Investigative Reporter Karisa King continues digging into the property tax system in Bexar County. She’s been examining how homeowners and businesses try to find ways to lower their property appraisals, which in turn lowers their tax bill.
Her Sunday story disclosed how the owners of the PGA Tour golf resort, which was built after years of controversy, are now seeking lower property taxes by claiming the two golf courses provide a wildlife refuge for deer and birds:
“I don’t think most people think of a golf course as a wildlife refuge,” said Mary Kieke, the county’s deputy chief appraiser. “Setting aside any insecticide and fertilizer contamination issue, clearing land for fairways cannot possibly enhance any wildlife’s access to shelter.”
At stake are millions of dollars in future revenue for local taxing entities, including Bexar County, Judson Independent School District, University Health System and Alamo Colleges.
Environmentalist Fay Sinkin died last week at the age of 90. There’s a rich archival resource available to the public for anyone who wants to learn about her life and the decades-long battle she fought to protect the Edwards Aquifer, San Antonio’s main drinking supply.
Reading Sinkin’s papers, it’s striking how long fights over the Edwards Aquifer have been raging. The Edwards Aquifer is fed by runoff from rain that filters through limestone on the city’s North Side. In the 1970s, real estate developers started eyeing that area to build new homes, parking lots, and streets — the kinds of things that taint runoff with pollutants.
But not so many people remember how Sinkin had drummed up signatures decades earlier in a similar battle.
In 1975, real estate developer Sam Barshop sought a zoning change for a new “super mall” at U.S. 281 and Loop 1604. Sinkin showed up at City Hall with 47,000 signatures from people opposing the mall. Henry Cisneros supported the effort, at least initially, and the mall tore a rift in the San Antonio business community.
Many downtown business owners opposed the city’s northward growth. A Greater Chamber of Commerce committee headed by construction magnate H.B. Zachry was a major proponent of the mall and operated with a $50,000 war chest.