Victoria County business owners weigh in on forced annexation

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

Feb. 4, 2014 at 10:04 p.m.
Updated Feb. 4, 2014 at 8:05 p.m.

Victoria County business owners are standing up against being brought into city limits.

During Tuesday night's City Council meeting, nine residents voiced their questions and concerns about a proposed involuntary annexation of more than 733 acres, the majority of which is along U.S. Highway 77 North.

Les Zeplin, owner of Les Zeplin Motors, said he moved his business outside city limits 19 years ago.

"I wished I'd never gotten into this, but I guess I didn't move far enough out," Zeplin said. "We've been doing just fine without them (the city)."

City staff and elected officials say annexation helps spur development, boosts property values and brings people water and sewer services.

The city is preparing to spend almost $3 million to provide infrastructure to the area on U.S. 77.

Mayor Paul Polasek said annexing the 661 acres along U.S. 77 will ensure there is orderly growth and planning.

"We don't want to place an additional tax burden on anyone," he said.

According to the city's proposal, that area would bring in $19,062 in taxes.

Zeplin, 67, said he built his business from the ground up and has no intention of selling - which would be the only benefit of increased property values, he said.

His business, which specializes in trailers, mowers and portable buildings, is one of several that will be affected by the city's annexation plan. He believes the entire issue hinges on money.

Allen Wilkinson, another landowner who spoke Tuesday night, presented a plan he called a win-win.

He suggested the city annex the areas south of the businesses, where the bulk of the land is, and leave the mom and pop shops alone.

Polasek said annexation should be contiguous and that there cannot be "an island" of land.

Others facing changes raised issues with staying on their own water and septic systems.

"We're used to doing everything the way we want to do it," said Zeplin, who owns the trailer dealership. "At this point, I'd like to live out my life and not have to deal with the city."

His daughter, Lee Zeplin, owns an animal hospital nearby that is also impacted by the annexation.

She recently spent $5,000 to re-dig a well.

A representative with La Fogata, a Mexican restaurant in the annexation's path, said the restaurant invested $50,000 in a septic system.

City Manager Charmelle Garrett said the city would begin providing fire, police and solid waste services within 60 days.

Residents would have a specific time frame for being required to connect to the city's water system.

"The reality is, when we look at where we're growing, we're growing out in that area," she said. "We're trying to do a proactive planned growth."

Another nearby business, All About the Dress, is included in the annexation plan.

The owner, Christina Cook, a Cuero resident, said she has mixed feelings about the issue.

"I'm not 100 percent against it," she said. "I'm also not completely for it."

The business caters to clients looking for formal wear, bridal gowns and special event dresses.

Cook is concerned about an increase in taxes and said she does not want to be on the city's water and sewer system.

When she bought the building about four years ago, she knew it was an investment property.

"This will increase the value of our property, which is nice," Cook said.

She thinks it could also send more shoppers her way.

"We knew that (taxes) would go up when this would eventually be annexed," she said.

Cook said she has no intention of moving the business outside city limits or closer to the shopping centers.

"We like where we're at out here," she said.



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