The Jeffersonian: Politicks, Sports, and Culture

Friday, August 12, 2005

Lumberman's And The PGA

The Lumberman's/PGA Village deal is back in the news once again. Lumberman's and Marriott have officially entered into a formal agreement to develop a 1,000 room hotel, two 18-hole golf courses and a golf learning center in partnership with the PGA Tour. This, of course, is in addition to the 2,500 or so residences which have begun construction. All over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone, the sole source of drinking water for San Antonio.

Really the only thing stopping the deal now is Bexar County voter's approval of the special taxing district, which will come for a vote in either November 2005 or February 2006:

The taxing district would have a seven-member, county-appointed board that could assess taxes, including hotel taxes, and issue bonds for public improvements, such as water and drainage projects.

The tax revenue also would help pay for the two golf courses that could cost more than $25 million, and marketing and development of tourism businesses that could include a golf teaching center.

The petition asks commissioners court to set up the Cibolo Canyons Special Improvement District so that it can tax residents to help fund the resort development.

While developers had estimated the project's value at about $800 million, the petition puts it at $1 billion.

The request was made possible by an agreement Lumbermen's hammered out with the city late last year, in which the city agreed not to annex, and therefore not to tax, the property for 29 years.

The petition proposes a tax of 57.8 cents per $100 valuation, a sales and use tax of 2 cents per taxable sale, and a 9 percent hotel tax for the 2,847-acre tract.

County Judge Nelson Wolff is also trying to get Lumberman's and other developers in the area to agree to help the county with road expansions and improvements for the expected population boom in that area. Unfortunately, Lumberman's doesn't feel the same way:

The 2,847-acre district was made possible by an agreement that Lumbermen's struck with the city, in which the city agreed not to annex the property for 29 years, thereby giving up its taxes during that time.

The county wouldn't forego its property taxes, but instead anticipates collecting tens of millions more in revenues that it otherwise would lose.

While developers had estimated the project's value at about $800 million, that estimate has grown to $1 billion as developers upgraded their hotel plans.

A clause in the agreement allowed Lumbermen's to ask the county for the taxing district, but the county had to take it to the Legislature, and fought a bruising late-session campaign to pass the controversial bill. Environmentalists opposed it, as well as earlier Lumbermen's attempts to develop a golf resort, because of its location over the recharge zone.

But without the resort, Lumbermen's has threatened the fallback option of dense residential development, covering up more of the recharge zone than a resort would.

County officials still are hoping Lumbermen's will pitch in, along with other developers in the areas, to help pay for road upgrades that will handle growing traffic on Bulverde and other area roads.

Pierret took issue with the county's contention that a PGA Tour resort would increase traffic in the area.

"We're actually reducing traffic and water consumption," Pierret said. That is, "compared to our development strategy that we have grandfathered rights to do," which could mean building as many as 9,000 houses and apartments.

That's wonderful logic. According to Pierret, the citizens of San Antonio should actually be kissing the ground that Lumberman's walk on since they are reducing the number of people living in the area by making a deal with the PGA Tour.

Unless Bexar County voters reject this district at the polls, unfortunately, there's nothing else that can really be done right now. Even if voters did reject this at the polls, I don't think there's anyhing to stop Lumberman's from being vindictive and completely building over this portion of the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone.

You know, this is what happens when only 14% of us go to the polls.