Schertz approves annexing, rezoning land for new development

With the annexation and rezoning of land near Trainer Hale Road and FM 1518, the Schertz City Council July 26 formally added a possible 832 new residences to its community.

The total of 362 acres, called Sterling Grove, is to be developed by a partnership of Scott Felder Homes and land-use law firm Killen, Griffin & Farrimond. The vote on both the annexation and the rezoning — from predevelopment district to planned development district — was unanimous.

To be built in phases over 10 years, the Sterling Grove neighborhood, when completed, would feature 672 single-family suburban homes and approximately 160 larger residences built on half-acre lots.

The neighborhood would also include three acres of parkland; 27 acres of open space for a flood plain and a city trail system; and about three acres of land for an amenity center.

A potential problem was a lack of available sewer service to the portion designated for the larger, estate-type homes, nearly half of the property. Authority to build that infrastructure and service that area belongs to the Marion-based Green Valley Special Utility District. The remainder of the land is within the Schertz utility area.

Schertz’s development code requires sewers, but the developers told the council that Green Valley officials could not provide any type of timeline of when that service might be available and declined to turn over authority to build sewers on the land to Schertz.

Instead, the developers requested a variance to install ground septic systems on those half-acre lots. That permission was granted by the Schertz council at its July 12 meeting. Although the issue was listed on its July 26 agenda, council members, after closed-door consultation with the city attorney, did not discuss it publicly or vote on it again.

“The action from the last meeting carried forward, and the agreement to allow the developers to go with septic is what they ended up with,” explained Assistant City Manager Brian James in a telephone interview.

“We are hopeful that we can work things out with them to deal with our sewer issues with Green Valley,” he added. “But I think the timing of this development and their options on the property meant they needed some clarity on whether they could move forward on the project in some form that was acceptable to them. Our council was empathetic to that.”

James confirmed that discussions are continuing with Green Valley to eventually provide service to the new development. “If we are able to get something worked out, we’ll let the developer know, and they may or may not want to reconsider how they develop that portion,” he said.

He added that, if sewer installation proved possible, Felder Homes may consider converting some or all the 160 half-acre lots into a substantially larger number of smaller tracts.

“But at the end of the day,” James said, “for the council, it was nice to have some big half-acre lots and if that means they have to be on septic, so be it.”

That potential discussion between Schertz and the utility district will be complicated by continuing legal action between the two government entities over the issue.

According to the Texas Rural Water Association, a federal district judge in March ordered a new trial in a case originally brought in 2016 by Green Valley against Schertz and the Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC).

The issue is a conflict between state law that grants sole certification of water services to a municipality such as Schertz, and federal law that protects a utility with federal debt, like Green Valley, against municipal infringement on their service area.

The disagreement began when the PUC granted Schertz’s petition to serve an area within Green Valley’s territory.

A district court originally ruled for Green Valley. But that decision was overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and sent back to the lower courts to determine if Green Valley had the physical capability to provide the requested services. A new trial is pending, the Texas Rural Water Association reported.

In other actions, the council approved increases in fees for San Antonio attorney Darrell Dullnig who serves as the city’s municipal judge. Dullnig will now receive $1,150 for each court session, $950 for each jury trial, $575 for each special docket and $100 for each magistrate action.

Dullnig, who previously was the city’s prosecutor, was appointed as Schertz’s municipal judge in 2017.

In a separate vote, the council named Councilwoman Allison Heyward as the new mayor pro tem as of Aug. 1. She will serve a six-month term.

City Council also bid farewell to Assistant City Manager Charles Kelm who officially will leave his position at the end of August. Kelm oversees several city functions including fire rescue, emergency medical services, police, public works, and fleet and facility services.

“You have certainly worked extremely hard on behalf of the city,” City Manager Mark Browne told Kelm. “There are many accomplishments that you can be proud of, and we appreciate all the things you have done and all the efforts you have made. You have made a difference in this city.”

Kelm’s departure creates two vacancies at the top of the Schertz city administration. Browne announced in March he will retire from his post as city manager on Nov. 23 after four years on the job. Council members continue to hold closed-door discussions on the search for Browne’s successor.

Filing for the November city council election began July 25 and will end Aug. 22, officials announced. Residents will vote for candidates for mayor, a position now held by Ralph Gutierrez; Place 1, occupied by Mark Davis; and Place 2 which has been vacant since the February resignation of Rosemary Scott for health reasons.

Davis and Gutierrez have both filed for re-election and currently have no opposition. The Place 2 race has two candidates — Michelle Watson, who listed her occupation as “massage school,” and Tiffany Gibson, who works in finance at USAA.

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