City Council Moves Away from Downtown TIRZ Idea, But Closer to Lone Star Rail Plan

(New Braunfels, TX)  --  New Braunfels City Council held a pair of workshops yesterday, each dealing with tax increment financing, which is a way to pay for projects using a portion of increased property values in a specific area.  It’s a model that worked well at Creekside where the city got major drainage improvements and the extension of FM 306 out of the deal, but City Council isn’t so sure it’s the right solution for downtown New Braunfels.   A downtown TIRZ, or Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, has been a topic of discussion for years to pay for downtown improvement projects, like a proposed parking garage or a hotel attached to the Civic and Convention Center.  The most recent proposal was for a 241-acre TIRZ zone that, over the years, would fund 7 proposed projects estimated to cost about 30.8-million dollars.  And although no action was taken yesterday, several City Council members and Mayor Barron Casteel expressed concern with the plan.  

On the other hand, City Council did ask staff to continue looking into creating a much smaller funding area (about ½ a mile) in order to fund a possible train station as part of the Lone Star Rail commuter train project, which would run passengers from San Antonio to Austin and Gerogetown, with a stop here in New Braunfels.  There are 3 recommended places for the New Braunfels train station.  Lone Star Rail is suggesting the stop be near the current City Hall, or somewhere between Town Creek and the Wurstfest grounds, or near the future Rec Center site on Landa Street.  Lone Star Rail says the new line; if built, would take up to 40 trains a day out of downtown New Braunfels and have a passenger train stopping every 2 to 4 hours in town. The trains would be equipped with WiFi and bike-racks, and offer services outside of normal business hours.  Council wants to continue to explore that idea, and we’ll keep you posted on those talks.

To hear comments from the Mayor on both the downtown TIRZ and the proposal for Lone Star Rail, just click the Audio links below.