San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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August 8th, 2008
Letter to the Editor: Windemere not playing by the rules

Dear Editor,

The proposed Windemere project, a huge housing development that wants to locate on an incredibly environmentally sensitive area above sink creek in the flood plain off of Limekiln Road, is requesting two plait variances from the San Marcos Planning & Zoning Commission. The Commission is seeking public comment. E-mails & letters that are submitted today will be including in the packet for the commissioners. The meeting is Tues., August 12, in the City Council Chambers at City Hall at 6pm and the public is invited. E-mails can be sent to psteed@ci.san-marcos.tx.us

The land has already been annexed into the city & the city requires a subdivision of 75 lots or more to have more than one access road into it. The current proposal is to have only one access road that will still be in the floodplain. Guaranteed to cause problems to cause traffic problems down the road. And sidewalks are also required for safe pedestrian traffic in a development of this size. The proposed Windemere project is asking for variance for both of these requirements.

Why did they get annexed into the City if they don’t want to follow the rules of the City?

The citizen survey available on the City of San Marcos website shows that we are very concerned about environmental issues, especially anything that could effect the river adversely.

If these out-of-town developers are already saying they don’t want to go by the rules, then we should proceed cautiously since we are the ones who have to live with the consequences.

The other issue for us taxpayers to consider, is how much it is going to cost to provide services to this area.

E-mail or send your letters in today! Or plan to attend the meeting.

Sincerely,
Vicki Hartin

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0 thoughts on “Letter to the Editor: Windemere not playing by the rules

  1. Thanks Vicky for the information! I have lived out Lime Kiln Road/Hilliard Road for 17 years and know that the signs of change are all around S.M. It was only a matter of time that change came to this side of S.M. The roads have finally been widened so that bicyclers and pedestrians are not obstructing traffic by existing. How much cheaper and better would it have been if the roads had bike lanes to begin with?
    The city needs to be upfront with what commitments have already been made to Windemere. How many homes/lots are they to have, or is it an apartment complex? Why has construction on what I believe to be the sewer line stopped at Sink Creek? What are the timelines for completing a connection to RR12 and IH35? Where can we get more information about these Windemere folks and their desires to corrupt our landscape and environment?
    I certainly hope to be at the meeting Tuesday and encourage everyone interested in smart growth of S.M. to be there as well.

  2. It sounds like there are some real problems ahead for Lime Kiln road. Things like increased traffic – ever have to get across Lime Kiln and the Post Road intersection? I haven’t seen any mention of park land that needs to be dedicated and passed by the P & R advisory board first before they go to P & Z if I remember right. If there are rules set out by the city then everyone should follow them and pay the necessary fees that go with them Might as well make Lime Kiln a 4 lane highway now and get it over with.

    Moe Johnson

  3. Our Mayor and City Council members say they have improved transparency and openness in city government. Let us see how this situation plays out. Hopefully the developers have not hoodwinked us. Hopefully all the facts are on the table. Hopefully we will be able to discern the long-term impact of our decisions and act wisely. It all starts with leadership at the top and active community involvement.

  4. I agree that this exacerbates the already pressing need for a connection from RR12 to IH35. North LBJ and Lime Kiln are two of the worst roads in town, as far as traffic levels relative to capacity.

    On North LBJ, the problem results in high levels of traffic speeding through neighborhood streets, avoiding this slow-moving artery.

    On Lime Kiln, there is no other place to go, so traffic just backs up, although I have seen the inbound lane used as a second outbound lane when traffic is particularly bad.

    These problems will only get worse with the addition of developments like Windmere and without more exits, Windmere will only mean more people who are trapped and inaccessible to emergency vehicles with every flood.

    It is time to stop denying that this problem exists, stop pretending that it will go away if we just close our eyes tight enough, stop trying to shut down any and all development; it is time to build that road.

    The Transportation Advisory Board has made a STRONG recommendation that another exit from Lime Kiln be built closer to the Yarrington Road overpass and has been eagerly awaiting word from engineering on how best to build a road from Lime Kiln to RR12 or Craddock.

    This second road is the road that Windmere would be responsible for building, at least in part.

    BOTH of these roads need to be developed for the safety of residents in the surrounding areas. The Windmere developers need to do their part and the city and county need to do ours.

  5. If the Variances are given,this will be a serious
    tragedy being prepared for the residents of the areas of Lime Kiln, Hilliard and the San Marcos River. The
    ecological pollutions into Sink Creek and thereon to the San Marcos River are serious enough to stop this
    developers fiasco. However, adding the traffic backups of getting onto Lime Kiln and then the nightmare of the T at Post Road should be enough to scare everyone.
    This is a beautiful pristine tract that deserves a better future than a sub-developers bulldozer.
    In addition, the City can not afford another financial disaster as is occurring at “Blanco Vista”

  6. There are no compelling reasons to waive any of the requirements of the code, specifically the request for variances related to Section 7.4.2.3and Section 7.4.1.2.(d). It is importantant to uphold the Land Development Code which serves as a codification of the intentions of the citizens of San Marcos to protect the health and safety of its citizens and the quality of their community unless there are compelling reasons to provide a waiver. In this case there are compelling reasons to insist on compliance with the code.

  7. As county residents who use Hilliard and Lime Kiln on a daily basis I can only imagine the traffic congestion that the added subdivision would cause. We have had to deal with traffic problems in the past with the building of the Travis Elementary School but this would pale in comparison to the addition of that many more “rooftops” using Hilliard and Lime Kiln as the only way in and out of their subdivision. There is no compelling reason to grant variances and lower our standards as a community because the developer wants to make more money. We, as taxpayers should not have to bear the cost of additional road expense caused by this subdivision. It is important to uphold the Land Development Code which serves as a codification of the intentions of the citizens of San Marcos and Hays County. There are no compelling reasons to provide any waivers, and in this case there are compelling reasons to insist on compliance with the code.

  8. The history of why a large sewer line was extended along Lime Kiln Rd to Sink Creek is a first major question. When Hammond wanted to build a large hotel/conference center on the property now “park land” the city supported and obtained federal funds to give the developer “free” utilities. The City Engineering Department was wise enough at the time to make sure the lines would be large enough to potentially relieve the need for the lift station on LBJ near Craddock in the future. That however still will need a lot of line from the lift station, along Sink Creek, to Lime Kiln. Of course if a new road were built along the same trail, with appropriate utilities, several very expensive and significant bridges will be needed to span the flood plain. The only way the road and utilities could be financially feasable would be if built by developers of the land.
    Windemere appears to be the first attempted development for the area. If all these major expenses are forgiven in the form of variences, who picks up the cost? You and I! It is fisically irresponsible to force the remainder of the residents to pick up costs so that the developers can make more!
    A lot of work went into developing building codes to protect the people who buy the homes and become our fellow residents while protecting current residents from picking up the tab to subsidize the developers and these new residents.
    Preliminary plans for the site show excessive density for the area! This area is environmentally sensitive and past experience shows prone to severe flooding. It is questionable to allow development in most of the site.
    Safety and security for all residents of all properties accessed via Lime Kiln would be compromised if these variences are accepted.

  9. If you believe moderation is needed on above comments, please be specific. After a reread, I believe the above is factual.

  10. Another great project that the mayor wants to add to her legacy? Elections are just around the corner. Hope there is a strong competitor lurking. Hope so.

  11. McQuinn, I know as bad as you want to you really want to blame this on the Mayor. Lets all remember she has only but one vote.

  12. Our Mayor and City Council members say they have improved transparency and openness in city government. Well Windemere is proof that is not true!! This has been for all practical purposes a back room deal looking thing. Until January or so none of us knew what was going on. We still don’t know exactly how the city got so far in planning this without even contacting the land owners who need to sell easement for a second road to Lime Kiln. Yes, not even the next door neighbors knew! Here is my latest letter to the planning commission:
    Dear Planning and Zoning Commission Members,

    This letter briefly lists some reasons why the city should not grant any variance:

    1. This is an accidental or intentional self-inflicted problem. The developer/s bought this property and drew up high-density plans without due diligence of asking adjacent landowners to sell right of way for a road. From my limited perspective, asking for a variance now approaches being a mockery of the Planning and Zoning process.
    2. These two variances are far off the standard and therefore set a bad precedent.
    3. The only road out is substandard and in the worst place it could be. It is at a dangerous curve, and it is prone to flooding. Additionally, it leads to Lime Kiln, yet another one way out road. This is double the trouble.
    4. Small lots without sidewalks discourage exercise and encourage use of cars. It is dangerous and is a step backwards in city goals to be more pedestrian friendly.
    5. The mere act of asking for said variances should alarm city officials enough to investigate whether the developer/s cut corners in the past. This is extremely important with sewage lines, construction debris, and other pollutants being introduced near Sink Creek and on the recharge zone.
    6. These variances will degrade the quality of life of the very people who would buy homes in Windemere. Consider welfare of hundreds of people verses one developer.
    7. Of all undeveloped land still available, this is very likely the most environmentally sensitive property near San Marcos.
    8. The developer/s have an offer to buy the land from someone who does not intend to develop it in such a destructive way.
    10. Last, and applicable to a decision, no variance is needed if developer/s re-engineer the development to build 75 lots larger than one acre.

  13. I have just discovered that the “developers” have taken the Windemere Variance issue off the agenda tonight at the hearing.

    From the City Planning Dept Site:
    17. PVC-08-02. Hold a public hearing and consider a request by Hermann Vigil, on behalf of Vince Wood & Ross Haug for a variance to Section 7.4.2.3 (a) of the Land Development Code requiring sidewalks in all subdivisions except in residential areas where all lots are equal to or exceed one acre in Windemere Ranch (a proposed subdivision), located at the intersection of Windemere Road and Lime Kiln Road. (Withdrawn by Applicant)

    18. PVC-08-03. Hold a public hearing and consider a request by Hermann Vigil, on behalf of Vince Wood & Ross Haug for a variance of Section 7.4.1.2(d) of the Land Development Code requiring all subdivisions with 75 or more lots to have at least two points of vehicular access (primarily for emergency vehicles), in Windemere Ranch (a proposed subdivision), located at the intersection of Windemere Road and Lime Kiln Road. (Withdrawn by Applicant)

    Be careful as this is a classic strategy of trying to wear out the opposition and get it back on when we are less suspecting. Keep tuned for further news.

  14. Thanks for the update.

    It may be that they are trying to wear us out, or it may be that they see that they are not going to get anywhere and have decided not to ask for a variance.

    It has happened before.

    Still, it would be wise to keep an eye on things. Thanks to everyone who raised the issue and voiced your concerns.

  15. When you look at the proposed subdivision plat, the lots
    are so narrow that it would be hard to get a doublewide
    into them. That could be one of their plans of course.
    Whatever their plan for HIGH DENSITY housing it is a looming disaster for the residents of the area in my opinion.

  16. The developer is supposed to get just one withdraw. He and his supporters are making a mockery of the Planning and Zoning process. These variances are so dramatic that only political pressure gives them a chance.

    The Mayor Susan Narvaiz defends the Developer’s plans are intended to eventually comply with the city’s Master Plan. She said the planned Craddock Connector would ultimately provide a second access for Windemere Ranch. She is counting on people not knowing how dangerous the Windemere exit location is and how expensive and difficult the Craddock bridge is and finally how the Craddock connection is a road to nowhere – unless one works at Texas State. Almost no one living in Windemere would use it for daily work commuting. She is also counting on us not knowing that the real plan was to build another road to Lime Kiln and this variance is just a desperate tactic to keep the ball rolling.

    The trails that are supposed to excuse the sidewalk variance are a great idea, but unless they go in front of everyone’s dinky lot, it does not change the intent of the city code nor provide the safety of sidewalks.

    By the way, the one road out of Windemere is in so poor a location, it is the poster child for why the city requires more than one entrance. That fact that the Mayor thinks it will be ok to endure for a while until her Craddock bridge to nowhere is built, shows she either has not idea of the layout or just doesn’t care. The Craddock bridge will cost the city millions and won’t do anyone but maybe college students any good.

  17. Actually, if the Craddock connection goes all the way to IH35, it will do a lot of good for a lot of us, including Windmere and the other folks on Lime Kiln.

    I agree with the rest of your comments, though. A connection from Craddock to Lime Kiln, or from Windmere to Lime Kiln, accomplishes nothing.

  18. E. Duran I understand she has only one vote. But when you have council in your pocket that number quickly multiplies. Let’s not fool each other into thinking the mayor and developers and landowners are not holding hands on these major issues that face our “Texas Natural”.

  19. Does anyone have a list of Political Contributors
    to the members of City Government? That could explain some of this illogical behavior.

  20. I have to admit, I have not heard anyone comment on Windmere one way or the other, as far as city government goes.

    Were these comments made at City Council meetings?

  21. I don’t think anything should be done with the talked about land. I think it should stay undeveloped considering the environmental impact it could have on our waters, and because San Marcos shouldn’t sell itself short. (Read in to that saying if you wish…)

    First of all, San Marcos/Hays County can’t sell the vast number of empty lots that developers have already made available. Second, we need to protect the beauty and open spaces that made San Marcos so attractive to its people for so many years. I’m only 27, and already I’m tired of looking at more and more homes, apartment complexes, and concrete parking lots as far as the eye can see! Growth doesn’t mean you have to bulldoze every piece of land in site. I’m not a “tree hugger”, but we’ve got to have some type of handle and control on our growth or we’re going to lose everything that makes this part of Texas so wonderful and the reasons why we call it home. The answer isn’t always “BUILD MORE!, MORE!!, MORE!!!” We need to fix the mistakes we made in the past, and be smarter with the plans that we make for the future. San Marcos gets so excited with out of town idiots who promise to bring “growth”, and “more jobs”, and “more money to the tax rolls”; who then leave US cleaning up their mess in the future – and still paying higher taxes! (That’s a whole different soap box I’ll save for another time and place.) We are a gem in the eyes of everyone…most of all investors! But their not out to make friends, or save the rivers and green spaces that set us apart from places like Houston; their out to make $MONEY$.

    Wake up people. We deserve better than miles of side-by-side cookie cutter homes, concrete hills and valleys, run down & empty shopping strips, and processed waste water for drinking. Our land, our wildlife, our crops, our natural resources, and our families (past, present and future) deserve better.

    ~Ryan Patrick Perkins

  22. If what you’re saying is that the city should buy the land to save as open space I’m 100% against it. We’ve already bought enough land. Our tax rate is too high as it is and the city council about to raise it again. We have a quite restrictive land development code and all the P&Z and council have to do is follow it and our developments will be just fine.

  23. So I guess what you’re saying is, “If I can’t beat them, I’ll join them; and still continue to watch my taxes rise, just at a slightly (if any) slower rate…but with less ‘open space'”?

    Yes, I too have a major issue with our taxes being too high. But, I also have an issue with the lack of thought and concern about our land and water. You shouldn’t have to give up one to think you’ll get the other…

  24. If you have a suggestion for how to keep the land undeveloped without purchasing it please put it on the table. It’s possible that if the variances aren’t granted the cost will be prohibitive and the project won’t be built.

  25. I was just getting used to the idea that land this direction might go for $10,000 an acre, and they think they can get $25,000. It will be sad indeed if all people are able to afford are ticky-tacky, look-a-like tract housing, like that which not so graciously decorates the Kyle area. This project has a great potential for dissention and protest. I urge the mayor and City Council not to offer variances and to continue with plans to develop the park area and surrounding area regardless of the Windemere project. Craddick Avenue should be connected to Lime Kiln Rd. anyway. I’d like to see multiple acre lots with horseback riding, Bed and Breakfast places, and beer gardens. Perhaps if the we build our park, the right types of businesses and neighborhoods will follow. Thank you Ryan, Tyler, Ted, Leighton, et. al. for your insights and comments!

  26. I hope that the mayor, city council, and our Hays County Commissioner (Karen Ford) are paying attention, their jobs may depend upon it! By all accounts (that is, comments I have heard by city and county employees that have intimate knowledge of this fiasco), this project is poorly planned, underfunded (being done on the cheap), poorly managed, poorly engineered, and has so far been an environmental catastrophe (those of us that live off of Lime Kiln saw what happened to Sink Creek). TSC and the developer should be held responsible for the damage done thus far (the level of incompetence exhibited so far is amazing and portentous of what’s to come). I foresee multiple legal actions against the city, developer, and county if an environmental disaster occurs out there and rescue is impeded by poor access. The county used to own two additional roads (O’Quinn’s River Ranch Road that leads to Wimberely and the rest of Lime Kiln, which leads to downtown Kyle). Both were abandoned for what I believe were shady reasons.

    I don’t know how many residents live off of Lime Kiln, but I do know that it is enough to defeat incumbents in the next elections. Those of us that live in the county need to make sure Commissioner Ford understands the long term implications of this cheap little subdivision to all of the rest of us out there. Its still not clear to me why Dripping Springs’ Commissioner has us in her district – maybe the time is coming for us to elect our own representative to fill that seat.

  27. Jason,Well said and good points in your
    comments. I think you should send those comments to Karen Ford,the Mayor and planning commission as they
    reflect the opinions of most of us. Because of the Mayor to continuing to defend such a poorly thought out and dangerous project as Windemere, the other persons of responsibility in the County should be informed.

  28. I’m sure council are reading. Albeit anonymously.
    I think, but can’t be sure, I heard during televised council meeting that either a vote by ‘them’ and not on ballot for citizens, the issue of allowing representitives to live out of the city or county. Not sure. Does any one know this for sure? And how will this affect later projects for this ‘Texas Natural’?

  29. I heard a rumor that the person who sold the land to the Windemere & the city, (where they had wanted to locate the Hilton/convention center originally) is the same landowner who sold the land where the convention center/hotel is being built now.
    Does anyone know if this is true?

  30. Vicki that would be TP Gilmore. He supports the curent mayor. Like I said ” holding hands with the developers and land owners”. We all have a chance to voice our minds and VOTE HER OUT! Of course who will be next?

  31. I think the Windmere project has some problems, but I have to say the swap to move the convention center out to the highway was a win. The convention center gets located in a visible place, near the outlet malls (not really my cup of tea, but I suppose that’s a plus for some) and the city got 280 acres of prime parkland on top of the aquifer recharge zone. Maybe there were some shady backroom deals, but we all came out ahead. Now if we can just get the Windmere project down to 75 lots AND require them to put in the road connections, sidewalks, and greenspace trails, the end result might be something close to smart growth.

  32. I agree. I’m also confused about the various allegations made in this thread. I see similar allegations from time to time, but I never see any specifics.

    Can someone shed some light here? I’m not trying to be dismissive or difficult, but I obviously don’t know the details that some others do.

  33. This development and the actions that led up to it is nowhere near ‘smart growth’, except in the imagination of the developers, officials, and contractors who will benefit financially from it. Smart growth would be investing and revitalizing in older neighborhoods in San Marcos (Gravel street, MLK, Centre, and other centrally located neighborhoods that need some cosmetic enhancement and infrastructure repair) or in the east side of Kyle, which is like the wild west (drive through the streets of Green Pastures and Hillside Terrace subdivisions to get an idea). Our city councils need to (and have the ability to) restrict sprawl and encourage redevelopment of existing neighborhoods. Such actions are cheaper for tax payers in the long run.
    We all have a vested interest in keeping our open spaces open – not only will it help keep our water supply clean and available, but in the next few decades undeveloped lands will become more of a commodity as urbanites seek ever diminishing areas for recreation – its a great investment. If the cities and county have any foresight, they will purchase as much aquifer recharge zone as possible and dedicate it for community use. I think we can afford it and our citizens want it, especially in years to come.

  34. Eventually your open spaces will include you, as there isn’t enough housing in this town to go around. Ever wonder why this place is an economic ghost town compared to our neighbors?

  35. This place has economically suffered from past poor planning, the attitude that we have all those TS government jobs, poor past leadership, as well as enough housing. It also suffers from lack of high end housing. It doesn’t help when people buy houses and find the next year they are next door to house with greek letters on the door. Why would anyone risk that when they can buy in Kyle?
    We need affordable homes, but this particular piece of land is about as enviromentaly sensitive as any place, including Spring Lake itself. The reason this was picked, was some insiders knew that a handy sewage line was being built right along Sink Creek. That sewage line is a left over from the original convention center hotel plan. Because of that knowledge, the developer was willing to bid way more for the land than others who were interested. So the reason this parcel of land is at issue is a sewage line that probably should not be there in the first place. Another issue is that it is just not time to build dense housing out there. All the people involved in pushing this should be mature and responsible enough to wait for road infrastructure. Fire fighters don’t like going down to property with only one way in and out. Roads need to go to I35 and not apartment lined busy Craddock. There is a guy who wants to buy the land to keep it as is. In the final analysis, this is about one delicate parcel of land with minimal road infrastructure, and not about the correctness of developing postage stamp lots with affordable homes.

  36. I absolutely agree that there needs to be a road out to 35. It also needs to connect to Craddock, which will alleviate much of the traffic currently racing through neighborhood streets.

    The flow of traffic from Aquarena Springs to Sessom to LBJ to Craddock is staggering and there are numerous “shortcuts” through various neighborhoods along the way.

    Building this connector would improve the quality of life in those neighborhoods, as well as improving mobility for those who continue to drive Aquarena Springs, Sessom and LBJ. It would also likely attract a much higher class of development to the Windmere area, as it would make the property more accessible.

    I don’t know about you, but if I am commuting to Austin or San Antonio for a good job and I have $250-500k to spend on a house, I am not looking for a place that adds another 30 minutes to my commute, because there are no roads to get there.

    Sadly, there are many who think that if we never build any roads, there will never be any development. Well, eventually those landowners will get tired of waiting for a high-end developer to come along and you get something like we are debating here, or worse.

  37. A road to I35 would simply open the floodgates of development into the Sink Creek watershed. The lack of road infrastructure into the area is the only reason the land remains as it does now and not the mess one finds along every other road into and out of San Marcos. I am more than happy to endure the occasional floods preventing access into town and an extra 30 seconds at the Post Road T rather than see silt, chemicals, fertilizers and pesticide runoff fill Spring Lake from the construction of highway loops, apartments and tiny lots neighborhoods in Sink Creek.

  38. I recently bought an acre and a half lot off Lime Kiln road. I bought this lot because it was nice and quiet here, no traffic noise, no racing cars, dead end streets. If this fiasco at Sink Creek goes down I’m selling my place and getting the HECK out of here! San Marcos and Hays county will not get any more of my money! COUNT ON IT!

  39. Update, now we hear the city wants to use “eminent domain” to take private land and build a roadway to help Windemere get developed. We need to protect our community for future generations, not exploit it for short-term developer gains.

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