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Corpus Christi Votes to Annex Parts of San Patricio Co.

An outline of the 5,200 acres in the City of Corpus Christi’s extra territorial jurisdiction in San Patricio County. Courtesy image

The process to annex 5,700 acres of San Patricio County into the City of Corpus Christi is now underway. The Corpus Christi city council approved a resolution 8-1 to set up the public hearings in April and schedule the first reading of an ordinance for the annexation on May 21. Council member Michael Hunter was the only vote against the resolution.

The move to annex was spurred by a bill now before the Texas Legislature that “would change annexation as we know it,” said Mayor Joe McComb, citing House Bill 2589, filed by State Rep. J.M. Lozano Jr. (R-Kingsville). The bill would require cities with populations of more than 300,000 wanting to annex in counties with a population of 50,000 or less to obtain permission from the county in question, despite ETJ lines.

“Corpus Christi opposes this legislation,” McComb said during the council meeting. “Portland is also opposed to these two bills. If approved these bills will become law and take effect immediately. I believe we should move quickly to protect our area.”

The land in question has been in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction since legislation passed in 1963 granting cities the size of Corpus Christi the right to annex up to five miles outside the city limits. As the larger city, Corpus Christi has first claim on the land over cities with less population. Last year, Portland asked Corpus Christi to cede its ETJ rights over that area.

“We were in the process of identifying those areas so we could do that, then in January this legislation was introduced,” McComb explained. “This may be a life story: You think you have years to address a situation, then it happens overnight. That’s what happened with this legislation.”

Several elected officials and residents of San Patricio County attended the meeting to speak out against the annexation.

Nina Trevino, San Patricio County commissioner, Pct. 2, asked the city to be good neighbors and reconsider starting the annexation process. She likened the council to the notorious Gambino crime family in New York.

“We have been a good neighbors to Corpus Christi and Nueces County,” she said. “We helped with $12 million for the new bridge being built. Then you turn around and want to take our land and disrupt all the citizens of San Pat County. You look like the mafia.”

San Patricio County Tax-assessor Collector Dalia Sanchez called the city greedy.

“Your citizens complain about lack of services and poor streets,” she said. “San Patricio is our land and we ask you to respect that.”

San Patricio County Election Administrator Pamela Hill suggested putting the annexation to a vote of the people and not the council.

“I don’t see how nine people can make that decision,” she said. “Why aren’t you taking it to a vote. Sure it’s legal, but is it moral?”

Several residents spoke against the move on the grounds that it would bring more industry into an area already plagued by air and noise pollution. Others argued that the annexation would scare away future industry because of the added level of bureaucracy.

The area includes several existing industries, the larger ones being TPCO America Corporation, Chemours Company, Occidential Chemical Corporation, and Chenier Land Holdings LLC.

The only Corpus Christi council member other than the Mayor to comment before the vote was Greg Smith, who represents District 4.

“This is nothing new,” Smith said. “Everybody, is aware this area has been in the ETJ for more than 50 years. Industry is aware of it. This is where we are with what this legislation is doing. We don’t have much choice.”

Smith also pointed out that the city was already providing services to part of the area. Although the water used by industries there is purchased through the City of Portland, Portland buys its water from Corpus Christi.

“We are the regional water supplier,” he said. “The city paid $175 million for an extension of the Mary Rhodes Pipeline. The Exxon plant would not be coming here without that. We have invested millions of dollars to bring jobs and opportunities to this area. I want everybody to know that we are regional.”

The annexation process begins immediately with written notices mailed by March 31 to property owners, railroads, public and private providers of service, and school districts.

Public notices will be published by April 11 for two public hearings, which will be on April 30, times and locations to be determined.

The first of two votes necessary to make the annexations legal will be held in an emergency city council meeting called for May 21.

This is the second resolution passed to annex property in San Patricio County. The previous week, the city voted to begin the process to annex 1,500 acres in the La Quinta Corridor.

“This vote does not mean it will occur, but it will get the process started,” Mayor McComb said. “Any number of things could happen. We could decide not to continue. We could enter into negotiations with municipalities and land owners. We want to have a community and regional dialogue with everyone to make a decision that makes sense to all of us.”

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