Clockwise, left to right: Hays County Judge Liz Sumter, Stahl Urban, Hays County Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton and BudaFirst.org member David Patterson discuss the possibility of US Foodservice locating a facility in the Sunfield MUD. Photo by Sean Batura.
By SEAN BATURA
BudaFirst.org, the political action committee attempting to keep a U.S. Foodservice facility out of the Sunfield MUD near Buda, is financed entirely by the interests of one family, according to campaign finance reports.
According to the latest report filed by BudaFirst.org with the City of Buda, the organization has three contributors: Heep Ranch Properties, Ltd, married couple Carl and Betsy Urban of Buda, and their son, Stahl Urban, an Austin resident.
Heep Ranch Properties is owned by Kathleen Adkins. Adkins and Betsy Urban are granddaughters of the late rancher Herman Heep, who established a large spread straddling the line between Hays and Travis Counties lying mostly on the east side of Interstate-35.
Heep Properties controls more than $7.7 million in Buda-area property, some of which is located near the proposed US Foodservice facility. Carl and Betsy Urban possess more than $700,000 in Buda property, some of which is located near the proposed facility.
Of the $2,208.25 contributed to BudaFirst.org in June – the period covered in the political action committee’s (PAC) latest finance report – Stahl Urban made an in-kind contribution of $54.11. Heep Properties contributed $1,105.50, of which $605.50 was in kind. Carl and Betsy Urban contributed the remainding $1,048.64, all of which is listed as in kind. The treasurer for BudaFirst.org is Nancy Brinkley, a former Buda Planning and Zoning (P&Z) commissioner.
When members BudaFirst.org pleaded before Hays County commissioners on Aug. 4 to delay work on CR 118 until Buda could hold a referendum on US Foodservice, Hays County Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley (R-San Marcos) inquired as to the identity of the group’s top five contributors. The BudaFirst.org spokesperson David Patterson said he didn’t know.
Hays County Commissioners Court members voted, 4-1, on Aug. 4 to instruct county staff to begin drawing up a tax increment finance (TIF) zone agreement, whereby property taxes generated over the next 10-12 years by the US Foodservice facility would be used to pay for road improvements to Turnersville Road and CR 118. US Foodservice officials have said that if the TIF doesn’t generate the $1.75 million needed for the improvements, the company will pay the difference. US Foodservice will not buy the 40 acres for the facility until the county formally enters into the TIF agreement.
BudaFirst.org has said it may sue the City of Buda should it refuse to afford registered voters among its approximately 5,000 residents the opportunity to overturn a decree of the city’s seven-member governing body. The Buda City Council voted in May to allow 95 acres of extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) land to be used for light industrial purposes, thereby helping pave the way for the proposed construction of a 500,000-square-foot US Foodservice regional headquarters and distribution center on 40 of the 95 acres.
The facility would be located near the intersection of Turnersville Road and CR 118. Critics of the proposed location for the US Foodservice facility warn of more air pollution, traffic congestion, and less tax revenue for the city, should uses other than commercial and residential be allowed there. Proponents of the location say the facility would generate negligible traffic, bring in more taxes for the county and the school district, and create 157 jobs in the next 10 years. US Foodservice representatives say the jobs would pay a mean weighted average of nearly $59,000 a year.
Buda Councilmembers had voted unanimously in March to disallow industrial uses in the area of the Sunfield Municipal Utility District (MUD), where US Foodservice wants to build its facility. After the city council election in May, councilmembers voted 5-2 to change the land use map to accommodate US Foodservice.
US Foodservice representative Howard Falkenberg, president of Austin-based advertising and public relations firm Staats Falkenberg, contributed $250 to Hays County Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton’s (D-Kyle) campaign coffers, according to the commissioner’s latest campaign finance report. Barton’s precinct includes the area in and around Buda.
Barton has indicated that he will support whatever decision Buda makes in the US Foodservice matter, going so far as to say that the proposed facility may be a poor deal for the city, which could lose potential sales taxes, and a “no-brainer” for the county and Hays CISD, which would receive more property tax revenues.
Falkenberg, an Austin resident, has appeared alongside the company’s officials at county government meetings where commissioners have discussed whether to make road improvements to accommodate truck traffic associated with the proposed facility. Falkenberg made his contribution in April, a month after Buda city councilmembers voted against the interests of US Foodservice.
Of the $42,587.50 contributed to Barton’s campaign between January 1 and June 30 – the period covered by the latest financial report – at least nine Buda residents made contributions totaling almost $3,000. Barton’s treasurer is his wife, Cindy Barton-Slovak, co-publisher of the Hays Free Press, which is largely owned by the Barton family.
Hays County Judge Liz Sumter (D-Wimberley), who is expected to run against Barton for the county judge seat in the upcoming Democratic primary, was alone among commissioners court members in voting against the interests of US Foodservice earlier this month. Of the $6,901.25 contributed to Sumter’s campaign between January 15 and July 15 – the period covered by the latest financial report – contributions from Buda residents totaled $235. The money was contributed by two married couples. Sumter’s treasurer is Jimmie Robinson, a Wimberley grant writer who is a director on the Wimberley ISD Education Foundation.
Though it’s widely anticipated that Barton and Sumter will run against each other for Sumter’s seat in the Democratic primary next March, it is unlikely that Barton will announce his candidacy before the filing deadline in January. If he announces before then, he would have to give up his Precinct 2 seat. But it he announces after the start of 2010, he can hold his seat for the remainder of his term, which would expire at the end of that year.Email | Print