Editor's note: This story has been updated to say Gary Purser Jr.'s proposed development is in the Joint Land Use Focus Area not the Encroachment Awareness Area.
Since March, requests to have property annexed into Killeen have split the City Council and concerned residents.
Area homebuilder Gary Purser Jr. is petitioning the city to annex land adjacent to 5601 Clear Creek Road, which totals approximately 76.459 acres, while WBW Land Investments Limited Partnership is seeking the annexation of land adjacent to 7501 Chaparral Road, totaling approximately 83.01 acres.
Council members and residents asked what the city’s financial obligations would be on the annexations and whether one of the proposals ran counter to studies with the Army over land use around Fort Hood.
Killeen staff is currently working on a service plan that will go over financial obligations. Council will receive it on its May 21 workshop agenda packets.
The other concern is whether Purser’s land is in danger of encroachment on Fort Hood’s training grounds.
The request to start the process of considering both annexation requests was passed April 9, with a vote of 4-3. Council members Jim Kilpatrick, Juan Rivera, Butch Menking and Debbie Nash-King voted to move forward with the request while council members Shirley Fleming, Gregory Johnson and Steve Harris voted in opposition.
On May 7, a public hearing was held during a special city council meeting, where some residents noted Purser’s land is close to Fort Hood training grounds and the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport.
Longtime resident James Ralston mentioned Fort Hood officials previously conducted a Joint Land Use Study, a tool funded and used by the Department of Defense.
“They don’t do that without a good reason. They’re a little nervous about encroachment,” Ralston said.
The study was a collaboration of two counties, eight cities, two regional agencies, a federal agency and Fort Hood, with the intention of continuing “compatibility of land use and development activity in civilian communities with air and ground operations, training, testing and power projection missions conducted at Fort Hood.”
Heart of Texas Defense Alliance and Central Texas Council of Governments were the two regional agencies involved in the study, which was completed in 2016.
A joint agreement was signed in 2017 between the Fort Hood Army Garrison commander and the council of local governments.
Jim Reed, the council of governments’ executive director, said the studies help develop the compatible use of land between military installations and cities.
“The driving force of the JLUS is to ensure the DoD its investment they placed in the military installations are worthy and last long,” he said.
Fort Hood is the state’s largest single-site employer that generates about $24.6 billion dollars of economic output to the Central Texas area, according to HOTDA executive director Keith Sledd.
Purser’s petition involves land that is adjacent to the Robert Gray Army Airfield, which serves both commercial and military flights.
“What you have at Robert Gray Airfield is unique … 10,000 aircraft movements annually, 700 to 800 commercial aircraft movements annually. And then you also have something unique here, there’s about 8 (thousand) to 9,000 that’s called touch and go landings,” he said.
Along with air movements, the area on base is also a training ground with some operations being conducted at night.
In Killeen’s comprehensive plan, such operations are stated in the “Dark Sky” Protections subsection where it highlights light pollution concerns were also noted by Fort Hood personnel, especially where garrison training areas may be impacted.
Ralston said it is situations like flights and training operations that should be looked into before voting on the annexation.
“There are two studies that talk about encroachment, the JLUS and the REPI (Readiness Environmental Protection Integration) program from Congress. Fort Hood is this town’s lifeblood and going against it is not in the best interest. The city needs to be more proactive,” he said.
In the joint study, off-post impacts that are associated with training at Fort Hood were merged into a single unit that is referred to as the “Encroachment Awareness Area.”
Purser's proposed development is in the Joint Land Use Focus Area not the Encroachment Awareness Area, Sledd said.
This is intended to serve the purpose of maintaining “heightened vigilance with regard to potentially incompatible civilian land uses encroaching into critical areas that may experience the effects of military training, such as high noise levels.”
“The goal of the land use study was to have municipalities do compatible growth, and make informed decisions on projects and businesses that (are) adjacent to the base,” Sledd said.
Fort Hood officials could not be reached for comment on Thursday and Friday.
Ray Shanaa, planning and development services executive director, said per Texas Government Code, two hearings have to be held before council votes.
“We expect that the June 11 date that the council will entertain adopting an ordinance either approving the annexations and the service plan that we will provide to you at that time,” Shanaa said.
He also added the service plan will provide an “extension of full municipal services to the areas. The municipalities shall provide the services by any methods by which it extends the services to any other area of the municipality.”
The service plan will also feature a financial impact the city will have if council decides to vote for the annexation.
The next public hearing is at 5 p.m., May 21 at 101 N. College St.
March 14, 2019: Gary Purser, Jr. submits voluntary annexation petitions
March 21, 2019: WBW Land Investments Limited Partnership submits voluntary annexation petition
April 1: Killeen council members presented both petitions at workshop
April 9: Killeen council vote 4-3 to move forward with annexation process
May 7: First public hearing held
May 21: Scheduled second public hearing
June 11: Council to vote on annexation ordinance