|By Laura E. Jesse, San Antonio
Express-NewsMcClatchy-Tribune Business News
Oct. 12, 2006 - The developer of the luxury Cibolo Canyon PGA Tour golf resort in Northern Bexar County may get some breathing room on construction deadlines and be allowed to use Edwards Aquifer water for golf course irrigation.
Forestar Real Estate Group Inc., formerly Lumbermen's Investment Corp., may get those concessions today when the City Council considers amending its non-annexation agreement with the resort.
The amendments would allow Forestar to delay the start of construction by six months and extend the completion date by about 18 months.
The proposed changes are reviving a four-year battle over the project, which opponents had sought to put to a referendum. Environmental groups are organizing a protest at the council meeting against the use of Edwards Aquifer water and what they call a flawed public process that allowed it to proceed.
But council members said in exchange for the deadline extensions, the city was able to negotiate a better deal, including land for a new park. On the Web PGA Tour Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance
"I prefer no changes in a contract. That's why you have a contract," Mayor Phil Hardberger said Wednesday. "But it's not so unusual that a contract will have changes. And we did get something out of it."
The amendments also would allow the addition of 200 rooms for the resort's Marriott hotel, for a total of 1,000 rooms; give the city 130 acres for a linear park and change the water provision agreement with San Antonio Water System. The living wage for hotel and golf course employees also would be raised.
In a written statement released Wednesday, Forestar Executive Vice President John Pierret said the modifications were due in part to Marriott's desire to build a larger hotel.
The water amendment identifies the Edwards Aquifer as the source of irrigation water for the golf courses but also requires the project to abide by water restrictions. The existing agreement calls for the developer to use the Trinity Aquifer and purchase supplemental water from SAWS, but it exempted the resort from drought restrictions on water pumped from the Trinity.
"At the end of the day -- taking the green side -- this is a better deal," Councilman Kevin Wolff said. "It gives us 100-plus acres of park and they have to comply with water restrictions."
Under the amendments, construction of the hotel must begin by July 1, 2007, instead of January, and golf course construction must begin by July 1, 2008. The hotel and two anchor golf courses must be completed by July 1, 2011, an extension of about 18 months.
"Essentially they wanted more breathing room to put things in order for a $1 billion project," said Wolff, who negotiated the donation of the park.
The proposed changes would not affect the length of the 29-year non-annexation agreement with Forestar, he said.
The planned resort, which will sit on 2,850 acres partly on the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone, was opposed by environmentalists who contended it would pollute the aquifer.
Enrique Valdivia, president of Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas, said the changes are not "a good offer for friendly development."
"We see this as the cornerstone for more rapid and unregulated development in the area," he said, adding his group also opposes the project as a matter of process. "The agreement was never put to a vote as we had 100,000 people sign a petition to put it to a referendum." firstname.lastname@example.org
www.pgatour.com -- PGA Tour
www.aquiferguardians.org -- Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas
www.aquiferalliance.org -- Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance
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