This Saturday voters will have to decide whether to allow the City of El Paso to develop a huge parcel of desert land in Northwest El Paso that has been used by hikers and bikers for many years. When you vote you'll see "Proposition A." It reads:

"Shall an ordinance be approved to preserve in its natural state, for all time, the 1,107 acres owned by the City of El Paso and referred to as “Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone Number Twelve,” which includes the “Lost Dog Trail,” and to prohibit, for all time, any private development and any major public roadways on said 1,107 acres?"

You can click here to read what a "for" or "against" vote will mean, but here are some questions I had about this news item in which the City said it would cost $11 million dollars for preservation of the land including the Lost Dog Trail if voters chose against developing the land.

It seemed very strange that the City would all of the sudden have an $11 million dollar sword over voters heads about this piece of land that has been open space for decades. I asked the City the questions below about the land. I don't think the City is being honest with taxpayers in this matter. I believe they are coming up with an $11 million appraisal because they want to develop the land. As always, we report, you decide:

1. Why would the land in question have to be moved from EPWU inventory into City inventory?

Any time property is deemed inexpedient (meaning not essential for operations) to the EPWU system, like the property in question, the land is transferred to the City. The property in question was deemed inexpedient last year.

2. If it stays in EPWU inventory there is no need for $11 million to be spent, correct? Only if it is moved is the money necessary.

Correct, however as stated above the property was deemed inexpedient last year prior to the initiative petition being circulated.

3. Who has been paying up until now for it to be maintained or preserved?

The property has been maintained and preserved by the PSB/EPWU.

4. Would it have stayed in EPWU inventory had there been no plans to develop it and therefore no ballot initiative?

This is speculative the PSB could have decided to develop it at any time.

5. How long has it been in EPWU inventory?

We, the City, don’t have this information at this time. You would need to ask EP Water.

6. Would it be moved from EPWU inventory to City inventory if the land is developed? If so, would there still be an $11 million bill for preservation?

Yes, any time land held by the PSB is going to be developed it is transferred to the City. The reason we are discussing the $11 million at this time is because the land was appraised during the time it was declared inexpedient and the current fair market value of the property to maintain it preserved is $11 million.

7. Why did the City and EPWU adopt this ordinance? Was it because there was a fight to save the land and the threat of an $11 million taxpayer expenditure might help prevent that citizen initiative?

Assuming “this ordinance” is referring to the October 2018 bond issuance ordinance, the ordinance was passed to allow EPWU to issue water and sewer bonds for capital infrastructure needs.

The ordinance includes the requirement to have the PSB reimbursed for the fair market value of the land as part of the bond covenants. The PSB has a responsibility to the ratepayers and bond holders to ensure that it is reimbursed for property it held and managed in order to recoup its costs for maintaining and managing that land.