It’s only 159 acres, but it’s causing a big fuss.

That’s the amount of land two prominent local developers are seeking to add to Killeen’s land area through voluntary annexation.

It’s not a large-scale property shift in the grand scheme of things. But it has three members of the Killeen City Council concerned about the consequences of expanding the city limits to accommodate the parcels.

The four members who voted in favor of moving ahead with the annexation process are more inclined to see what the developers are proposing before making a decision.

The 4-3 vote directs City Manager Ron Olson to create a service plan, and city staff will evaluate the fiscal impacts of annexation and present the information to the council.

Annexation may seem like a complex issue, but in the end, it comes down to money.

If the city annexes the land, it is obligated to provide water, sewer and road infrastructure as well as city services, to include police and fire protection.

In exchange, the city would receive property tax revenue from the annexed areas, as well as sales of treated water to any new customers.

The obvious question is whether the city will receive a good return on its investment by granting the annexation requests.

Of course, if the city does not proceed with annexation, the developers can build their respective subdivisions following county building standards, which are generally less restrictive than those mandated by the city.

Consequently, if the subdivisions are built out and annexed later, some of the infrastructure and lot specifications may not comply with city code. At that point, they would have to be grandfathered in, or brought into compliance. While the developer likely would bear the cost of bringing a subdivison up to city code, it’s possible the city would enter into a city-builder agreement in which the city shares the financial burden.

Further tipping the scale toward the developer is the fact that while the city will provide infrastructure and services as soon as an area is annexed, the property tax return to the city will be gradual, as homes are built and occupied. In some cases, it could be years before the city’s property tax revenue from an annexed area is fully realized.

Obviously, then, developers have quite an incentive to bring their parcels inside city limits.

In this case, location has a lot to do with the push to annex.

One piece of land, totalling about 76 acres, is along South Clear Creek Road — between Stan Schlueter Loop and the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport.

The other parcel, about 83 acres in size, is along Chaparral Road — about a mile west of Stillhouse Lake Road.

Both are high-growth areas, and both are likely so see rapid development in the next three to five years. For this reason, the parcels’ developers, homebuilder Gary Purser Jr. and Bruce Whitis of WBW Land Investments Limited Partnership, are no doubt anxious to move ahead quickly with the annexation process.

But the city is in a different position.

Killeen has faced a tight budget for the past two years, and this year isn’t likely to be much different. In particular, funding for infrastructure has been limited, with deferred spending on repairs to aging roads and new projects alike. The recently approved street maintenance fee will help fund repairs and upgrades to existing roadways, but only up to a point.

North Killeen residents are legitimately wondering why their streets continue to crumble as new roads take priority in the southern parts of the city — roads they are paying for with their tax money.

Many residents — and some council members — are questioning where the city is going to find its share of the $30 million needed to fund Chaparral Road upgrades ahead of the new high school’s opening on that thoroughfare in three years.

Just as importantly, Killeen is obligated through a consent agreement to provide infrastructure to the Municipal Utility District, or MUD, that is being built by Whitis south of the city. The MUD is expected to encompass about 3,700 homes when fully developed.

However, though the city will get money from water sales to the development, Killeen won’t benefit from its property tax for about 30 years, per the arrangement — and then only if the city annexes the development.

With that in mind, every dollar spent on infrastructure will be scrutinized — and it should be.

In voting to move forward with the annexation process, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Kilpatrick said it’s only fair to give the public a chance to hear the petition and express their opinion on it.

Indeed, residents should get in on the process — and their input should carry some weight.

It’s important to note that two of the council members who voted to proceed with the annexation process — Kilpatrick and Debbie Nash-King — are up for re-election in May. One councilman who voted against proceeding — Steve Harris — is also up for re-election.

Residents should let them know how they feel about the issue — and they’ll have their chance.

Between April 21 and May 5, a public hearing will be scheduled on the annexations.The meeting will be posted through local publications, including the Killeen Daily Herald, and on the city’s website. Notice will also be sent to the Killeen Independent School District.

By state law, the city has 30 days from the time it received the annexation petitions to grant or deny them.

It’s time for Killeen residents to take an active role in determining what their city will look like as Killeen moves into the next decade.

Small annexations may seem like minor steps, but how the new areas mesh with the city’s master plan and Future Land Use Map play a big role in how the city’s face changes as it grows and develops.

What do we want Killeen to look like in five years, 10 years, or 20 years down the line?

Certainly, large-scale developments — the ones that garner the most attention and biggest headlines — will have a major impact on the city’s look and feel.

But small changes to the city’s footprint are just as important in the long run.

Even the annexation of 159 acres. | 254-501-7543

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