Killeen City Councilman Steve Harris requested discussion of a 2013 agreement authorizing the creation of the Turnbo Ranch subdivision Wednesday, asking for an investigation of possible “secret collusion” in negotiations between city officials and Killeen developer Bruce Whitis’ WB Development.
Turnbo Ranch, a 3,750-home master-planned community scheduled to break ground later this year on the southern outskirts of Killeen, was incorporated as a municipal utility district and operates as its own taxing entity separate from the city.
In an email to Killeen City Manager Ron Olson, Harris said the agreement, passed in June 2013 by a 4-3 council vote, was rushed to approval with city staff not adequately informing the council of the contract’s stipulations. Harris requested the item be placed on a future workshop agenda.
“During the debates for and against the MUD agreement, questions were presented and not answered adequately by staff, which bred concerns from some council members,” Harris wrote. “Even in the sense of logic to disapprove the agreement, some members of staff and the council still debated in its favor.”
Harris, formerly a councilman from 2013-15, voted against the agreement in 2013 alongside Councilmen Jonathan Okray and Terry Clark. Council members Elizabeth Blackstone, Wayne Gilmore, Jose Segarra and Jared Foster voted in support.
“The Purpose of this discussion is to revisit and, if necessary, investigate prior discussions about the MUD to determine if all information was ... communicated to the council; and, no secret collusions between the city staff, council members and the developers occurred,” Harris wrote.
WB Development declined to comment Thursday.
In requesting the item, Harris is following through on a campaign promise made during the run up to the May 6 district elections when he said he would propose an investigation of the subdivision agreement.
On March 27, the Herald reported Whitis used family and friends to accommodate the creation of the 3,750-home, $238-million development that was formally incorporated by the November 2014 general ballot election.
The district will function as a governmental entity of his own, with the ability to levy property tax on its residents and issue municipal debt with a board of directors.
According to the terms of the agreement signed between Whitis and the city, the city will be responsible for millions in infrastructure improvements to accommodate the district, with the developer fronting some of the cost of the improvements.
It’s unclear if Harris’ request will actually go up for full discussion at a later council workshop.
Starting Tuesday, Olson introduced an initiative to have every potential discussion topic proposed by council members brought up for a consensus agreement before the item is ever fully discussed during a workshop. If that model holds, Harris’ request would go before a council consensus before discussion, and it is unclear whether it would receive any support for full discussion.
Council members appeared in support of Olson’s initiative, but Harris told Olson in his Wednesday email he did not favor the new rule.