BELTON — A new business can now take root in east Bell County, following approval of a tax abatement by county officials.
Revol Greens, a Minnesota-based lettuce company, received unanimous approval for a tax abatement agreement with the county Monday. The agreement is for the first of four phases the company has planned, which is estimated to total an investment of between $300 million to $400 million once completed.
The company plans to use hydroponics — the growth of plants in water without the use of soil — at the facility located along FM 436 south of Heidenheimer.
County Judge David Blackburn said the new facility would bring more prosperity to that section of the county, which has started to see growth of various industries.
“On that 168 acres, over the past seven years we have received $875 in property tax revenues,” Blackburn said. “Over the next seven years, with this agreement in place, the county will receive $1.4 million in property tax revenue. And, from my perspective, that is an economic benefit for the county.”
Mark Wainscott, chief executive officer for Revol, said the company was excited to come to Bell County and use it as its base to distribute fresh produce around Texas.
The facility, Wainscott said, will not use any pesticides, herbicides or other harsh chemicals when growing its plants. He said the company also reuses its leftover water so it would not have runoff of fertilizers or chemicals.
When the first two phases are completed, the facility is expected to produce 17 million pounds of greens annually.
“This will facility will produce over 30 times what traditional land will produce in the controlled environment that we have,” Wainscott said. “We capture the rain water from the roofs, we save that, we clean that and use that for all of our production. And that covers, more often than not, 100 percent of our production.”
The company is also expected to hire about 100 employees with the completion of phase two of the project — expected for June 2023.
Commissioners did host a public comment period Monday, allowing residents to speak on the issue and let their voice be heard.
Multiple neighbors of the facility previously voiced their opposition during a prior meeting.
One community member, Stephen Schiller, spoke in protest against the new facility Monday. Schiller’s property borders the proposed site.
When the reinvestment zone for the facility was created last month, Schiller said he was concerned about traffic and odors as a result of the project.
While Schiller has talked to commissioners about his issues, he said his concerns are still present moving forward.
Wainscott said the company has made some changes to ease concerns from residents, mainly targeting light pollution and traffic issues.
The company plans on using blackout curtains on the greenhouses during times when they need to use artificial light. Wainscott said this would not be as frequent due to them preferring more natural light.
To ease concerns of traffic going in and out of the facility, the company has started working with the Texas Department of Transportation and moved its driveway closer to nearby U.S. Highway 190.
Also, to ease the visual impact of the facility, the company has committed to building an earthen berm on its eastern side, near the road.
Commissioner Bill Schumann said he understood why residents didn’t want the facility so close to where they live but still thought that giving the abatement was the best idea.
Pointing various changes made by Revol, Schumann said this was in part due to the negotiation power the county has with the agreement. He said the company could have moved forward without any agreement and not had to make any of its changes.
“By law the county is only allowed to do certain things, or not do certain things,” Schumann said to Schiller. “And I hope that you understand that we have made every effort, within our scope of what we are able to do and what we are able to not do, to minimize the effects on the land owners where Revol plans to put this facility.”