Thursday, April 27, 2006

Del Rio Development Draws Fire

Another proposed golf course is the subject of citizen protests, only this time it's the surrounding development, not the course itself, driving the opposition; and it's not environmental concerns that underly that opposition.

This project is in Del Rio, and it's a proposed Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) development, approved by the city council earlier this month in a 4-3 vote, that would cover 3,100 acres and include more than 4,000 homes, nearly half a million square feet of retail space, a business park covering 1 million square feet, and 4 million square feet of industrial use space. Oh, and a public golf course.

The TIRZ means the city of Del Rio would not collect property tax revenue from the project. Insteat, property taxes would go back into the project for 25 years, to be invested in infrastructure. That's an amount estimated at $80 million-$130 million.

But it's not even that corporate welfare that has Del Rio citizens up in arms. What they are worried about is that the development might scare the Air Force out of town.

The Air Force's massive Laughlin AFB is the main economic generator in town. And the proposed development would share a fenceline with the base, which has always been surrounded by nothing but empty fields.

Many Del Rioans showed up at a public hearing Wednesday wearing "Save Laughlin" buttons. So that concern must be real among residents. What I haven't seen explained, however, is why the Air Force would care that a development is opening next door. Perhaps they are concerned about the potential of citizens committees to form in the future and protest the noise from jet fighters flying overhead (notice to anyone who moves into the development: do you really want to live next door to a huge air base?). Maybe they have security concerns.

One article on the project said that the Laughlin AFB officials have not taken a public position on the proposed development. Another said that initial Air Force concerns over the deal have been addressed.

So whether Del Rio gets its second public golf course (its third overall) is a question that will probably be lingering for a while.

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