Photo: The shaded area shows more than 1,600 acres in Orange County bordered by Texas 87, FM 1006 and Foreman road shows land that has been purchased by Chevron Phillips Chemical as the possible site for a two-unit Ethylene Plant, according to the county’s appraisal district website. The purple line shows the border between Bridge City and West Orange-Cove school districts while the orange lines are city limits.

Dave Rogers

For The Record

 

The landmen for Chevron Phillips Chemical have been busy bees in Orange County.

Public records show that the company has purchased more than 30 tracts of land that cover more than 1,600 acres in or attached to a triangle bounded by Texas 87, FM 1006 and Foreman Road.

Without improvements or exemptions, that land was valued at $5 million by the Orange County Appraisal District.

It could become Orange County’s “game changer,” the new $5.8 billion two-unit ethylene plant for which the Woodlands-based multinational company has been seeking tax breaks with the Bridge City and West Orange school districts.

Tuesday, Orange City Council approved disannexing two large tracts of the new property, 245 acres on the north side and 171 acres on the southwest side, that were in the city limits.

The company would like to create a county reinvestment zone to receive tax incentives to build at the location, according to a memo from Kelvin Knauf, interim city manager.

While the same memo also reminds “there is no guarantee that Chevron Phillips Chemical LP will choose the Orange site for their new chemical plant,” Knauf said the company told city officials “this is their preferred site.”

The company has maintained since publicly naming Orange County as a possible landing spot for a big plant in January that this area was “only one of the alternatives we are considering,” and the company might decide not to build the plant at all.

Recently, Chevron Phillips Chemical paid $1 billion to pull out of a $33-billion takeover deal with Anadarko Petroleum.

“To a company that deals with billions of dollars, that [$5 million] is pocket change,” a city council member said Tuesday. “They could walk away tomorrow.”

Company officials said they were looking at possible sites between Matagorda County and Lake Charles.

Both the chief appraiser for Matagorda County and the project coordinator for the Southwest Louisiana Alliance told The Record this week they had no knowledge of any land purchases or plans by Chevron Phillips Chemical to build in their areas.

Chevron Phillips’ real estate and tax manager, Chaney Moore, said two weeks ago when he was in town to speak to a closed session of Orange City Council that the original timetable was still in place.

That included beginning construction in 2020 and starting production in 2024.

The list of parcels and a map made with a feature from the Orange County Appraisal District website shows a couple of gaps but the word is out that all the land inside that triangle has been purchased or is under option to Chevron Phillips.  

Although the purchase price is unknown, the giant plot of land across from the Orange County Airport was valued at $5 million in 2018, the last appraisal completed by the Orange County Appraisal District.

Final 2019 values will not be set until July.

The land purchased by Chevron Phillips mostly from January through March includes $1.5 million in buildings and other improvements.

But because most of the land is under agricultural tax exemptions, the county only assessed less than 20 percent of its land value, $765,000.

The land with agricultural exemptions was being taxed at as little as 1 to 5 percent of its land value.

As few as one cow per five acres could qualify a landowner for an “ag” exemption, but only after the land has been in use for at least five of the last seven years for agricultural use.

While the City of Orange took 416 acres of land off its map Tuesday, Chevron Phillips appears to have no plans to ask the City of West Orange to disannex the 57 acres it recently bought in that city.

The land is located east of Foreman Road and reaches to the railroad tracks just west of West Orange-Stark’s football and baseball fields.

“I understand they’re going to use that property for offices,” Orange Mayor Roy McDonald said.