Editor: Shannon Cottongame
May 5, 2022
The Hill County Commissioners Court voted to move forward with economic development agreements related to the planned Buc-ee’s in Hillsboro and the expansion of a solar project in the county during a meeting held Tuesday, April 26.
The court discussed the Buc-ee’s agreement in executive session before returning to open court and authorizing County Judge Justin Lewis to negotiate and execute all necessary documents related to a Chapter 381 agreement.
The Hillsboro City Council took action on a similar Chapter 380 agreement April 19, and the details of both documents are expected to be publicly available once they are finalized.
Chapter 380/381 of the Texas Local Government Code authorizes cities and counties to offer incentives designed to promote economic development. Generally, incentives can include sales tax sharing, grants, abatements or other programs.
Buc-ee’s has purchased land for the proposed development on Highway 77 near the Interstate 35 overpass in northeast Hillsboro. In public documents submitted to Hillsboro’s Planning and Zoning Commission, the company revealed plans to build a 74,000 square-foot store in Hillsboro, which would reportedly be the biggest Buc-ee’s in Texas.
“I think Buc-ee’s will be a great addition to our community, and the deal we’re working on is a good one,” Judge Lewis said.
The court also voted to propose a tax abatement agreement for Hill Solar II, LLC, which would be an expansion of the Hill Solar I project located in Itasca Independent School District’s boundaries.
Last year, the court granted a tax abatement to Hill Solar I, a project of Core Solar of Austin, after approving a reinvestment zone of 5,607 acres located north of Hillsboro in Itasca ISD. The creation of a reinvestment zone allows the county to negotiate tax abatement agreements in the designated area.
At that time, the company said the acreage would allow flexibility in the design and the ability to enter into future agreements if the project was expanded. The company has now leased additional land necessary for its storage and transmission needs located in the previously approved reinvestment zone.
Earlier in April, commissioners updated the county’s green energy guidelines to reduce the tax breaks offered to solar and wind energy companies by 20 percent. But Mike Dixon, the county’s economic development counsel, told the court Tuesday that the new guidelines will not apply to Hill Solar II since it is located in a reinvestment zone that was created under the old policy.
The company’s capital investment for the next portion of the project is expected to be around $200 million. Under the old guidelines, an investment of over $200 million qualifies the company for a tax break of about 52 percent over a 10-year period.
That does not apply to FM lateral taxes, which fund road and bridge work, and the agreement includes a requirement that the company repair any road damage caused by construction.
The agreement will not be finalized until it is posted for 30 days and it comes back before the commissioners court for action.
Commissioners discussed a request to allow fireworks sales in the county for Memorial Day. Texas law permits the sale of fireworks near the Independence Day and New Year’s holidays, but under a recent change in state law, commissioners can approve fireworks sales on several other holidays.
After discussion, the court determined that dry conditions could still be a problem at the end of May and denied the request.
The court updated the county’s Hazard Mitigation Plan to include language relating to the installation or purchase of generators for critical facilities during winter events. The change will make the county eligible for additional grants.
In a related agenda item, the court approved a request from the City of Carl’s Corner that the county apply for a hazard mitigation grant on the city’s behalf.
Lewis explained that the city has been working to improve water issues and recover from Winter Storm Uri. The grant funds would help with this process.
Commissioners voted to post notice of a 30 mile-per-hour speed limit on Live Oak Loop in the Whitney area following a recent crash in the area. After the required notice is posted, the court will hold a public hearing Tuesday, May 24, and vote to implement the speed limit.
Also approved were a final plat for Ivy Ranch Estates, located on HCR 4434, and a preliminary plat for Mesquite Ridge Subdivision, located on HCR 2128.
Lewis said that the county continues to see growth, and the amount of subdivisions coming into the county is “off the charts.”
The judge said that the previous month’s report showed 35 new permits for on-site sewage facilities in the unincorporated areas of the county. He said that there have been times in the recent past when that number was not reached in an entire year.
The court observed and recorded the Hill County Child Protective Services Board’s annual report for 2021, which included highlights of the board’s activities throughout the year. While some activities were scaled back earlier last year due to the pandemic, the CPS board continued its efforts to support local foster children with events and fund raising. A CPS staff appreciation luncheon was held in June, a National Adoption Month celebration was held in November to honor 17 local families who adopted children, and Christmas wishes were fulfilled for children with the community’s support in December.
“These folks have gone out of their way to support the needs of these kids in Hill County,” Lewis said. “You couldn’t ask for a better group than we have.”
During open forum, Hill County Extension Agent Angie Nors updated the court on the activities of Hill County 4-H, noting the many achievements of Hill County’s youth in a number of areas, including shooting sports, sport fishing, public speaking, robotics, fashion, consumer decision making, food challenges, the county fair and more. There are currently 204 Hill County students enrolled in 4-H, and Nors reported that enrollment is picking back up after declining during the pandemic.
The court’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 10, at the Hill County Courthouse.