The City of Magnolia's initiative to annex seven tracts of land—roughly 360 acres—into its city limits has been met with some opposition from business owners in the targeted areas.
Four business owners addressed Magnolia City Council at a public hearing on annexation March 5. The city has held four annexation hearings over the past two months to give people a chance to ask questions and voice concerns. A final hearing has been set for March 27, which is also when Council is expected to approve the annexation.
Among the speakers was David Lege, owner of Magnolia Paint & Body Collision Repair Center, located on FM 1774. Lege said the cost of being annexed into the city would outweigh the benefits.
"Any kind of added expense is hard on us," he said. "I'm not a big company like Walgreens. You're talking about a small businessman here in Magnolia with just seven employees."
In addition to an increased property tax, Lege said being annexed into the city would mean his waste disposal charges would double because the city's service does not cover the type of recycling dumpster he uses without an additional cost.
Lege also said he has his own fully-functioning sewage system, which has been permitted by the county, and would not benefit from being connected to the city's system.
While the actual cost of connecting to the city's sewer and water lines has not been determined, Lege estimated it could cost him as much as $6,000 per building to install sewer taps.
"At this time, and in the near future, I just don't see the need for all these additional costs for me as a business owner," he said.
According to Paul Mendes, Magnolia's city administrator, the City is working with the business owners to make sure their needs are met. Installation fees will be negotiated and property owners will not have to pay them upfront right away, he said. Payments would be made in smaller amounts over time.
Mendes said being a part of the City will benefit the owners, even if they do not realize it now. He pointed out that several businesses along FM 1774 maintain aerobic septic systems in their open yard space. Connecting into the city's sewer system would allow them to get more use out of that space.
The City already provides many of these businesses with water, but once they are annexed Magnolia can upgrade the system to enable a more powerful water flow, Mendes said. The City will also provide the areas with police and fire protection.
"Not everyone is keen on what we're trying to do, but this will be a benefit for them and for the greater good of the whole area," he said.
Other business owners in the area acknowledge the financial burden that comes with annexation, but view it as a logical step forward for Magnolia.
"In the long run it will be better for the area," said David Arevalo, owner of Country Air on FM 1774. "It puts a little burden on us as property owners, but it's pretty much inevitable."
Greg Holcombe, owner of Holcombe Realty in Magnolia, said annexation would likely lead to an increase in property value as well.
"I can't recall an instance when an area was annexed and property values didn't increase," he said. "The positives definitely outweigh the negatives."
With March 27 approaching, Lege—along with a few other business owners—will continue to make his concerns known. He said there are more people opposed to the annexation, but a lot of them are not speaking up.
"There are only a few people complaining right now at the meetings," he said. "I don't think that we're going to be able to be loud enough to be heard when there are others not speaking up."
Lege said he hopes the city will take their concerns into account, but is skeptical whether there is actually any way to stop the annexation.
"At this point I'm not sure we're going to have a choice," he said.
Residents have the right to petition to be removed from the city if no compromise is reached, but only after one year of being annexed.
The final hearing is set for March 27 at Magnolia City Hall, 18111 Buddy Riley Blvd.