Land annexation near RELLIS Campus

Consultants say annexing the area near the RELLIS Campus right now would require cost-prohibitive service expansion.

Annexing the area around the Texas A&M University System's RELLIS Campus into the city limits isn't recommended in the near term, consultants told the Bryan City Council earlier this week.

Kendig Keast Collaborative, the Sugar Land-based firm the council hired in January to study Bryan's options regarding annexation in the area of the 2,000-acre campus near the intersection of Texas 47 and Texas 21, does recommend annexing other land west of the city limits in pieces over a period of time. Annexing the RELLIS property itself is also an option, but the firm's study found that any immediate action around the campus isn't necessary. 

City officials have expressed interest in annexing the area around RELLIS to both protect the property and guide development around the academic, research and training hub as it grows. But Gary Mitchell, president of Kendig Keast, told council members during a workshop presentation Tuesday that annexing land in the area immediately surrounding the area isn't recommended, at least not for the next five years or so.

Some basic city services would need to be provided immediately upon annexation. Fire services in particular would make that annexation scenario cost-prohibitive, according to the report. RELLIS is currently served by the Precinct Four Volunteer Fire Department, and the closest fire station in Bryan is on Villa Maria Road. A fire station would need to be built in the area if annexation was pursued, and the city also would need to pay for vehicles and employees to staff it.

In addition to those upfront costs to provide the required fire services, Mitchell said there's no immediate development pressure in the area. More rooftops and residents would likely be needed to be able to support businesses in that area, he said.

A few different scenarios for annexation of land elsewhere in the city's western extraterritorial jurisdiction, however, could be pursued soon, Mitchell said. Those options are mostly focused near Riverside Parkway and Villa Maria Road. Annexing in those areas is recommended as a first step, and a series of subsequent annexations over multiple years could eventually bring land in the Texas 21 corridor and closer to RELLIS into the city limits.

Annexing the campus itself was also discussed. Mitchell said it could be a "strategic" move by the city because of the "prestige" associated with RELLIS and the potential for revenue-generating activities there in the future. And while under current state law cities can't annex more than 10 percent of their total geographic area in a single year, Mitchell said the public facility would be exempt from that rule and therefore wouldn't affect the city's ability to pursue annexations elsewhere.

Council members didn't give any direction following the update from the firm on Tuesday, but annexation discussions will likely continue during future meetings. Until annexation in the immediate RELLIS area is viable, it's recommended that the city both solicit and consider development agreements and landowner requests for annexation, and continue coordination with the Texas A&M University System and the TxDOT Bryan District. Developing a "western gateway" area plan is also recommended.

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