a good program for street maintenance to keep all the streets looking good.
“You can imagine the unhappiness when people in this new area are subjected to a new layer if city taxes and then their services and home values actually go down. This happened when Houston annexed Kingwood resulting in bitterness lasting for years.”
On May 12, registered voters from within Bulverde City limits will have the opportunity to decide the future of the proposed home rule charter which would move the municipality from a general law city to a form of government more independent from state regulations.
If the charter is approved, it will allow the city to annex land independent of landowner request. Because the neighborhoods subject to annexation potential are outside the city limits, residents there may not register to vote on city matters.
Dr. James noted the reaction of city officials to his non-city resident status when he attended the Jan. 22 meeting. He said, “City officials first responded to those from outside the city limits as if we did not belong at the meeting. One councilman was geographically confused and told us that if we were concerned about annexation to go home and that we could not be annexed until 2035.
“We know we can be annexed as soon as 2011. The rather amazing thing is that he promised that nobody on the current council was proposing doing a ‘and grab.’ He also said that the council was not pro-expansionist, forgetting that the charter is timeless like a constitution and that he was making promises for all the councils in years to come.”
Parker said the council sees the charter as a means of acquiring more governance over commercial development, not residential annexation. He said, “This is a really important step for the citizens. Support of the home rule charter is really an extension of their support of the master plan for Bulverde. This is an integral component of guiding development in the way that the citizens have told us they want it done.”