Council hears report on potential 28-acre purchase to augment IH-35 development plan

At the Council meeting on October 20, City Engineer Raul Garcia delivered a report on a survey of 28.49 acres located across Hwy. 173 from O’Reilly Auto Parts that the City is trying to purchase as part of a plan to entice private development to Devine.
Garcia said the survey of the property, which is owned by Rebecca Campa and was listed for $350,000 as of November 3, showed three negatives: three gas lines that run along the property from north to south, a 100-foot electric easement with power lines, and a swale that runs north to south.
A swale is a shallow channel that directs the flow of water.
“If that area is developed, we would have to put a detention pond in there,” Garcia said. “Because that area south of there, it’s almost impossible to drain because it’s so flat, and there’s no defined channel or creek or anything in there that we could dump [water] into.
“It’s just a flat area in there, and so in order to not put any more storm water in that area, we would need to put in a detention pond.”
Additionally, the property only has 50 feet of frontage to Hwy. 173, and is bordered by Hayden Avenue and Gutierrez Avenue on one side and privately-owned property on its others.
Mayor Cory Thompson said that two manholes had also been found.
“We have the one on the front edge up by the 50-foot area, and then the one on the back edge, which is on a whole different piece of property,” Thompson said.
The property is included in the City’s Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone #2 (TIRZ), which includes 43.58 City-owned acres with frontage on the IH-35 access road.
In November 2019, Council voted to pursue a proposal presented by Garcia and TIRZ consultant Lance Elliott to construct a road through the City’s property to connect Hwy. 173, County Road 3176, and the IH-35 access road in order to open up the area for private development (see “City to apply for grants to construct new road, open IH-35 frontage property for development” in Nov. 27, 2019 edition of the News).

The above map was provided at a Special Devine City Council meeting on November 13, 20198. The purple line shows the path of the proposed thoroughfare through City-owned property, while the red line indicates the proposed right-of-way. The thoroughfare’s construction requires the purchase of private property.
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The proposal calls for the construction of a 40-foot-wide thoroughfare with an 80-foot right-of-way in order to accommodate 18-wheelers, as well as the extension of City utility lines and the construction of a sewage lift station.
At that time, Garcia estimated the City-funded construction at $3.5 million, a number that did not include the purchase of additional private property or the construction of additional infrastructure such as a detention pond.
Plans are for the City to pay for the construction, though Council voted to apply for grants from the Economic Development Agency and the Department of Agriculture to help defray costs.
The City’s General Fund, which covers City operations other than water and sewer, finished with a deficit over $1.2 million over the past two Fiscal Years (2018-2019 and 2019-2020) combined (see “Devine begins new fiscal year with budget surplus following $1.2M loss over previous two years” in Oct. 7, 2020 edition).
The General Fund started Fiscal Year 2020-2021 with a $20,742 surplus after Elliott advised Council to remove $325,000 allotted for the purchase of Campa’s property and instead assign the real estate contract to the TIRZ Board. Elliot advised that Council approve a short-term bank loan using some of the TIRZ proceeds as collateral in order to buy the property. The FY 2020-2021 budget includes $32,500, or 10 percent of $325,000, to put towards the purchase of the property.
The TIRZ Board consists of Devine’s mayor, Council, and a Medina County Commissioner. As of Nov. 3, Board members included Thompson, Rufino Vega, Steve Lopez, David Espinosa, Chuck Guzman, Debra Randall, and Precinct 4 Commissioner Jerry Beck.
Other recent debt taken on by the City includes:
• a $9.4M loan from the Texas Water Development Board for the ongoing water pipe replacement project (“City of Devine gets $9.9M for water system improvements” in March 6, 2018 edition),
• a Certificate of Obligation of more than $1M for new water meters (“Devine issues Certificates of Obligation to finance $1.1 million water meter replacement,” April 24, 2019 edition),
• and a three-year, $450,000 tax note to pay for the renovation of the Devine Golf Course clubhouse (“Devine authorizes $450k tax note for golf course clubhouse renovation”, Sept. 30, 2020 edition).
The General Fund is obligated for the $450k clubhouse tax note, while the Sewer and Water Fund is obligated for the $9.4M for water pipes and $1M for water meters.
According to information obtained from City Hall on Nov. 3, the City has $2.9M in reserves, which includes $914,381 in the General Fund and $2,063,858 in the Water and Sewer Fund.
By Marly Davis
Staff Writer