Presentations from TIRZ consultant Lance Elliot and Go Medina County Executive Director Stephanie Blanks during a Special meeting on September 22 helped convince the Devine City Council to renew the City’s membership with the economic development group for another year.
According to Blanks, Medina County’s population has jumped 5.1 percent over the last five years, sales tax revenue has increased from $1,332,000 to $2,600,000 over the last 10 years, and there are currently $27 million worth of projects underway in the county.
While in-person activity has been limited thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, Blanks praised Go Medina’s social media presence and the opportunity for Devine’s involvement in key projects.
“Obviously, you all give us something, we have to give you something too,” Mayor Cory Thompson said. “What is it that y’all need from Devine?”
Blanks explained that Go Medina gets leads from the state about companies who are looking to build and what infrastructure requirements they have, using a water-hungry data center that might be built near La Coste as an example.
“So having that infrastructure in place, or a willingness to put it in place, would be great,” Blanks said. “There was a water issue, but having the flexibility to say, ‘okay, we’re going to figure out a way where we can get water to that area’ and just working together, just that partnership, a willingness to solve problems in a situation like that.”
Blanks also touted home construction, including a large subdivision going in near Castroville.
“Obviously Medina Valley ISD has expanded a lot, and so we’re needing housing to go along with that,” Blanks said. “I know housing is an issue for all our communities, as far as having affordable housing and just needing more of that as more families come out this way.”
District 2 Councilman Steve Lopez pointed out that Devine has been part of Go Medina since early in the group’s lifespan, and with a membership cost of $1.00 per resident per year, the City had seen little bang for the more than $12,000 it had invested.
“Before I came on, [Go Medina] didn’t have anyone to go talk with businesses and to get them on board or to meet with the [economic development committees],” Blanks said. “I’ve been on since February, obviously not as long as y’all have been a part of this, but my goal is now to go out and let’s start actually getting these businesses in now that Go Medina’s name is getting out there more and it’s getting more attention.
“The goal is to go ahead and close the deals.”
Lance Elliott, the City’s Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) consultant, said that one of the reasons that Castroville is currently seeing so much growth is because “developers are like sheep.”
“When they see development occurring in one place, then they’re attracted to that,” Elliott said. “And so there’s been a lot of development along Highway 90, and as people who are looking to invest, looking to develop, looking to build, they drive down I-35 and they drive down Highway 90, and they see a lot of activity on Highway 90.
“They don’t see a lot of activity on I-35, and that’s part of one of the reasons we did the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, is to increase the activity on I-35, so that when developers are looking, it gives them the confidence that something is happening.”
Current Devine TIRZ property includes a privately-owned area bordered by Mockingbird, Libold, Ingram, and Cemetery roads; a privately-owned area across from Devine High School bordered by CR 7610 and PR 7674; and over 40 acres of City-owned land along IH-35.
In November 2019, Council approved a plan to purchase additional property abutting its IH-35 acreage in order to build a road connecting Hwy. 173, County Road 3176, and the IH-35 access road, as well as extend utility lines and construct a sewer lift station to tempt private developers to bring more business to Devine. At that time, City Engineer Raul Garcia estimated a $3.5 million price tag for the project, not including the cost of purchasing the necessary additional property.
Elliott said that Medina County has agreed to give the City up to $1.7 million through its TIRZ over a 25-year span, which is the only way a county can participate with a city’s economic development and infrastructure, and recommended that the City continue its membership with Go Medina.
“When we decide to go ahead and build a road through county property, it’s going to be a relatively expensive proposition,” Elliot said. “We’re going to be looking for all the help we can get for development and bringing on board a national real estate company to list the property with so that we can cover all of our bases,” Elliot said.
“And so one of those bases would be Go Medina.”
A motion by District 3 Councilman David Espinosa and District 5 Councilwoman Debra Randall to stay with Go Medina for another year passed 4-0 with the support of Lopez and District 4 Councilman Chuck Guzman. District 1 Councilman Rufino Vega was absent.
By Marly Davis