SCHERTZ, Texas – Neighbors in Schertz are accusing a developer of offering home improvement services in exchange for their support on a controversial project.
HABI Land LLC spent nearly a year trying to get the Schertz City Council to approve its request to rezone a 25-acre former golf course so it could build duplexes.
Within an hour after KSAT started making calls about the allegations, the City of Schertz said HABI Land LLC pulled its zoning application.
More than 166 property owners who live around the former golf course opposed the project, according to council minutes.
Among those who oppose the project is Phil Jackson.
“The multifamily is not the issue,” he said. “The issue is it’s not following our development code.”
Caught on camera
A neighbor who lives near the plot asked not to be identified but shared video with KSAT from July 2023.
In the video, a man identifies himself as a representative of the developer who wanted to talk to the neighbor who was against the duplex project.
KSAT is not identifying the man because he has not been charged with any crime.
“We understand we’re gonna have an impact on your house now in particular or these homes in particular,” the representative said in the recording. “As part of that, we’d be willing to repaint our [sic] house when we’re doing our painting. And if that’s not something of interest, then we could also do some landscaping as well.”
The representative tells the neighbor the home improvement work is worth around $3,000.
But for the neighbor to get the work done, there’s a catch.
“In order for our deal to go forward, we just need a couple of folks to withdraw their opposition,” said the representative on the recording.
“To have somebody from the outside come in and do something, that for me is unethical,” said Jackson.
Jackson is not the neighbor who provided the video.
Comments during council meeting
At the beginning of Tuesday night’s council meeting, Schertz Mayor Ralph Gutierrez announced the council would not be taking any action on the zoning application since the developer pulled its application.
Applause from the packed council meeting can be heard on the city’s recording of the meeting.
Gutierrez told KSAT he did not learn HABI Land LLC pulled its application until 10 minutes before the meeting.
Despite the agenda item being pulled, several neighbors spoke about it.
Sonia Laredo Reyes told the council she had been approached by the same representative who is seen on the surveillance video, making a similar offer to the one caught on camera.
“I’ve never once been offered anything in exchange for falsifying my public testimony to government entities,” said Laredo Reyes. “I also don’t think the offers he made to me were appropriate.”
In a phone interview, Gutierrez told KSAT he was “not too happy with the applicant’s behavior.”
When asked about the allegations, Gutierrez said he “can’t cast judgment without facts.”
Search for answers
KSAT made several attempts to get in contact with the representative of HABI Land LLC.
On Tuesday, around 12:40 p.m., KSAT emailed the representative and called his direct number and office, leaving two phone messages.
“We just wanted to be fair and reach out to you about those allegations,” said KSAT reporter Daniela Ibarra.
Less than an hour after those messages, a spokeswoman for HABI Land LLC told KSAT “the developer has withdrawn its zoning application and is unable to provide any comment regarding the project at this time.”
The statement did not address the allegations made by Schertz neighbors, so on Wednesday KSAT went to the office of the man who identified himself as the representative of the developer to try and get answers.
A security guard blocked KSAT from going to the office and asked our crew to leave the property.
Again, KSAT called the office and left another voice message, which has not been returned.
Future of the former golf course
As for what happens with the 25-acre former golf course, Gutierrez said that’s up to its owner, which property records show is HABI Land LLC.
Gutierrez said this is the third zoning issue with the property.