Matt Pierce Briscoe
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting the proposed 2020 Bond package was brought before council for discussion and while all the discussion about all these improvements sounds all good and great, there is one big elephant in the room and that is spending more than $4 million dollars to extend Rodd Field Road back to Oso Creek through a vacant stretch of land.
The cost to do that would be somewhere in the ballpark of $4.2 million dollars and taxpayers are going to be asked to approve that request, if it is approved by council, which could happen as early as next Tuesday, But there is a caveat to all of this—the project could actually be done with only $2.2 million dollars of city money a few years down the road, according to the Texas Department of Transportation Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) plan for the area.
Corpus Christi Mayor Joe McComb questioned that very thing saying that by putting in a road right now through a bunch of mesquite trees where only jack rabbits live was in essence pointless.
“So you’re going to run a two lane road all the way back to Oso Creek surrounded by a bunch of mesquite trees?” Mayor McComb questioned during the meeting. “It doesn’t make any sense when we can use that $4.2 million dollars to improve Yorktown. It really needs it.”
He isn’t wrong. Yorktown is heavily traveled and during his remarks Mayor McComb argued that just about 100 yards past Rodd Field Road along Yorktown headed towards Flour Bluff, the road becomes not only worn out but dangerous.
But according to Councilman Gil Hernandez it is public safety issue for folks living in Rancho Vista who, like those who live in other subdivisions just a little further down Yorktown often have to wait on traffic in the morning when they are pulling out of their subdivision to get onto Yorktown. Hernandez supported the move in open council and believes that spending $4.2 million dollars to put the road in right now would be a good idea.
“This would allow people who live in Rancho Vista to be able to enter Yorktown at a controlled Intersection,” Hernandez pointed out. “I mean they need it.”
Hernandez was apparently ready to argue his point. However, the point could also be made that residents who live in subdivisions further down Yorktown have to put up with the exact same traffic most mornings and even though there is the possibility of somehow connecting Rodd field through the middle of Rancho Vista via Stampede Drive, the best solution seems to be just to improve Yorktown at least down to the Oso Bay bridge. But here is why that might not work.
Tucked back just off of Yorktown is an odd piece of property owned by local businessman Eloy Salazar, who on June 30th made a contribution to Hernandez’s campaign fund. It was only for $100, a fairly odd amount considering other developers and real estate investors contributed more than that to his campaign, and to any political reporter that would raise at least one eyebrow. But who knows what the real story on that is—except that a $100 campaign contribution could possibly get at least a little favor here or there—like getting a street to your 26 acres built with taxpayer dollars right now instead of waiting.
After searching Nueces County Central Appraisal District records on Wednesday we learned that there were some oddities about this 26 acre piece of land that is now coming into question. For starters, it has some missing transactions on the Central Appraisal District website and what it does show is that there was more than a little bit of back and forth in terms of ownership with Salazar and a handful of other people. Secondly, the land went from being worth around $160,000 dollars in 2016 to nearly half a million dollars just 4 years later. And, there isn’t even an agriculture exemption on it—which seems strange in itself, unless there is some sort of rule that says a developer can’t hold land for speculation and have an ag exemption—which we’ve never heard of either.
The Southside Light News reached out to Mr. Salazar on Wednesday to question him about all of this. He didn’t respond to our request. But, that doesn’t shock anybody when it comes to these kinds of deals.
But as they say “wait, there’s more.” Could it be that there was any coincidence that on the same exact day that Councilman Hernandez received the $100 contribution from Salazar, he also took contributions from other area developers, including Braselton, which is the vested developer of Rancho Vista? In fact, more than $4,400 of Hernandez’s $9,500 in political contributions came on the same day from developers who are likely now getting an ear full from those who bought homes in the subdivision and are now wanting taxpayers to hurry up and build the road so they can have an exclusive exit—a privilege that other homeowners and residents in other subdivisions down Yorktown won’t have.
“I travel this stretch of Yorktown every single day multiple times and I am always scared,” says Lisa Garcia who recently purchase a home with her family just off of Yorktown and Krypton. “I don’t feel like these people ought to get any special treatment. The city needs to fix Yorktown first especially if they can build the new one for less later.”
And that seems to be the whole point of the matter.
Yorktown is a dangerous road between Rodd Field and Laguna Shores out in Flour Bluff. Mayor McComb actually noted that himself in his argument on Tuesday, saying that he himself drove that stretch of road on Monday. Other commuter feel the same way.
“I drive home from Kingsville,” said Flour Bluff resident Leanne Miller. “Especially in the dark months it is really bad because it is so poorly lit and there are no lights and it is crowded and people already drive like crazy. I’m also always afraid that I am going to hit one of the fishermen there or maybe one of the deer that you always see out here.”
Miller says that she, too would rather see the money spent on improvements to Yorktown.
“Let Gil Hernandez drive this road every single day and night and see how he likes it,” she says. “I just don’t think that this is a good idea and why don’t we spend the money on something that more than just a few hundred residents can benefit from?”
Miller has a logical point. Yorktown is very heavily traveled and has sharp drop offs and edges, is narrow and heavily used by both commuters and construction equipment on a daily basis. Texas Parks and Wildlife estimates that there might be as many as 100 deer living in that general area and they also say that the dim light, narrow roadway and sharp edges could present a traffic hazard to motorists when they encounter the heard along Yorktown.
The biggest reason that it seems why adding the $4.2 million dollar project to the 2020 Bond proposal is to simply appease a few developers who under normal circumstances might have to ante up and put their own skin in the game for the project. But then again, Corpus Christi City Council has never been accused of being “normal.”
City Manager Peter Zanoni did indicate that the city would reach out to the developers and see if they would be willing to put some skin in the game, but he didn’t sound overly confident that this would actually happen. He is expected to report back to council next week with what they find out.
It does seem to remember that the key takeaways here is that Yorktown is very heavily traveled by both commuters and construction crews. It is poorly lit, narrow and dangerous no matter how you look at it. Second, the entire deal with the Salazar lot seems a bit shady and might bear some looking into down the road. Third, the Rodd Field Extension will eventually be built with around $2.2. Million dollars in city contributions and will connect to the proposed regional parkway. The road just isn’t going to happen right at the moment and it might take 10 years to happen. Obviously, Salazar doesn’t want to wait that long to start his next development and he wants the taxpayers of Corpus Christi to ante up for it right now instead of waiting or coughing up the bread to do it himself so he can go ahead and sell some lots.
This is where it will come down to making a decision: What is best for your contributors or what is best for the city? Obviously asking taxpayers to cough up $4.2 million dollars now when they only have to cough up $2.2 million dollars later is not the right answer.
We will see how it turns out and pass it along to you when it happens.