The PGA Village in San Antonio: To Be or Not To Be?
SAN ANTONIO, TX - When visiting San Antonio, there are several "must-see" locations, including the Riverwalk located in the heart of downtown and, of course the most historic location in Texas, The Alamo. In the future there could be another attraction to the Alamo City if golf enthusiasts have anything to do with it. Environmentalists, however, aren't as enthusiastic.
At issue is the designation of San Antonio by the PGA of America as the future location of the nation's second PGA Village similar to the original located in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The 2,855-acre development just north of San Antonio, which according to the PGA would serve the western United States, would include three golf courses, a teaching center, a 500-room Marriott hotel, apartments, condos and possibly a Ritz-Carlton hotel.
Sports enthusiasts and economic development advocates see the potential resort as a welcome addition to the city and believe it would make San Antonio one of the top golf destinations in the country drawing in high-end tourists and new businesses.
On the flip side, a coalition of different groups sees the possible village as a bad idea for several reasons. The most vocal of the coalition are those concerned with the location of the new resort and the environmental effects such a large project would have on the sensitive recharge zone. The recharge zone is a strip of land located in North Bexar County and adjacent counties that supplies groundwater to the Edwards aquifer, which provides most of the drinking water for San Antonio.
More specifically, those opposed to the resort fear the water supply could become contaminated from treated wastewater, fertilizer and chemicals used on the golf course.
To address those particular concerns, the developer, Lumbermen's Investment Corporation, has committed to carefully monitor and control the water quality in the resort. Proponents have said, if given the opportunity, Lumbermen's could establish a model for responsible development over the aquifer. They also point out that the city could impose stricter development restrictions on the golf resort than it could if the land was used for housing.
The environmentalists aren't convinced.
Caught somewhere in the middle is city government, including Mayor Ed Garza. In a recent conversation with Travelgolf.com, Garza discussed the brief history of the PGA Village and its future.
On an issue that is clearly the most controversial since he took office, Garza has tried to be sensitive to both sides: "We want them (the PGA) in San Antonio. But the site is located over an environmentally sensitive recharge zone where there are issues on water quality, quantity, as well as endangered species and other natural habitats."
On the environmental side, Garza has been particularly interested in what his constituency has to say. So much so that he solicited comment from the citizenry through a public forum in January. Almost 150 people filled city council chambers to hear about the potential environmental impacts of the proposed development and each provided comments and questions of their own.
Garza said while the environmental issue is important, he also has to consider the interest of his constituents throughout the city. Many inner-city residents feel economic development has passed them by and moved to the north side of the city with the development of the San Antonio International Airport, the South Texas Medical Center, and the main campus of the University of Texas at San Antonio.
"We have to work on balanced growth in the city," said Garza, who used inner-city redevelopment as one of his campaign platforms before he was elected in 2001. "We have to ask how does it compare with the city's master plan of balance in the community."
In addition to the environmental and balanced growth concerns, Garza said there is another issue with the PGA Village. The city council is weighing approval of a special taxing district that would allow Lumbermen's to recapture up to $60 million in property, sales and hotel-motel tax revenue generated by the project.
The special tax district, approved by the Texas Legislature last year, also requires city approval. The site is outside city limits, and the proposed deal calls for the city not to annex the property for 15 years.
"The way the Legislature set this up, it is very flexible," Garza said. "They (the developer) would collect revenue through taxes to develop infrastructure for the project."
Garza added that if the council approves the new tax district, the citizens could still overturn it. "They could get enough signatures to not allow this district to be created."
With so many issues to consider for the specific tract of land, Garza said in early February they were considering the possible review of alternative sites for the resort. When TravelGolf.com asked if that was still a possibility, Garza revealed that was no longer on the docket. "We are no longer considering the review of alternative sites. That's no longer an issue."
Those words indicate that there are enough votes from the city council to pass the issue and the city is moving forward with the current site and Lumbermen's. City Councilman Bobby Perez confirmed just that in the San Antonio Express. He said they are now in the process of trying to work with Lumbermen's to get the best deal for the city.
At the center of the negotiations are $15 million for infrastructure in areas targeted for future annexation and the mayor's request for $8 million to revitalize neglected areas of the city. "The concessions in the development agreement are huge," Perez said. "There's a perception out there that the city hasn't negotiated these types of agreements well in the past, but they (Lumbermen's) have been squeezed very, very hard."
March 5, 2002