Photo by JP Eichmiller
The Round Rock City Council voted unanimously June 28 to approve the $325,000 purchase of 2.029 acres of residential property for a new fire station despite the protests of area residents.
The fate of the vacant property, located at the southwest intersection of FM 3406 and Wyoming Springs Drive, has led to a contentious debate between the land owner—Jerry Bradley—and residents of the nearby Tonkawa Springs subdivision. The land sits near a natural spring, which some residents fear is in danger of contamination if the site is rezoned for commercial use.
“We’re not anti-development,” said Sophia Cano-Coladonato, whose home sits one lot away from the proposed fire station property. “We are anti-inappropriate development. It’s zoned single-family residential—that’s what we want there.”
Thursday’s vote offered resolution to a property dispute that has been ongoing for years. According to Bradley, he has entertained several offers from retailers interested in the property over the last several years. In late 2011, Bradley entered into contract with gas station chain Wag-A-Bag for the property.
“It became a major issue with the neighbors,” Bradley said about the proposed development.
In December, prior to gaining final approval from the City Council to rezone the property for commercial use, Bradley and Wag-A-Bag called off their deal.
“It was scheduled to go to City Council for approval, but word had gotten to Wag-A-Bag and Bradley that people in Tonkawa Springs were interested in purchasing the property,” said Russ Boles, a local Realtor and representative for Bradley, in January. “So the buyer and seller said, ‘Let’s take a break and give those persons the opportunity to purchase the property.'”
The proposed deal with local residents never materialized, however. According to Bradley, the group came in with an offer “a little over $100,000,” well below what he estimated the land to be worth. While the negotiations with residents was stagnating, “the city became interested,” Bradley said.
“The city has been looking for a fire station site in this area for some time,” Bradley said in a written statement after the deal was announced June 27. “Once the city approached me, it made common sense for the area, and the decision was easy.”
The local residents, however, say they were blindsided by the deal and that the city undercut their negotiations by offering Bradley an above-market price for the property.
“We were trying to broker a deal when you stepped in,” Tonkawa Springs resident Gene Sainga said at the June 28 meeting. “The fair market value of this property is less than $90,000.”
The city, however, believes it is getting a deal for the land. “We had it appraised at $480,000,” Round Rock City Manager Steve Norwood said.
The city now has 60 days to conduct environmental and engineering studies to evaluate the feasibility of the site before the deal is finalized.
“I’m not interested in buying something we can’t use,” Round Rock Mayor Alan McGraw said. If the city decides to back out of the deal, it will owe just $1,000 to Bradley.
“In a perfect world, we will be able to build it without any damage to the springs, the caves or the endangered species,” Round Rock Fire Chief David Coatney said. “If we can’t do it, let’s move on and find another site to do it.”