San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

December 7th, 2009
US Foodservice one step closer to Buda

fowlerpattersonIn foreground, US Foodservice Austin Division President John Fowler, left, and Buda resident David Patterson, former Buda Economic Development Corporation member, speak during a break at a recent Hays County Commissioners Court meeting. Photo by Sean Batura.

By SEAN BATURA
News Reporter

Buda is one step closer to having a 500,000-square-foot US Foodservice headquarters and distribution center, though opponents of the facility, unmoved by their defeat at the Third Court of Appeals last month, have said they will apply for a re-hearing with the court.

The city is allowing the developer – 2428 Partners, LP – to submit a traffic impact analysis (TIA) under the city’s guidelines for non-residential developments. The development lies within the Sunfield municipal utility districts (MUDs). The proposed US Foodservice facility would be in Sunfield MUD No. 1.

Buda City Councilmember Ron Fletcher, who cast the only vote against approving 2428 Partners’ preliminary plan last week, argued that the firm should have been required to conduct a TIA beforehand.

“The single family residential section of the MUD is going to have over 5,000 homes in it,” Fletcher said. “And the transportation manual says that a single family residence generates 10-point-something-or-other trips per day. So multiply 10 times 5,000. How many new cars is that on our streets? Over 50,000 cars. And they’ve got no place to go but two intersections — the 2001 overpass or the Main Street underpass. So we’re talking about 50,000 new cars a day through those two intersections. And the MUD, with a straight face, was saying that they don’t have any responsibility for helping us upgrade any of the roads outside the MUD. And the code is pretty clear that they do. And that’s what the purpose of the TIA is.”

2428 Partners has agreed to conduct a TIA, which may take a month. After the firm submits the results of its TIA, the city will then hire a traffic engineer — at cost to the developer — to verify the results of 2428 Partners’ analysis. If the city council is satisfied with the TIA, then 2428 Partners will submit a site plan.

Fletcher said he expects the results of the TIA to support his prediction that 2428 Partners’ “fair share of upgrading those intersections is something that they’re going to owe to the city before it’s over and done with.”

Buda has a population of about 6,000 people, so the development, at full build-out, would well more than double the Buda-area population. Sunfield MUD is in Buda’s extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ). Fletcher said no residential lots have yet been sold in the development.

In a letter dated Feb. 12 and addressed to Buda Mayor Bobby Lane, a representative of transportation and urban planning firm Robert J. Halls & Associates provided data regarding projected truck traffic generated by the proposed US Foodservice facility.

“As indicated, this growth can be expected to generate about 454 total truck movements per day by 227 trucks with only 56 movements in the site’s 5-6 a.m. peak hour,” wrote Robert J. Halls in the letter to Lane. “As a point of comparison, the 2007 traffic counts for IH-35 published by the Texas Department of Transportation indicated that the highway was carrying approximately 106,000 trips per day at the Hays-Travis County line.”

The further along 2428 Partners gets in the development process, the harder it may be for opponents of the US Foodservice facility to prevent its construction. The Third Court of Appeals on Dec. 2 granted opponents of the facility an extension of time to file motion for rehearing.

In October, Former Buda Mayor Jim Hollis and Buda realtor Christopher Juusola filed suit in the Third Court of Appeals to prevent the US Foodservice facility from being built until residents could vote on whether to reverse a land use change approved in June by their city council. The land use change paved the way for the US Foodservice facility and other future light industrial users in 95 acres of Buda’s extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) that formerly had been designated only for commercial, office and retail uses.

Funded by a family with land holdings near the site, a group called BudaFirst formed to oppose the land use change. Hollis and Juusola’s suit does not name BudaFirst.org as a plaintiff. Representatives of the group gathered 788 signatures, exceeding the City Charter’s requirement that 20 percent of the registered voters must sign a petition in order to trigger a referendum. However, Buda’s city attorney advised councilmembers that the land use change is not subject to referendum, and the council voted, 6-1, in September to disallow the election. Councilmember Sandra Tenorio cast the lone vote in favor of allowing a referendum.

A month ago, Texas Court of Appeals Justice Diane M. Henson ruled that the council’s approval of Amendment 3 – the land use change – was not an action subject to a referendum because it was not “legislative in character.”

Opponents of the land use change say it will lead to more pollution and less sales tax revenue for the city than retail uses would have generated. Buda City Manager Kenneth Williams said in August that the US Foodservice facility would generate $100,000 in sales taxes annually to the city.

A limited purpose annexation agreement between Sunfield MUD No. 1 and the city allows the city to collect sales taxes within the MUD. Fletcher recently estimated that the 95 acres of land to which the light industrial designation was added could have accommodated “two or more” big box stores.

Proponents of the land use change say the city would benefit greatly from the 157 jobs in 10 years US Foodservice said it would create. US Foodservice said it pays its warehouse personnel and truck drivers anywhere from $45,000 to $55,000, and its facility may generate $2.7 million annually in property taxes.

US Foodservice months ago asked the Hays County Commissioners Court to fund construction improvements to Turnersville Road and CR 118 to accommodate the truck traffic generated by the proposed facility.

On Aug. 4, Hays County commissioners voted 4-1 to direct county staff to draft a tax increment reinvestment zone (TIRZ) agreement whereby the county could fund $1.8 million in road improvements using ad valorem taxes collected within a specified boundary encompassing at least the proposed US Foodservice facility. US Foodservice offered to pay the difference if the property taxes generated within the zone over a certain period of time are not sufficient to pay for the debt on the roads.

No TIRZ agreement has yet appeared on the commissioners court’s agenda. US Foodservice is unlikely to buy the approximately 40 acres it needs for its facility until it secures county support for the road improvements and until 2428 Partners obtains approval for a final plat from Buda.

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