The proposed rail supported warehouse project will be open for public opinion next month, a step in the voluntary annexation project, El Campo City Council decided Monday night.

Developers of the Southwest International Gateway Business Park are working with the city to get 130.3 acres of land annexed about the same time they actually buy the land and complete all the financial steps to issue infrastructure bonds including streets and rail via a Public Improvement District.

The PID bonds, up to $15 million, would then be re-paid by the rail park’s clients.

In April, project developers made the same effort, but chose to abandon it when the assorted pieces of the deal failed to align.

Officials in El Campo’s Planning & Zoning Commission reviewed the annexation request for a second time on Aug. 21.

Commissioners approved sending it to Council again in a 4-2 vote with Sherry Roddy and D.B. Lundy against.

“They just didn’t have faith in the project,” City Planning Director Jai McBride told Council of the no votes.

Councilman John Hancock, who has expressed doubts on the viability of the rail park project, joined his fellow council members Monday in setting the public hearing for Monday, Oct. 14 as part of the regular council session.

After listening to public comments on the issue, Council is tentatively set to vote on the proposed annexation as well as the Public Improvement District to allow bonds to be issued either at the Oct. 28 or Nov. 12 session.

“Why would you not vote for a voluntary annexation,” Mayor Pro Tem Philip Miller asked.

The 130 acres in question is still owned by the Zalman family and three Erwin family trusts, a fact which has drawn concern from Councilman Hancock.

Should the land deal not go through, the families would likely request de-annexation, Miller said.

The city has spent about $500,000 so far in trying to make the SWIG a reality, looking at the possible long-term economic gains from the jobs it could create.

The City Development Corporation of El Campo has further pledged an additional $3 million for infrastructure costs.

The park’s current timeline calls for city action in late October or early November with construction starting in early December. That would, according to developers’ plans, mean the first two buildings would be complete by the end of 2020.

No tenants have been announced as of yet.

The project’s Phase 1 is estimated as a $125 million effort.

The development is projected to add $1.5 million in tax revenues to the local school district although less to the city because tax dollars in the target area have been redirected to a Tax Reinvestment Zone funding freeway frontage roads.

Developers are Stonemont Financial Group, Ridgeline Property Group, Kansas City Southern and NAI Partners.

The rail park or SWIG is a a 540-acre development at the intersection of County Road 421 and U.S. 59.

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