COPPERAS COVE — An orphaned piece of property may become the next retail boom area in Copperas Cove if city officials can work a deal.
The property is currently owned by Fort Hood and the Department of the Army, and is located just to the right of Business Highway 190 entering Copperas Cove from the east.
Officials have been working on that 440-acre land for more than four years, and the Army is expecting up to 2,500 acres in exchange for it — land that can be used for soldier training.
“The Army requires that anything exchanged be equivalent in market value,” Copperas Cove City Manager Andrea Gardner said in an email. “The land Fort Hood receives must be contiguous to Fort Hood’s current boundary and support the military mission.”
Gardner has worked on land exchanges with Fort Hood before. The hardest part is passing legislation — which was done as part of the National Defense Authorization Act in June and July of 2016
“That typically takes the longest, and we got it done first this time,” she said at a council meeting Nov. 21.
2013 and Beyond
Gardner contacted Matthew Elledge (Fort Hood Garrison commander at the time) on July 19, 2013. The city of Copperas Cove and the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corporation met with members of the Fort Hood Real Property Division to discuss the possibility of a future land swap.
The city requested Fort Hood accept the letter for conceptual approval.
City officials were working to secure the needed acreage off Farm-to-Market Road 116 that borders Fort Hood land to complete a land swap for Fort Hood property off Business Highway 190 to FM 116. The area was deemed orphaned when Highway 9 was completed in 2014, cutting it off from the remainder of the Fort Hood property.
Elledge returned a letter in August 2013 saying he had requested a conceptual approval through higher headquarters for the proposed land exchange.
“I am confident that higher headquarters will approve the request as long as it is value-for-value and is beneficial to the Army,” Elledge wrote.
The city received conceptual approval to proceed with negotiations with Fort Hood. Army officials indicated the acreage will not adversely impact the training mission of the installation.
Reasons for the exchange
Gardner wrote in a Dec. 4, 2013, letter the city would no longer have property in inventory to sell by 2017. Her letter went on to explain the financial benefit for the city to obtain the land.
“The land being received by the city would be utilized for retail, commercial and industrial (consisting of light manufacturing and other targeted industries) development,” Gardner wrote in a letter.
She noted the retail development would occur on approximately 30 to 40 acres and the remainder of the land would be used for industrial development.
“The city does intend to move forward with pre-development activities to include assessing the cost of extending Constitution Drive across Business Highway 190 and into the proposed exchange property along the extension of utilities onto the property,” Gardner wrote.
Gardner wrote it would be critical to the City of Copperas Cove for additional revenue in the future — necessary to meet the demands of the city’s residential and commercial taxpayers.
“The property gained by the city through the proposed exchange will provide both the City of Copperas Cove and Copperas Cove EDC with a greater opportunity to provide a more secure financial future for our community,” she wrote.
Number of acres
Gardner said the number of acres is still unknown.
“Until the property is acquired and surveys are completed, it is impossible to provide exact acreages for the swap.
Case in point, the acreage the Army is willing to trade was summed up as over 300 acres in some of the documents and 440 acres in others.
The amount of land necessary for equal value is listed between 800 and 2,500 acres in documents.
A June 4, 2014, Department of the Army document from then-Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, who was the III Corps and Fort Hood commander at the time, notes: “It (the land swap) will add up to 2,500 acres of heavy maneuver training land for our soldiers and units to train on.”
He went on to say, “Copperas Cove has proposed to exchange approximately 440 acres bordered by the city and the newly constructed state Highway 9 for approximately 2,500 acres located in the northwest corner of our installation. The 440-acre parcel is not often used for training, but has great value to the city for economic development and increasing their tax base. Fort Hood would receive approximately 2,500 contiguous acres along Farm-to-Market 116 adjacent to the installation’s northwest maneuver area. This land is very valuable because it would provide additional heavy maneuver training, limit future encroachment, and enhance our ability to train armored brigade combat teams and other units.”
In the letter, Milley asked the Army’s Installation Management Command to endorse the request for concept approval.
The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense approved the major land acquisition moratorium waiver in late 2015 and early 2016. Under Secretary of Defense John Conger noted: No federal funds will be required to complete the exchange and the city will be responsible for all costs including appraisals, surveys, permits, fees and environmental documentation.
And finally ...
Gardner said the city is in the process of acquiring land to exchange. Gardner noted that she met with Fort Hood officials two weeks ago and more meetings are planned.
“They (Fort Hood) are not going to give up land of greater value than the land they will receive,” she said at a council meeting two weeks ago.
She has successfully completed land acquisitions in the past for the city. Neither the Army nor the city plan to use eminent domain in order to purchase necessary properties, according to the letter from the Under Secretary of Defense.