EL PASO, Texas - El Pasoans on Saturday overwhelmingly approved the preservation of more than a thousand acres of undeveloped land in Northwest El Paso, including the "Lost Dog Trailhead."
"We won. We won big. I mean it's like 90 per ent. I don't know if there's been any election in town that's been won by 90 percent," said Rick Bonart, the man who spearheaded the effort to preserve the land.
Final election results show more than 18,012 votes "For" Proposition A (89%) and only 2,257 "Against" votes (11%).
When asked why the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of protecting the open space, Bonart said, "It was so obvious ... the public would constantly say 'don't develop.' It was never a compromise."
The language on the ballot for Proposition A stated: 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?
A vote "For" Proposition A meant voters want the land to be preserved with no private development.
A vote "Against" Proposition A meant voters support the City's plan to develop the land at some point in the future after a two-year moratorium on development ends.
The area in question is near the Franklin Mountain State Park and has come to be known as the "Lost Dog Trailhead." It is a popular open space destination for hikers and bicyclists.
In May of 2018, El Paso City Council voted to create Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone 12 (TIRZ 12).
TIRZ 12 includes the one thousand acres of open space that includes the "Lost Dog Trail." The western boundary is Land Rush Street, the southern boundary is Cabana Del Sol Drive, the northern boundary is just north of Transmountain Road and the eastern boundary is adjacent to the Franklin Mountains State Park. City officials said a lot of zone 12 will remain open space, but that did not appease the groups fighting to preserve the existing hiking trails.
At the time, City of El Paso Economic Development Director Jessica Herrera told ABC-7 tax revenue that would be collected in TIRZ 12 would help things like sidewalk improvements and storm water drainage. Herrera said this makes the land more attractive to retailers and developers.
"The development of these TIRZs will help offset tax burden felt by many homeowners in the area. These zones will allow us to finance public improvements that will attract commercial development increasing our sales tax revenue and providing much needed relief to our residential taxpayers," said Herrera.
According to the City, 33 percent of the tax funds generated within the TIRZ will stay within that area, while 66 percent would go back into the City's general fund.
In September 2018, El Paso City Council approved a two-year moratorium on any development in the area after two petitions seeking to preserve the land were certified and presented to Council. The issue was eventually placed on the May 4, 2019 election ballot.