BACKGROUND: Texas Annexation & the Military

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The following information was shared with me by Molly.


Background on Texas Annexation & the Military

It is my understanding that DVA is concerned that the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) is coming soon under the Trump administration, and that military bases in urban areas (like Camp Bullis in San Antonio) are under the threat of closure if this process is initiated.

BRAC Likelihood

Firstly, it is unlikely that BRAC will be called; although, it is not impossible. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 originally prohibited authorization of new BRACs. This clause been upheld in each year since and is included the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (Sen. McCain, R-AZ), TITLE XXVII Sec. 2702. In order to have another BRAC there would need to be congressional override to void this clause.

Some may argue that funding has been appropriated for this process, and therefore imminent. It is true that funding was appropriated, but that funding is needed for the closure of worldwide bases and for the evaluation of ongoing projects. According to this act, money DoD’s BRAC account was appropriated in the following amounts:

 Branch  Dollars  Location of Project
 Army 24,999,000  Worldwide Unspecified
 Navy 159,373,000  Worldwide Unspecified 
 (Project titled includes references to these states: ME, MO, CA, PA)
 Air Force 56,365,000  Worldwide Unspecified

As you can see, Texas and none of its facilities are mentioned in the bill or in the appropriation for the BRAC process. This limited appropriation along with the prohibition of new BRACs makes it unlikely that this process will be initiated.

I should also note that even though the prohibition of new projects occurred in 2014, the last BRAC in the United States occurred in 2005, over ten years earlier. You can find more information about that on BRAC’s Website.

Urban Bases and Current Law

Second, while urban bases are under threat of closure, current laws exist that should be used by municipalities and military bases in order to establish best practices.

Section 397.005 and 397.006 in Texas’s Local Government code establishes an eight mile area surrounding military bases that require notice and input from said bases for development by municipalities. (In the case of Camp Bullis and San Antonio, this includes the San Antonio airport.) This protection was put in place in 2009 and was most recently updated by Representative Farias 84R HB 1640. Representative Farias is an Army Veteran and served on DVA for four consecutive sessions.

While this is only a notification piece, the municipalities are to blame for not honoring the needs of the military. This is the problem with the recent concern coming from municipalities about their military bases.

In the case of Camp Bullis in San Antonio, Fiesta Texas sits within two miles of Camp Bullis’ boundaries and opened in 1992, when Camp Bullis was established in 1917. Development from Fiesta Texas toward Camp Bullis has continued over the years, and if the municipalities were truly concerned about encroachment, that would not be a problem to strike up today. This has always been an issue, and it is on the heads of the municipalities who chose to develop without regard to their military. San Antonio could have zoned (or annexed) the area surrounding Camp Bullis if they were truly concerned about encroachment.

San Antonio has turned its own malfeasance into an issue that has branded voter-approved municipal annexation as “anti-military.”

Gutierrez Amendment and Camp Bullis

The piece of legislation they will likely be discussing in the DVA hearing is Chairman Gutierrez’s amendment to Senate Bill 715 by Sen. Campbell (Sponsor: Huberty) that allowed municipalities to forcibly annex within 5 miles surrounding an active military installation. This includes thousands of residents along the IH-10 Corridor that chose to live outside of the city limits.

This five mile surrounding is 246 square miles of people who would still be under the threat of forced municipal annexation.

How to Protect the Military Under Current Law

Currently, there are methods that municipalities can employ to protect their military bases:

  •   The municipality may issue bonds to purchase the area around a military base;
  •   The county can control light pollution in rural areas around military bases;
  •   The municipality can implement the notice provision authorized under Local  Government Code SEC. 397 (discussed previously); and
  •   The municipality may annex the area and zone it for military purposes.

While this is not exhaustive, municipalities and counties have tools in their tool chest to ensure that military bases are not restricted by development.

Joint Land Use Study and Neglect from Municipalities to Protect the Military

Additionally, the most recent Joint Land Use Study (JLUS) that was conducted by the City of San Antonio and Camp Bullis outlines the ideal partnership between Camp Bullis and the city. This lengthy document shows the various ordinances that could be put in place to protect the military and allow it to function best; however, according to our research, the only pieces of the JLUS that they implemented since its publishing were Military Sound Attenuation Overlay Districts (MSAO) (San Antonio Unified Development Code, ART. III Zoning, Division 4 Overlay Districts, § 35-339.05) and Military Airport Overlay Zones (MAOZ) (San Antonio Unified Government Code, ART. III Zoning, Division 4 Overlay Districts, § 35-334), both in 2010.

The relationships should be symbiotic, and to say that the legislature is anti-military by trying to reform annexation is not only a simplification of the issues, it is flat out wrong.

These municipalities have ignored the needs of the military for years, and to attempt to disguise their desire for taxation without representation as a pro-military endeavor is an unfortunate use of our men and women who serve our country bravely.

(Shared with me by Molly. –Robin)