Beaumont looks forward to expanding west

Beaumont’s First Baptist Church also recently made a move from downtown to  3739 North Major Drive, Providence on Major at 3585 N. Major Drive and a gas station and retail space that have gone up on Major near Folsom on the city’s west side

Hearing no opposition, the Beaumont City Council is set to vote on annexing nearly 80 acres of West End real estate at the end of September. The move, according to city Planning and Community Development director Chris Boone, has been in the works for a long time, and was approved by the city’s zoning commission in May.

“We started this back in May,” he said. “But there’s still a lot that we have to do.”

According to Boone, state law required the city to hold two hearings to allow for public comment on the proposed annexation. Both were conducted within seconds of each other Tuesday, Sept. 6, with no comment offered for or against the proposal. In addition, Boone said the city was required to file notice of its annexation intent in the local newspaper, on its website, and with nearby property owners.

According to city notes, the area of annexation is approximately 77.737 acres of land at the southwest corner of Folsom Drive and Major Drive. The property is divided into five parcels and is already served by city water and sewer, according to Boone, but at the increased rate paid by outside-the-city-limits customers up to this time.

“This portion of Major Drive has experienced development, including a church, an apartment complex and a convenience store and restaurant,” Boone reported to the council. “Being outside the city limits, fire, emergency and police response to these properties is currently limited.”

Boone told The Examiner that the city of Beaumont currently operates as the backup source for police, fire and EMS services to the area of proposed annexation. However, he said, the volume of calls to the locale is of the rate that the entities servicing the area as primary responders have requested that Beaumont take over. Boone said he was unsure of the number of calls currently sent to that area, and staff has not been asked that question by council to date.

What the cost of this annexation will be to the city, Boone said, is uncertain at this time. Current water and sewer service payments will be reduced, services offered will increase, and Boone said at least two of the four main properties annexed in the process are tax exempt. Boone also said he was unsure as to what taxes the other properties will bring to the city.

In addition, the senior living housing facility that will be brought into the city limits with the proposed annexation, Boone said, will almost certainly ensure that Beaumont exceeds the “two-times rate” of its per capita allotment of housing tax credits registered through the state, which means that Beaumont has more than double the amount of housing tax credit properties per capita than other Texas cities. Boone said that he could not be certain what the housing tax credit number would be now, but said that the TDHCA would compile those numbers shortly for its own purposes.

Regardless of the specific numbers, Boone said, the annexation is a win for the community being brought into the municipality and for the city itself.

“It’s about what’s best for the community,” Boone said. “This really is a no-brainer.”

Much of the infrastructure to facilitate the annexation, Boone said, is already in place – in that there will be no need for new construction of roads, water lines, or the like. In the event that the area does expand, however, the city will treat the development as it would the rest of the city.

“Future streets may be constructed by developers and then be maintained by the city following normal land subdivision procedures as regulated by city ordinance and state statutes,” Boone informed council. Also, the city agrees, “as this area develops, enhancement of (parks, playgrounds, and swimming pools) will be considered, as the need warrants.”

Boone indicated that the remaining portion cut out of the city limits along Major Drive should also be a part of the city, but is not included due to landowners’ assertion of agriculture exemption.

“We’re in negotiations about that right now,” Boone said.

The council is set to deliberate and accept the annexation on Sept. 27.