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FAIR OAKS RANCH —The city only waited a little over a month before annexing Wes Pieper’s property off Dietz Elkhorn Road.

Pieper, however, did not want his home and land to be added to the town.

“We didn’t know anything about it until we got the certified letter Oct. 12. It’s taxation with nothing in return but rules and regulations. I have no idea what ordinances will apply to me, and no desire to know. That’s even ignoring they fast-tracked this to get it under the new law. It will not benefit me.” — Wes Pieper

Along with his neighbors, Pieper’s property was absorbed Nov. 28 under a home-rule charter approved by voters in May. The city acted quickly before a new state law became effective Dec. 1, which allows an electorate in a municipality’s extraterrestrial jurisdiction to choose whether they want to be annexed.

Mayor Garry Manitzas noted the move was necessary to protect the town from unwanted development.

“You had people who didn’t like being annexed, but the people in the city were in favor of it because they understood we would have had no say on what was being built on the outskirts of our city,” Manitzas said.   

During Nov. 6 and 7 public hearings, residents protested being annexed just days before Senate Bill 6 — or the Texas Annexation Right to Vote Act — took effect.

Mike Stewart, president of Homeowners Against Annexation, a local group that helped SB 6 become law after a year of fighting against San Antonio’s planned land grab of Leon Springs and along Interstate 10 outside Fair Oaks Ranch, used social media to criticize City Council members.

“I was disappointed that a local policymaker that likely shares many of my values would push an agenda counter to the will of the people and try to beat the Texas Annexation Right to Vote Act,” Stewart said.

Even after being vocal on social media and helping organize protests and the distribution of “UnFair Oaks Ranch” signs and shirts, Stewart was disheartened when the council unanimously voted to annex more than 1,300 acres two days before SB 6 became a reality.    

Manitzas countered city officials are protecting residents from the kind of development that could have an undesired impact on property values and community culture. According to the mayor, the city annexed 63 residential homesteads (68.32 acres) and 44 undeveloped properties (1,244.44 acres).

Property owners who disapproved the takeover and had open-space, agricultural or timber exemptions could sign non-annexation agreements. Eight properties totaling 459.09 acres did so, Manitzas said.

Four small subdivisions also were absorbed including Enchanted Oaks (21 residential properties), Old Fredericksburg Road (11 residential dwellings), Front Gate (eight dwellings), and what’s left of the Van Raub subdivision (four residences).

“If you let Senate Bill 6 come into play, 105 property owners would have had a say over 3,000 households in the city,” Manitzas said. “The overriding reason we annexed is this is the next step to manage growth responsibly and manage quality of life. That was the drive for doing this.”

Several residents applauded the mayor’s efforts.

“The city has to protect its citizens,” Frank Kennedy said. “I mean, let’s be real. What city is going to give up that kind of tax revenue? Why shouldn’t they try to control what goes on around them?”

Fair Oaks Ranch leaders, however, were too hasty, Stewart said.

“I think the city should not have rushed annexation through and they should have taken a different approach between the developed properties and the rural land,” Stewart noted. “With just over 100 parcels on the list, the city could have been more proactive in achieving consensus. The mayor and City Council used the results of the previous election as a mandate to take property rights away from people who had land long before the city of Fair Oaks (Ranch) existed.”

Pieper said many residents didn’t know about the annexation.

“The people I talked to said they had no idea this was happening and thought it was wrong,” Pieper noted. “(City officials) want to annex my area for financial reasons because they believe our area will be commercial and they want the revenue.”

Craig Luitjen, an ETJ resident, said he and others question the town’s methods.

“I’ve never seen a city commission meeting where they go into executive session first,” Luitjen said. “We stood out here on the corner and gave out fliers. According to the city, everyone in FOR knew about it. I’ve got clients and friends who had no clue.”

George Bean, another disgruntled resident, said he and other homeowners have hired lawyers to examine the legality of the action.

“I feel they took 20 percent of land in the ETJ, not the 10 they could take according to the home-rule charter,” Bean said. “I get there needs to be management, but I think the city wanted to control what happened on land, not to properly manage and work with people. It wasn’t a seat at the table they wanted, like they kept saying; they wanted to control who got to come to the table and eat at the table.”

He added, “It feels like the city is overreaching its power.”

Several residents said if the annexation wasn’t illegal, it at least felt immoral.

“It’s taxation without representation,” Chad Turning said. “I didn’t even know it was happening, and I read the city blog. There was no reason to shove it through at the midnight hour.”

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