Just outside the Bryan city limits on FM 1179 lies numerous green pastures filled with the normal farm scenery: cattle, windmills, and barns.
But soon, all the farm scenery may become as much a part of the city as the countless shopping centers and traffic lights.
“We’ve been here a long time, and we want to stay here as a farm,” said Leonard Morehead, whose family has owned a farm off of FM 1179 for more than 100 years. “But the problem is, the city of Bryan wants to annex us.”
Though still in the planning stages, the city of Bryan has proposed to annex five portions of land on both the East and West side of the city limits, totaling approximately 8,000 acres. Two of those sections are on the east side of Highway 6, another two on the west side of Harvey Mitchell, and the final in a section just north of downtown that Bryan refers to as the “Donut Hole” because it is completely surrounded by the current city limits.
And while annexation would bring certain city privileges such as access to emergency services, trash pick up, and library services, it would also take away some things residents see as a benefit, such as being able to hunt or burn brush and debris piles.
“This is a farm lifestyle out there, and we’re losing our freedom,” Morehead said. “The city should not be able to impose their lifestyle on the farmers.”
Martin Zimmerman, a planning administrator with Bryan, said the goal of the city is not to change the lifestyle of the residents in the proposed areas, but instead to watch over the future interests of the city.
“The idea is to protect these areas for future quality developments, especially along major entrances to our community,” Zimmerman said. “We need to be able to control the development so we don’t have to come back and fix it.”
Zimmerman said the city council brought up the issue of annexation a few months ago, after observing other growing communities that encountered problems with developers building large lot subdivisions outside of the city limits.
The city moved forward with the idea, and in accordance with Texas state law, information packets were mailed out to all residents in the proposed annexation areas. The packets included a possible agreement to avoid being annexed for a 15-year period for those lands that are classified as “AG exempt”, but Morehead said the wording was too confusing and that the city was not helpful in answering questions.
“I had to hire a lawyer to interpret this agreement,” Morehead said. “One of the phrases talks about signing away certain rights, and I didn’t want to sign anything away until I understood it.”
Zimmerman said there have been many questions about the packets, but the city’s staff had to be careful about which questions they answered.
“We’ve gotten a lot of calls about the packet, and the problem we run into sometimes is it’s a question about a legal issue, and we can’t provide the public with legal advice. So we encourage them to seek legal counsel,” Zimmerman said.
The process is still in a planning stage as the council works out some conflicting interpretations in the agreement. Zimmerman said once the wording is clarified, the actual annexation proceedings will begin, but added that because the process is still in a planning stage, the annexation areas could change.
But Morehead is not holding out any hope that his farm will be removed from the proposed annexation area anytime soon.
“The city says they want to protect the corridors,” Morehead said. “Well, the Foster family farms have been protecting this corridor for over 100 years. We’ve been doing our job. We’re just a farm. And we want to be left alone.”