Local NewsSamsung Facility Brings Zoning Fight to Taylor as Mayor’s Family Benefits While Other Landowners Lose Out

The manufacturing behemoth is ushering in significant change at a rapid pace to a small town on the outskirts of Texas' capital.
August 24, 2022
https://thetexan.news/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Downtown-Taylor-Williamson-County-1280x853.jpg
Taylor Mayor Brandt Rydell’s mother sold land for twice its market rate to a developer with an eye on Samsung-adjacent business after it was prioritized for rezoning — something other landowners in the area are losing out on during a time of extraordinary transformation.

It’s been eight months since Samsung selected Taylor, the Austin exurb with a population of fewer than 20,000 people, to build its $17 billion, six million-square-foot microchip plant on a 1,200-acre plot in Williamson County, and the growing pains are hitting the community hard.

As many residents of Central Texas know, with commercial investment comes population growth, which sparks a rise in the cost of living. While that brings more wealth — and from the local government’s perspective, more tax collections — it also forces hard decisions on the population already there.

At the time, Brandt Rydell called Samsung’s decision “the single most significant and consequential development for the local economy since the International & Great Northern Railroad laid tracks here in the 1870s.”

With the largest economic development deal in the history of Texas, this heavy reality has landed atop the residents of Taylor with a meteoric thud. It also provides a short runway to get everything in place before the plant’s point of liftoff, set for the end of January 2026.

The Texan Tumbler

Decisions on infrastructure development and zoning by Taylor and Williamson County are necessary as soon as possible to facilitate the plant’s construction and all its estuaries.

The city is amidst a revamp of its zoning policy, separating land within its limits into restricted growth, controlled growth, and intended growth sectors.

The drawing of lines anywhere means there will be winners and there will be losers, as officials decide which land to designate for development and which to exclude. And in a small, mainly rural town, the dividing line often falls on whose land is connected to city water utilities and whose isn’t.

Darlene Rydell is among the winners, selling 78 acres of land for twice its market value to Taylor Heights LLC — a land development company owned by Sudhakar Tadiboyina, who owns and manages multiple similar entities focused on Del Valle, Liberty Hill, Lockhart, and Salado.

Taylor Heights purchased the four parcels owned by Rydell for $4,452,800 on April 29, according to a deed reported by an anonymous Taylor resident on Substack.

Within the July 28 council agenda is a request from Taylor Heights to annex the land — which currently abuts the city line just outside its limits — that had just been purchased, and to amend the rezoning plan to designate it as part of the Controlled Growth Sector. Two of the four parcels are not within city limits, including the largest one.

Read the zone definitions here.

While the land purchased is farmland, Taylor Heights had been in communication with city engineers on plans to extend a 6,000-foot wastewater line from the airport up to the properties. The cost would be $420,000 according to the email included in the agenda along with the annexation request. Taylor Heights intends to use the bundle of land to develop a mixed-use neighborhood — a combination of commercial and residential functions.

At that meeting, Councilman Dwayne Ariola questioned the zoning plan amendment that would accomplish what Taylor Heights requested. “I know this is just first reading, but it seems as though we’re being selective on properties, and I don’t want us to get in trouble and be unfair,” he said.

“This tract got arbitrarily bisected by the city limits,” Assistant City Manager Tom Yantis responded, “and so it does not make sense for this property to only develop this little sliver.”

“If the developers are serious and they want to come develop that [restricted growth] area, you can come and talk to the city,” Councilman Robert Garcia added, focusing on the land that will not be annexed in the surrounding area, “but I don’t think the city is going to spend $18-20 million to put in a line just for the developers.”

During the public hearing on the proposal after the assistant city manager’s presentation, one resident, Larry Robbins, told the council. “We have people in this room tonight who have been paying city taxes for 18 years that still don’t have water or wastewater, and their land is [categorized] as restricted use for no development. That’s not right.”

The council passed the amendment on August 8 by a vote of 3 to 1, with Ariola casting the lone “no” vote; Mayor Rydell was not present.

On the flip side, Bill Albert is among the losers.

Albert was offered “millions of dollars” — which the Taylor Press reported was over $10 million — for his roughly 50-acre plot of farmland north of U.S. 78, which has a 2022 market value of $5.2 million. 

He told The Texan that another developer has since approached him but he is skeptical that it will come to fruition as long as his property remains in the restricted zone. “I don’t think we’ve got very good business-minded government in Taylor, but they’re good at being politicians,” he said. “A developer told me that there’s 1,500 acres in the restricted growth zone and it’s worth $2 billion. People in Taylor could really get tax cuts with this if they were smart and commercial businesses pay more in taxes.”

“The City of Taylor is walking in the direction of very shaky ground,” he concluded.

But after the rezoning plan was unveiled and his plot missed inclusion in the “Controlled Growth” development zone, that offer was withdrawn.

The city said at the meeting earlier this month that other property owners had come forward hoping to see their property absorbed by the “Controlled Growth” designation.

While Ariola opposed the city’s action on the Rydell property, he told the Taylor Press that nothing underhanded occurred in the process of the land exchanging hands and the council’s annexation of it.

In addition to those facing down the zoning woes, there’s the residents who simply would do without Samsung and all the change it is ushering in. John Kitsmiller registered his opposition in a Taylor community Facebook group, saying that the Samsung plant is being constructed two miles from his ranch off of County Road 405.

“Well over 16 years ago we bought a little slice of heaven on CR 405; 40 acres and we have cattle, horses etc. We had always said we would die and be buried here,” he said.

“Not now. Samsung is building their monstrosity only 2 miles from our ranch. … Everyone keeps saying ‘well, now your land is worth a bunch.’ We would have rather stayed here without Samsung.”

Taylor resident Jackie Krueger told The Texan, “It’s like a tsunami, they’re not prepared for this.” Krueger’s husband also has a plot of land north of town that falls into the restricted growth zone.

Krueger believes the short runway has made preparing for the plant’s arrival rockier than necessary. It’s also driving a serious cost of living increase that some will not be able to afford. The market value of Krueger’s home increased $112,000 this year and while she has a homestead exemption that caps year-to-year increases in taxable value at 10 percent, that cap does not apply to businesses and rental properties.

Rental property owners with elderly tenants on fixed incomes face difficult choices: either raise rent substantially on tenants who likely cannot afford it or eat the cost of the increase.

The City of Taylor has increased property tax collections each of the last five years and plans to do the same this year, proposing a rate higher than the “no-new-revenue” rate — the point at which tax collections are kept level from the year before save for any new property added to the rolls.

Over the last five years including the proposed 2022-2023 budget, the city has increased General Fund spending by 90 percent. “Streets and grounds” expenses have more than doubled since 2019.

In addition to a $27 million grant from the Texas Enterprise Fund, Samsung will benefit from various local tax breaks including a revenue-sharing agreement for taxes on construction between the city and the company and up to 90 percent property tax abatements under Chapter 313 of the state tax code from Taylor ISD.

That Chapter 313 agreement will reduce the taxable value of Samsung’s property by $670 million in the first year. While those agreements typically run for 10 years before expiring, 10 separate agreements — eight from Taylor ISD and two from Manor ISD — were approved, with the last ones beginning in 2043. Each new agreement is for a potential new plant, and if all are built, the company estimates the total investment in Taylor to reach $200 billion.

“I lived in Manor when Samsung came to town, the heart and soul of that town left, the old timers moved away,” Taylor resident Johnnie Werner told The Texan. “Taylor prides itself on its history, but that history will die under the crushing big business that is to come.”

Many places in the rapidly-growing state are facing down the same growing pains as Taylor — except that what’s rocking the status quo there is the single largest economic development project in the history of the state.

That turns the intensity of change up to 11.

At the council’s next meeting on August 25, the body will consider expanding the zoning growth areas to those currently restricted from it.

Neither Brandt Rydell nor Ariola returned inquiries.

###

Disclosure: Unlike almost every other media outlet, The Texan is not beholden to any special interests, does not apply for any type of state or federal funding, and relies exclusively on its readers for financial support. If you’d like to become one of the people we’re financially accountable to, click here to subscribe.

Get “KB's Hot Take”

A free bi-weekly commentary on current events by Konni Burton.

Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.

Related Posts