CONVERSE — The city limits are expanding, but not without some controversy.
City Council at a recent meeting voted 5-2 to accept additional land from San Antonio as part of its 2017 annexation agreement.
Councilwomen Kate Silvas and Deborah James dissented.
According to Silvas, she did not receive enough crucial information before the vote and said her efforts to create more transparency may have played a role. Mayor Al Suarez countered that council members have been kept informed every step of the way.
Meanwhile, rescheduling the May 2 election for proposed annexations of Dover, Fields of Dover, Meadowbrook and Parc at Escondido subdivisions to May 2021 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic was approved during the same session.
The first stage of the borough’s three-pronged takeover of several areas within San Antonio’s extraterritorial jurisdiction this year started May 1 as residents of Chandler Crossing subdivision were welcomed into the city.
June and July will see the beginning of the next two phases, said Assistant City Manager Manny Longoria. A portion of residents from both Quiet Creek and Summerhill subdivisions, along with properties located on Graytown Road, will be annexed into Converse June 1; undeveloped property between FM 1516 and Crestway Road will be incorporated July 1.
By summer’s end, 127 homes should be added, city officials said, generating roughly $200,000 in additional property-tax revenue.
Converse’s newest denizens will receive police, fire, garbage and public-works services, with emergency calls answered much faster, Longoria said, as local first responders can arrive at homes in a fraction of the time compared to those based in San Antonio.
Three years ago, Converse agreed to address providing needed services in the underserved communities in exchange for San Antonio relinquishing control of several profitable commercial corridors, which include the recently approved 1516 and Crestway locales.
A section of Gibbs Sprawl Road was also included in the recent phase of annexation.
The town’s ultimate goal is to expand its commercial and residential tax base toward the Interstate 10 and Loop 1604 area, Suarez said.
“There are a lot of developers that don’t want to go (to the unincorporated regions) unless they’re (in) a city, and there’s no city right now,” he said. “They are waiting for us because they want to be able to have a police force, fire department, and government they can depend on directly.”
While Silvas — the city’s former economic development director — strongly favors commercial expansion, she voted against the initial phase of annexation because she hadn’t been forwarded adequate information regarding the merger, she said in a recent telephone interview.
Obtaining municipal information has been key to her legal battle against Converse, and led to the councilwoman’s unexpected removal from the body last year.
Politicos voted last October to oust Silvas, saying she violated a town charter by directing city staffers to fill an inordinate amount of public-records requests. Days later, she was awarded a temporary injunction reinstating her to the dais, and contends that she didn’t break any laws concerning acquisitions of public records.
Silvas cited her recent mayoral campaign against Suarez as a major factor in her requests going unfilled. Both Silvas and James unsuccessfully challenged the seven-term, 13-year incumbent last November.
“I think the bottom line is that I am asking a lot of questions most people aren’t asking that need to be asked. It’s important to have information to make educated decisions. Public information should not be a closely held secret,” she said.
Some of the council is perplexed by Silvas’ inquiries, Suarez said, as all annexation plans have been forwarded to her. The only change – which Suarez said the councilwoman should be privy to – is the timeline to complete annexation was delayed because state law requires an election for county residents.
“She advocated for the (annexation) plan wholeheartedly in the past as (Economic Development Corp.) director,” the mayor said.
Suarez said Converse won’t need to hire additional first responders to service its new neighbors.
Once the current phase of annexation is done, the next round of communities to potentially join Converse will be Dover, Fields of Dover, Meadowbrook and Parc at Escondido subdivisions, along with remainders from Quiet Creek and Summerhill, Longoria said.
Because those places lie in Bexar County, state law allows residents there to vote for annexation. If OK’d, they’ll become city inhabitants beginning in December 2021.
When Converse completes its deal with San Antonio – reportedly December 2033 – it will absorb 12 square miles of unincorporated land.