In 2012 the city of Laredo built a basketball court on private land. Learn its origin


When Councilor Vanessa Perez was running for office last year, a woman turned to her to ask if the city could improve its neighborhood park, where her children play basketball.

Just past the warehouses on Calton Road in West Laredo are several blocks, a large open field with a basketball court and uninterrupted views of the Rio Grande. Perez visited the area called Los Martinez Park and planned to install lighting and a walking path to make it easier for residents to relax in this remote part of town.

However, when she checked the Webb County Appraisal District website, she found that this basketball court and parkland is not even part of the city, even though the city had paid to build the place. And the landowner, Dallas-based Nicolas Barajas, currently has it for sale.

“It’s not even our property, technically we don’t even have the right to use it. And we can’t improve someone else’s property, ”said Perez.

At the city council’s Monday meeting, councilors voted for the Internal Auditor to investigate how and why the city paid to build this basketball court on private land.

Los Martinez Park is listed on the city’s 2007 and 2008 Capital Improvement Plans as a District VII Priority Project of US $ 175,000 funded by a Community Block Development Grant. At the City Council’s budget workshop in August 2013, Los Martinez Park was listed as a recently completed project carried out by the Public Works Department.

Perez said she saw receipts showing the improvements cost the city $ 68,000.

A 2012 post on Laredo’s blog La Sanbe commented on a political ad by District VII councilor at the time, Jorge Vera, who was up for re-election. Vera listed “New Los Martinez Park” as an accomplishment from his previous tenure, but the blog post author noted that “this park doesn’t actually exist” and that the park is not on the city’s property.

Vera told LMT this week that the city had signed a contract with Barajas that would be renewed annually free of charge to allow citizens to use the basketball court and the rest of the green space. Vera said the landowner was not ready to sell the land at this point. And since the land is in the floodplain, the landowner cannot build on it.

The city had plans to build soccer fields there too, with the aim of preventing nearby children from playing on the streets, Vera said. By 2012 the city cleared the field and built the basketball court, he said.

According to a spokesman for the city of Laredo, the city does not currently maintain this property.

Having owned and paid property taxes on these areas for 15 years without having the opportunity to develop them, Barajas told LMT that he was ready to sell.

Perez said she would ultimately like to see the city acquire this land so that it becomes a walkable, well-lit park for local residents.

“Father McNaboe Park is also in the flood zone, also on the river, and see how many people enjoy this park. This is a very similar place and … layout, and it’s not ours, ”said Perez. “… It should just become part of the city so people can enjoy it.”

Julia Wallace can be reached at 956-728-2543 or [email protected]


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