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September 27th, 2008
Concho Commons Approved by City Council

The San Marcos City Council approved a Planned Development District (PDD) for a lot at Concho and LBJ Streets. The 5-1 vote went against recommendations by the city staff and the Downtown Association. Councilmember Gaylord Bose was the dissenting vote and Councilmember Daniel Guerrero was absent.In a packet provided for the Council, the city staff acknowledged that while “this is a project with architectural and urban design elements that are desirable in the downtown… the applicant has never adequately addressed the critical issues identified early in pre-application discussions (and) repeated by staff in all formal reviews of the PDD.” The staff pointed to two main issues in recommending denial. First, the Concho Commons “PDD exceeds impervious cover standards but the applicant will not state a performance standard for water quality, greater than the code to mitigate this request.” Second, the “PDD provides, on site, 53 to 57% of the required parking” in spite of commissioners and city staff “urging the applicant to provide staff parking (32% of the required spaces) through off-site lease agreements.” City staff “reluctantly recommended denial of the proposal as the inadequate response to the issues of concern will negatively affect properties in the CBA as well as the San Marcos River.”

Mayor Susan Narvaiz and Councilmember Kim Porterfield both cited the Planning and Zoning Commission’s majority vote in favor of the project as one reason for their yes vote. Narvaiz and Councilmember Chris Jones pointed to the new Downtown Master Plan for support of their action. The plan had just been approved earlier in the same meeting. Narvaiz said, “We had just approved our new Downtown Master Plan and it didn’t seem reasonable to dent the proposal when it was in line with the goals of our Downtown Master Plan.”

Council members Porterfield and Pam Couch emphasized what a significant investment this project was. “This is a major investment. The company has a lot at stake and it would not propose a project that would put it in jeopardy,” said Couch. She and Porterfield also brought up general issues of urban development as a basis for their vote. Porterfield said the project is next to Texas State University, an area of high density. She said the businesses in Concho Commons are designed to cater to faculty, staff, and students, so they will be geared to pedestrian traffic. “We want to encourage higher density in our downtown and this project is an example of that,” said Couch.

Councilmember John Thomaides said this project reflects what he thinks downtown San Marcos will be in the future. “This project includes components that are part of what experts in urban planning say cities need to be healthy such as vertical zoning, increased density and accessibility by pedestrian and bicycle traffic.”
Porterfield expressed doubts over the method for determining parking requirements for new developments. “I also question the formula for determining parking requirements. I’m not sure using the parking formula for this project that is used for a shopping center, for example, is appropriate”

Councilmember Chris Jones and Porterfield stressed the need for the council to develop a downtown parking plan. Jones said he is confident the Council will develop a parking strategy that addresses the parking issues of this project. “Establishing a parking plan needs to be the council’s first order of business,” said Porterfield.

Bose was not immediately available for comment.

The Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) were the first to approve the project. P&Z voted 5-2 in favor of the Concho Commons project on September 9. Chair Sherwood Bishop and Commissioner Bill DeSoto voted against it. Commissioners Cecil Pounds and Jim Stark were awaiting training and did not attend the meeting.

Commissioners Allen Shy and Ryan Thomason compared to the project to what is in the area now. Thomason noted that “Everything over in that area exceeds the current impervious cover standards (while) the PDD we approved has considerably less impervious cover than what is currently on that site.” For Thomason, “it didn’t appear to have a legitimate parking issue when it is compared to the sites and businesses around it.” Shy said he did not see any difference between the PDD and the current businesses in the area.

Commissioners Shy and Bill Taylor said the project being geared to pedestrians as being important to their vote. Taylor said the project’s consultants presented the development as a pedestrian friendly. “I don’t think the [city] staff took into consideration the percentage of walk up business” for the project, said Shy.

Bishop and DeSoto were both concerned about the parking issue. Bishop said he voted against the project “mainly because of the parking issue. I didn’t think they should be allowed to design their project in such a way as to worsen the parking situation for other downtown businesses. The parking numbers that were provided by the Concho Commons project were ambiguous and some were in inaccurate.”

Taylor agreed that the “parking issue needs to be addressed” but didn’t want the P&Z to “kill the project. The city council was the place to work on the parking issue, not P&Z,” said Taylor. He added his concern for the drainage issue and said he hopes the council will address it.

Kyle Maysel, Chair of the San Marcos Downtown Parking Advisory Board (PAD) expressed deep concern over the substance of the project and over procedural issues. Maysel said the “PAD received no notice through official channels about the [Concho Commons] PDD. It’s discouraging that a representative of a developer can have unlimited time in which to promote a project while a representative of an official city board only gets three minutes during the citizen comment period.”

Maysel said his biggest concern is the lack of proposed parking. “It’s a general principle of the PAD that the city shouldn’t be granting this type of massive parking variances. This inflicts problems on existing businesses. The city is creating a perfect storm by giving variances where there is already an existing parking problem.”

Commissioner Randy Bryan and Curtis Seebeck could not be reached for comment.

by ED MIHALKNIN & ANDY SEVILLA
Correspondents

To read the official comments connected to this story, click here.

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56 thoughts on “Concho Commons Approved by City Council

  1. Pingback: Council and Planning & Zoning members explain Concho Commons vote : Newstreamz San Marcos

  2. Kyle the reason you were cut out, I think, is your ideas were not in line with those of the Mayor and her cronies. Carson Properties scores again. But hey we’ll worry about the parking and water issues later. The same as always. Too bad. TX ST wants it, money under the table and another property off the tax rolls. Way to go council. Please raise my property taxes again I still have enough to waste else where………

  3. Not to beat a horse that’s been dead for 15-20 years now (or more), but yeah, you need a comprehensive downtown parking plan.

    I was riding my bike through our “pedestrian friendly” downtown this morning, trying to count all of the 2-hour parking signs.

    Then, I came across some 1-hour parking, IN FRONT OF THE MOVIE THEATER.

    How is it that we expect people to come downtown and walk around all day, when they have to move their car every 1-2 hours, or maybe get towed from one of the lots, like Nelson Center?

    I asked this in another thread and I will ask again, if I want to go downtown, get lunch at Alvin Ord’s, walk to the movies and then check out some of the downtown shops, where am I supposed to park?

    Do you know who has a really great, walkable retail center? The Outlet Mall. Park anywhere you want and stay as long as you want. Parked at Tanger and going over to Prime? No problem! Go wherever you want. Walk to your heart’s content.

    I guess taking whatever estimates we can get for parking requirements and then halving them is probably a good plan too, I’m just not bright enough to understand it.

    Also, keep in mind that an estimated 40 employees will be working there and almost certainly parking there, since downtown parking is so heavily restricted and the developer refused to make any provisions for off-site parking.

    So, the development was estimated to need 40 spaces for employees and 120 for customers. Instead, there will be 40 for employees and 53 for customers. That’s a substantial reduction over the recommended amount.

    And again, the pedestrian customers, where are they supposed to come from? Will people be walking from east of 35? Will they be walking from the hotels? Will they be walking from the Outlet Mall? Will they be walking from the ETJ? Will they be walking from Kyle, or Buda, or Wimberley, or Fredericksburg?

    Spend some time in a pedestrian friendly city. What makes them pedestrian friendly, is not just that everything is within walking distance. It’s not just that there are plenty of things to do. You need to be able to get to the walkable areas. You need to be able to park your car and not think about it again until it is time to go home. Eventually those spaces left out of the Concho Commons development will have to be built somewhere and a comprehensive parking plan, which takes into account that the university is next to downtown, will need to be implemented (not just filed away in some 20-year master plan).

  4. We went to Fredericksburg yesterday for the Renewable Energy Roundup and Green Living Fair. As we drove into town, I parked in the first available space in the downtown area and then spent the day at the Fair and perusing the downtown shops. It was nice to not have to worry about coming back to the car to move it every so often. I hope we get more parking spaces, and soon, for the downtown area of San Marcos!

  5. I understand the ‘no parking’ signs from the standpoint of someone running a business downtown. We have literally one spot allotted to our staff (and pay a monthly fee for said spot) and frankly, I take it because I spend more time in the office than anyone else that drives. Still, moving a vehicle every two hours for our employees has been a HUGE waste of our resources each week.

    I don’t view the problem as the building owners forcing people to move their cars – that is the situation caused by downtown being VERY unfriendly to cars, pedestrians and cyclists alike.

    The solution of more parking spaces would be a great start – heck, just one large parking garage a block or two away would go a long way. I agree with Ted’s suggestion to spend some time in pedestrian friendly cities. Trolleys, safe bike lanes, shuttle buses, and less car traffic in the downtown area should be the ultimate goal.

    ANY downtown master plan that doesn’t address the lack of parking and lack of easy access to pedestrian and cyclist is short-sighted and against the best interest of our city and citizens.

  6. Chris, I understand, too. Unfortunately, there are a lot of unused parking spaces out there, too. I think part of the solution involves figuring out how to fill those spaces.

    I think you hit on the bigger issue, though, which is a dynamic downtown area will have many different kinds of tenants and many different kinds of visitors. The university adds another dimension that other cities do not have to address.

    As it stands now, the downtown area does not lend itself to walking around for the day (for most people). I think the focus should be making downtown a pedestrian friendly *destination*, meaning it needs to be easy to access and it needs to be easy to park for an extended period of time.

    Easy does not need to mean free, but it might. I pay to park in some pedestrian friendly destinations and I park for free in others.

    Inclusion of the university is critical as well. I rarely have out of town visitors who I do not take through campus. Texas State has a beautiful campus and it is something we should encourage people to check out.

    Inclusion of the university is also critical because those students and faculty who might park downtown and walk to campus are potential customers, but more importantly, they are a part of the city and a great deal of the tension between town and gown could be lessened, if we didn’t have signs everywhere, telling them to go away.

    If someone walks into your store and tells you that he is just killing time while he waits for his wife to finish up next door, do you tell him that the air conditioning and floor space are for customers only and tell him to go away? Or, do you make him feel welcome and hope that he becomes a customer some day, or tells a friend about something he saw in your store and they become a customer some day?

    If parking on campus is not working, we have a hug opportunity to bring droves of potential customers downtown every day and almost certainly ease some of the tensions between the students and the non-students in the process.

    Again, the parking does not need to be free. It does need to work. It also does not have to be designed for students to the exclusion of all others, but the attempts to keep the students out have had countless negative, unintended, consequences.

    The citizens of San Marcos were recently surveyed about their satisfaction with various aspects of the city. They were least satisfied with bike improvements, followed by downtown parking. Little else came close. That should not be far from anyone’s mind when deciding downtown issues.

    http://www.ci.san-marcos.tx.us/news/Docs/Survey_2008.pdf

  7. I URGE ED MILHALKANIN TO ASK RYAN THOMASON WHY HE SKIRTED THE OPEN MEETINGS ACT BY ADVISING PROPERTY OWNER WHEN TO POSTPONE PUBLIC HEARING IN ORDER TO GET FAVORABLE VOTE. AND WHY WAS THOMASON CALLING DEVELOPER/REP TO PROVIDE UPDATES? ISN’T THAT AGAINST THE LAW?

  8. You might want to look into the Open Meetings Act a little better. There is nothing in the Open Meetings Act that prohibits what you are alledging. Now if more than a quorum what present at the alleged event you describe without it being posted, then you might have a gripe. Otherwise, it is just one individual giving an opinion to another. Nothing illegal about that. if you are so concerned, then why don’t you file an ethics complaint? See where that goes.

  9. It IS unethical, absolutely. Unfortunately, ethics are optional in San Marcos. But I agree- it would be interesting to see what the Ethics Commission would do on this.
    Excerpt from The Job of the Planning Commissioner:
    “If a citizen or applicant calls your home or office to discuss a matter before the commission, refuse firmly and invite this testimony to be given at the hearing so it can be heard out in the open. This includes calls from elected officials.”

  10. i’ve heard phone calls were made by Thomason to other commissioners seeking their vote via phone, then to property owner/developer rep (applicant) about when to postpone next hearing in order to strategically pass planning commission because Thomas told the owner how many votes Thomason had already secured or not secured. Ask property owner for comment – I heard they were recieving direct contact from planning commission members about status of voting from members, then owner communicated that to applicant….Isn’t it weird how this case was postponed, and there was some sudden shifting of planning commissioners at this time in August? – think about it. And that is how politics are done in SM. No wonder staff recommended denial. Please look into this becuase I am told it happened.And that IS a violation.

  11. Thomason also directly contacted applicant’s rep via phone with the number of secured/unsecured votes and discussed strategy for passing planning commission at future meetings….these are things I heard happened, but could be one of those SM rumors….

  12. You conspiracy theorists sure are funny! The project was postponed numerous times due to staff screw ups. Also, the commission was in turmoil since 3 commissioners were being asked to resign and they were fighting it.

  13. this is not a theory my friend. Staff did not screw up. Thomason and the property owner/applicant are shaking in their boots right now because if this came to light in a court, their zoning would be redactded….and all their $ would be lost due to an incompetent planning commissioner’s illegal actions. Newstreamz – look into this! File an ethics complaint!

  14. Dude, before you go spouting conspiracy theories and slandering someone, you might want to look into the law a little more. Please come back here and tell all of us ignorant citizens exactly what laws were broken. Please be specific and cite the applicable code, either local, state, or federal. If you can not do that, then I think you should come back here and apologize to Mr. Thomason.

  15. If I am reading web’s comments correctly, Thomason may have very well done something illegal, if the allegations are true, by contacting the applicant directly to advise him of the number of votes the commissioner had secured for the project before the actual public hearing, then advising applicant what date to postpone the case to in order to get the project passed – why would a commissioner be so motivated to get a specific project passed?….Looking at Chris Norths Oct 10 posting, I would think that any contact with an applicant about a matter scheduled to appear before the commission should absolutely not be performed, and any attempt to discuss should be read into the record at time of public hearing…for example if the oommissioner made a series of phone calls or emails to other planning commissioners trying to lobby them for votes, then contacted the applicant to advise him/her of the results, and indicated to the applicant what specific hearing date would work in the applicants favor and what dates would not, that would seem questionable – at the very least. And the project’s zoning could very well be called into question given that it was passed with a strategy (allegedley) outlined by an existing planning commissioner. I would be very curious to hear what a legal expert would say about this scenario. If not the state open meetings act then at least a city ethics violation may heve been breached if the allegations turned out to be true….and what would that do to the existing PDD zoning approved by council? If I read the above postings correctly, it does not sound like they are saying the commissioner contacted the applicant to ask a general question about the development. Which still appers to go against the grain of the ethics requirements and should have been asked to staff), but rather may have contacted the applicant or property owner (or both if I am reading it right) to give them specific insight gained by the commissioner who spoke/emailed with other commissioners and then relayed those commissioners’ statements to the applicant/owner in an attempt to ensure the project passed. Generally speaking, it sounds like without that insider knowledge, if “webs” allegations are true that it occured, then the project may have been denied by the planning commission’s make up at the originally scheduled public hearing….and that is a big violation, Justa Dog. Quite big if it can be proven. Good luck with this one….

  16. further, if this all happended before the public hearing as alleged, then the applicant/owner who was contacted should have limited their conversation about the matter then made the city aware of it afterwards, but before the public hearing. Because now, if all this is true, whoever was aware of this ahead of time (and chose to NOT speak up) is on shaky legal ground……without the alleged insider knowledge of the number of supporting votes, this project may have never passed the planning commission stage. So Justa Dog, think about that scenario and how you would defend that before a judge.

  17. Like I said before, ethics are optional in San Marcos.

    Anyone remember Bob Habengriether and The Angry Annexed Guys of Willow Creek?
    I filed a complaint with the City Attorney and the Ethics Commission because Mayor Bob voted to disannex his own home. Conflict of interest?
    By all measurable standards, YES. But the Ethics Commission took no action after a couple of meetings- not so much as a “hey, don’t do that again” to the Mayor. They caved under pressure and were strong-armed into doing nothing.
    Anyway, there is something to look into here ethically speaking, but it’s going to take a citizen with a thick skin to file the complaint because this stuff gets very nasty.

  18. The bigger issue might be the make-up of the P&Z as a whole- 9 white guys, 4 of from the real estate/development community. Not one minority in the bunch in a town where white men are the minority!
    Excerpt from The Planning Commissioner’s Guide:
    “Planning commission members do not represent specific interests. They are, when taken together, broadly representative of the total interests of the community…
    Coalitions among members should emerge within the process of deliberation rather than prior to it…”
    Really?

  19. Maybe we should ask our excellent Planning Director, Carol Barrett, FAICP, who wrote a book called Ethics and the Planning Commissioner and taught the Ethics course for new commissioners at the annual APA conferences what she thinks of all this?
    Oh, wait. We can’t ask her because she was fired last year for being mean to the developers and not wanting to weaken the new development regs. We still don’t have a permanent director in PADS.

  20. What is this planning commissioner’s guide you speak of? What part of the City Ordinances or laws of the State of Texas can this be found under?

  21. These are books issued by the City to new P&Z commissioners as part of their training. All are from the American Planning Association (APA), Planners Press.
    -The Job of Planning Commissioner by Albert Solnit
    -The Planning Commissioner’s Guide by David J. Allor
    -A Guide to Urban Planning in Texas Communities by the APA Texas Educational Foundation (carol barrett)
    – The Citizens Guide to Planning by Herbert H. Smith

  22. They may be nice little books but they don’t apear to be city, state, or federal law. Please tell me how you plan to use these reference books as a basis for an ethics complaint (which needs to be based on law) or even a court case as suggested by anony.

  23. Well when the Post Office moves ( and why I really don’t know?),guess who will buy the property……right. So either the eyesore of a parking garage or the the eyesore of another ‘Sanctuary Lofts’. I also understand that the property at 210 Pat Garrison St. up to Lindsey St. will be bulldozed and developed into another ‘Sanctuary Lofts’ great huh? There seems to NOT be a cap for any growth in the downtown area. We need industry built not living quarters. This is just mad. TX ST wants and the city just bows. I love this city, but I definatley will not retire here like I thought I would. Damn shame. Never thought I’d say that.

  24. The City does not issue any books to P&Z members as part of their training. I know this for a fact.

  25. Who are you, Dog? Chris Carson? Is that you???
    How do you know that for a fact? Because you are on the P&Z and they didn’t give YOU one???
    They may not issue them now, but they did when Patterson was Director. Paterson’s dead now, but Larry Gilly is not. He’s City manager in Abiline or something now.
    I’ll give him a call in my copious free time so he can confirm.
    Maybe the CITY is just too cheap to pay for them now, or maybe they just don’t give a damn about having a ‘fair and balanced’ P&Z. Probably both. Call me a liar, anonymous.

  26. Correction:
    I just remembered- Ron Patterson gave me my copy of A Guide to Urban Planning in Texas Communities. This was around the same time he and the City nominated me for the Texas APA’s Planning Commissioner of the Year award.
    So, the City did not issue that one, Dog. It was a gift.

  27. Too funny. Chris North falls again…. Maybe she should run for mayor. Now that would be a hoot! Really Carol is still wtih P & Z? I thought she was gona a long time ago? I thought North was out of here a while ago as well. Sigh.. But what do I know. Chris is still able to attend public meetings? Isn’t there a nuisance law?

  28. Sorry Chris, I am not part of your most hated family in San Marcos, the Carsons nor am I commissioner Thomason! Also, Patterson has bee gone for a LONG time as well as Gilley. You might want to stop living in the past and realize that our future lies ahead.

    Oh yeah, and I never called you a liar but if the shoe fits….

  29. Read the thread, anonymous opinion guy. Carol Barrett was FIRED. Award-winning planner known nationally for being an excellent urban planner and again, an expert on ethics in planning and government.
    and yeah, I’m still around. Took a little break to get a divorce, have some chemo therapy and bury my father.
    But I’m back now. Think I’m a nuisance now? Wait for it.
    (the nuisance thing was funny, BTW)

  30. The City also issued copies of:
    The Citizen’s Guide to Zoning by Herbert H. Smith.

    Commissioner Mooney gave me my first copy of Robert’s Rules of Order.
    The Center for Watershed Protection sent me a copy of Better Site Design: A Handbook for Changing Development Rules in Your Community.
    I forget who on city staff sent me my first Stormwater Magazine subscription (i still get that one).
    Commissioners also received subscriptions to the APA’s Planning Commissioner’s Journal and
    Planning Magazine.

    Chris Carson and Reagan Lehman gave me a supeana and I read that too.

    The City spent thousands of dollars training us the think like planners, and I am so grateful for the education I received.
    I am happy to loan you anything you’d like to read.

    For the third time, Dog: Ethics are optional.
    Ethics are not codified. They are subject to the political will of the Council. And as the pendulum has swung to the way right, it will swing back. Always does.

    2002- that’s a very long time ago. You are right, it’s ancient history.
    I suppose you are one of those people who thinks that the San Marcos Horizons Master Plan is history and we should move on from that too? Sort of like the Dead Sea Scrolls- fascinating but not relevant?

  31. Carol was also an expert on finding reasons that a land owner could NOT use their land the way they want rather than try find solutions to make their proposed land use work. I think she learned way too much from her time in Berkley, CA.

    On a slightly different note…why is it that all of our recent planning directors and interim planning directors do not even live in this city? Sure, Carol had a duplex so it looked a little better but she still lived in Austin. Cecil also lives in Austin. If you don’t even care enough about my fine city to live here and be a resident, then you don’t deserve the job, IMO. Sorry about this off shoot rant!

  32. You guys are abit off: Carol Barrett was fired for two reasons: finding reasons to say ‘no’ to anything she disagreed with, and (2) was unbearable to work with. Under her tenure 5-6 PADS employees left within 2.5 years. Period. The planning commissioners are provided with abundant materials to read and educate themselves with in order to make educated land use decisions. Some take it more seriously than others. the current PADS director is operating from outer space with land use policies that do not fit well with the SM environemnt at all. Even something progressive like concho commons. He just doesn’t see the ‘big’ picture, like many career beauracrats. The alleged eithics violations need to be addressed and investigated….

  33. This whole thread is HILARIOUS!! Has anyone notices that “web” stopped posting when someone finally called him out. Hey “web” since you started this whole conspiracy theory, why don’t you just go ahead and come out from behind your veil of anonymity and tell us all how you “KNOW” so much about all of this. Rather than calling for Newstreamz to “look into this” and “file an ethics complaint” why don’t you be man (or woman) enough to file the ethics complaint yourself. Or is it as Dog says and you’re just a conspiracy theorist who really doesn’t “KNOW” what they’re talking about.

    And for politics in San Marcos…it’s the same whether you’re in San Marcos, San Antonio, Austin, Houston, Dallas, Washington DC, or anywhere in between. Politics is politics is politics…there are good people, there are bad people, there are straight shooters and there are crooks. Get over it. San Marcos is NOT unique when it comes to politics.

    As for Carol Barrett…she may have writetn a book on ethics but sure didn’t practice what she preached. I’m certainly not an expert but could it be a conflict of interest to use one Planning and Zoning Commissioner as your realtor, one Planning and Zoning Commissioner as your insurance agent and hold private meetings with multiple Commissioners prior to meetings to tell them about all the flaws in the project. Speaking of former Commissioners, didn’t she hire one of them (her former insurance agent) as a staff member? Wonder if that decision was influenced at all…

    Hmmm…the conspiracy plot thickens…

  34. But here’s new information relative to the ethics thing:
    Ryan Thomason appeared before and addressed the Zoning Board of Adjustments (ZBOA) on a matter involving his neighbor’s property while serving as Planning Commissioner.

    This IS against the law, IS codified, and covered under the City Code, Code of Ethics,Standards of Conduct. This is an ORDINANCE. Has anyone gone to see if our City Attorney has a pulse? Maybe he’s taking a nap. Or maybe he just awaiting that spine transplant?

    Whatever, here ya go:

    From the City of San Marcos Board and Commission Handbook, Legal Considerations:
    “You may not appear before your own board or commission in a private capacity under any circumstances, and you may not appear before another City board or commission in a private capacity except in very limited circumstances.”
    Dog, see Sec. 2.423., San Marcos City Code.

    Did the Commissioner get an opinion from the City Attorney before speaking to the ZBOA?

  35. Long ago, way back in the day, long before this thread was a twinkle in Dog’s eye, staff never would have allowed that situation to happen. And the commissioner who tried to appear before another commission would have been summoned to the City Attorney’s office for a good verbal spanking. (I can still remember my first city attorney spanking…those were the days…)

  36. Do you know what the issue was that Thomason was speaking to the ZBOA on? I do not so I am asking for specifics here.

    Typical liberal, if you can’t produce the facts to back up your claims, you switch to a different subject. The ethics issue that was brought up had to do with P&Z and Concho Commons, not ZBOA. Where the heck did you pull this ZBOA stuff out of and what does it have to do with Concho Commons? Can’t prove your point so you switch to some other claim that most likely has no merrit.

    I bet you enjoyed that spanking too, didn’t you 🙂

  37. Dog, you are not making sense. What claim am I not backing up? I jumped on here on a question on ethics, and that’s where I’m jumping off.
    You asked me questions, I answered them. You questioned my sources and my ‘truthfulness’. The ZBOA/thomason thing has no merit? Very easy to check by calling PADS.
    “Did Ryan Thomason appear before the ZBOA while a member of P&Z? yes or no?”

    As often happens with question of ethics, this one snowballed a into a bigger thing, but the original post was about a commissioner’s inappropriate involvement with the applicant and the project, Concho Commons.
    I really hope somebody files a complaint with the Ethic Commission, because right now we have a P&Z that is anti-regulation and pro-developer at the expense of all of us, or full of fail. But it won’t be me.

    And here’s a little personal history on the Concho Commons thing and I:
    I supported the original project when I was on the Commission. I forget what the were calling it, but as I recall it was 7 stories, had lots of apartments, a 3 story parking garage, and commercial on the street. I think there was at least one parking space for every bedroom, plus the commercial.
    People freaked out saying it was ‘too tall’ and ‘would ruin downtown’, even though the college was building these big ugly boxes all up and down the hill…
    My public comment in the hearing was something like:
    “I don’t care how tall it is! It’s a good mixed use project. Somebody wants to build student housing next to the college, and god knows the university isn’t interested in providing housing for the ever growing student population…” So, could have had something quite different there. Too bad.
    Anyway, I voted for it and never let my personal feelings for the applicant (hate him. no really.) enter into my deliberations as a Commissioner. Cause I have some Ethics. Good luck, Dog.

  38. Thank you, Chris North! You have intelligently informed me/us, and I appreciate your time, information, and how you present it. I look forward to meeting you some day and shaking your hand. You have obviously served S.M. with love and spirit! Unfortunately, your statement “Ethics are optional” rings all too true for both the city and county.
    Although I do not live within the city limits, I have considered myself a San Marcian since ’74 and am very concerned about the preservation and development of our treasured city.
    We must provide parking somewhere. I think a parking garage where the Post Office is, is a great idea. If this area turns into another Sanctuary Lofts, the old-timers will revolt and squash it. I do not know anyone who has a good thing to say about that desecration of a S.M. landmark. Is the Post Office land already sold? How many parking areas will be at the new TSU Performing Arts Center?
    We also need to utilize more the parking by the railroad tracks, where we have the Farmer’s Market.
    Ted M. has made some articulate, constructive, and thoughtful suggestions, too. Seems like that 1-hour parking area in front of the theater was for pizza delivery purposes.
    Thanks, also, to Newstreamz! Where else could we learn and share so much for so little? Does everyone know that Newstreamz has free classified ads?

  39. Chris,

    Are you aware that Mr. Thomason appeared at the ZBOA because he was the immediate adjoining property owner? He also appeared with your idol, Carol Barret’s blessing. I know, I saw him and asked him about it today. I know, I know. Now you will say he is just lying to cover his tracks.

    Regardless, you are permitted to appear before another board if it deals directly with property that you own and and you are representing your own interests. The owner next door was requesting a variance that would directly affect his property rights.

    There is that little bit about “except in very limited circumstances” that I guess you did not give him a break for, huh? Not everything is as underhanded as you think it is. Man it must really be a sad life to live thinking that everything is a conspiracy.

  40. There has been a propopsal for some time to put a parking garage along Hutchison between Guadlupe and LBJ. This would incorporate the present central fire station, which is about to be abandoned, and the parking lot next to it, behing the Tap Room. Architechtural drawing for this garage have already been drawn. The Mayor, for reasons i can not fathom, does not support it.

  41. The university will be building a pay-as-you-go parking garage right near the Alumni house across from Alvin Ord’s soon.

  42. I disagree that Mr. Thomason violated ethics rules and more importantly take issue with the instructions given by the former Planning Commissioner to the Commissioners warning that they avoid conversation with members of the public having issues coming before the Commission. Each of the members of the many boards and commissions of our city spend countless hours in public hearings about a myriad of issues. Some issues are more complex than others, for example, some planning cases.

    It seems logical for applicants to discuss the details of their application not only with the city staff but the commissioners, individually, who make time and have the willingness to listen in an effort to understand the nuances of the case and possibly streamline the applicant’s presentation to the commission. The outcome of this is an efficient use of the entire commission’s time.

    Understand, the Planning Commissioners are each selected by a majority vote of the members of our City Council who in turn are elected by the populous to serve all of us at City Council meetings. This republican form of democracy provides that those who are chosen are empowered with the responsibility of making decisions on our behalf without each of us having to know every last detail of every last decision. Now, let’s just let them do it.

    Now to parking; we have an opportunity, under the direction of the Downtown Master Plan, to get downtown parking under control. While I was one of the early and vocal proponents to get a parking garage I met with the parking consultants and was convinced that parking is a science not an art form and our situation here in San Marcos is not unique. Their suggestion was to put in metered parking downtown shortening the time and raising the price of “premium parking.” This not only promotes spaces to “roll over” more often, it generates capital for use in any downtown revitalization.

    Secondly, they suggest we perform an inventory assessment of available spaces for longer-term parking and put in place a mechanism (possibly a parking board) to work with property owners to designate these areas as parking locations, identifying them for frequent users. At the point we begin to see our availability of parking spaces decline then we consider construction of a paid parking facility in the downtown.

    We must be smart about growth if we want smart growth to occur in our downtown. Requiring every building within the downtown area to meet suburban parking requirements only encourages a car friendly, not a pedestrian friendly atmosphere. I would like to see improved bike and pedestrian access to our downtown from the University and surrounding neighborhoods and encourage these modes of transportation for those enjoying downtown.

    To accomplish growth in our downtown we need to secure adequate supplies of parking for employees between the hours of 6 a.m. to at least 6 p.m. This allows daytime employees to not move their cars every two hours as required under our current policy. This parking currently exists but may not be at the front door of each business.

    Mr. Thomason is working to support solutions to both economic development issues and parking problem within our City and downtown. I respect his willingness to contribute his personal time and effort in a commitment to make San Marcos the greatest place on the world to both live and work.

  43. Scott, I agree with some of your parking comments and disagree with some.

    Given that downtown parking was rated second lowest for citizen satisfaction on a recent survey (http://www.ci.san-marcos.tx.us/news/Docs/Survey_2008.pdf), I would say there is little question that something should be done.

    I disagree with the notion of creating incentives for parking spaces to turn over. This leads to people driving into town for a quick stop and then leaving. To me, the objective is to get people to come downtown and stay for an extended period of time.

    Yes, it would be great if neighbors and students on campus would walk or ride their bikes, the way to do that is to make the area more bike/ped friendly, not less car friendly. This is the same issue that we run into with traffic. People think they can keep the cars out by not improving the roads. Instead, we end up with the same amount of traffic, but the cars go speeding through neighborhoods, because the arteries that ought to accommodate them don’t exist.

    The other downside to making downtown less car friendly is that people from out of town are not easily able to spend a day downtown, the way they would in Gruene, Fredericksburg, Wimberley, etc.

    The bigger issue, I think, is that there does not appear to be agreement among city officials, about what the downtown parking solution looks like and there is very little understanding among citizens about what will be done, or when.

    The city would do well to reach an agreement and put some real plans in place, with some real milestones and start communicating that to the residents.

    The university, despite my concerns that they appear to be making a lot of changes with little consideration for how they will impact the city, has done an excellent job of documenting their vision of where they are going and what the campus is going to look like.

    Some of their plans are on again, off again (it seems) because of budget concerns, but the plan does not really change and it keeps moving forward.

    The city would do well to take a few queues from the university. Their plans are accessible and easy to understand. Obviously the city is much more complex than the university, but where the university has one master plan for people to refer to, the city has multiple master plans, thoroughfare plans, CIP, etc. I do not believe there is any one place for citizens to go, to see one unified vision for the city and a plan to get us there.

    When the citizens don’t have (and know about) a single place to look and say “Ah, that’s what we’re going to do,” you get endless bickering, conspiracy theories and opportunities for corruption and back-door deals. With a clear, unified, well publicized vision for the city, at least we could move on to arguing about how to fund improvements and how fast to make them.

    For almost 20 years, I’ve seen very little progress toward even getting agreement on where we are going. It always seems to be open to debate. I can’t imagine what would happen if we tried to run our businesses like that. Actually, I can imagine. That’s the frustrating part.

  44. Ted,

    I agree with you and the participants in the citizen satisfaction survey that we have parking issues in downtown. I also agree that this situation is not new and has been discussed, analyzed, re-discussed and re-analyzed for almost the past three decades. However, the recently adopted Downtown Master Plan addresses this issue and offers steps on how to begin to fix this problem. Importantly, City Council has indicated their willingness to act to set the Downtown Master Plan in motion.

    As I mentioned, parking is a science not an art form. Many cities our size that had similar parking issues have resolved their parking problems by putting into action the plans that have been proposed in our Downtown Master Plan document.

    We all want visitors to come to our downtown and stay as long as they want. Equally, we must also work to promote activities and shops that attract not only citizens but new visitors to the heart of our city. To offer these longer term visitors almost limitless parking on-street in front of businesses who depend on customers getting in and out of their front door quickly and efficiently such as a florist shop, bike shop, cigar shop, or a clothing store is not the solution. We should provide parking lots designed for long-term visitors who want to take their time and see our downtown. These areas should be conveniently located, relatively inexpensive for the parking time allowed and easy to find and relocate with ample signage.

    Ted, I agree that action must be taken quickly to solve this problem. Without a solution that is implemented quickly we will hamper efforts to establish a vibrant downtown and stall whatever momentum has already been created. My earlier comment was not meant to say that our downtown should not be accessible and friendly to anyone choosing to drive to be in downtown. Instead, my point was that we can make our downtown much more pedestrian friendly, shopper friendly and commercially successful for our local businesses by providing the right type of parking for each type of visitor.

  45. Scott, where does one draw the distinction between fact-finding and lobbying? There is a line that is easily crossed no matter how well-meaning one may be…
    That’s why it’s unethical and should not happen.
    If Ryan Thomason was helping an applicant get his project approved by lobbying and consulting, he shouldn’t be on the Commission.

    As Sean Wardell says, “if open government is your thing,… sunshine is the best disinfectant.”
    Where’s the sunshine in San Marcos these days?

  46. Good parking points from Scott and Ted.
    Maybe residential has a different parking need than commercial in our downtown?
    People, especially the students projected to be living in Concho Commons, need a place to put their car.
    God knows they will not be leaving it in Mom and Dad’s Houston driveway. Folks can leave the car at home and walk to school, work and play, but they need a space to put the car.. I’m not sure we should be granting variance requests while we wait for the driving habits and attitudes of an entire state to change.

  47. Chris,

    You information is a little off. Their is no planned residential units in the Concho Commons Project. It is all commercial/office/retail. The project is approximately 36% under parked and this is not counting the 17 proposed additional street parking spaces that will be added which does not count towards their required parking but does help to alleviate some of the parking concerns.

    Also, the project WAS postponed on a couple of different occasions due to posting errors by staff, not to provide a better chance to the applicant. I talk to Ryan a couple of time per week since we are pretty good friends and he NEVER lobbied me for my vote on this project. I voted for it because it is indeed geared towards pedestrian traffic and that is what the downtown master plan recommends. It is also a redevelopment of a piece of property that is currently empty and 100% impervious cover. The new project will reduce the impervious cover and will treat and address the run off that it incurs which is not happening right now.

    It is pretty sad, really, that the Hotel Conference center can be way under parked (something like 60% under, if I remember correctly) and it did not get any negative recommendations by staff. Why should a city sponsored project get preferential treatment over a private sector project?

    Some people are questioning why we, the Planning and Zoning Commission, went against Staff on this. Folks need to remember that we do not work for Staff. If so, then there would not be a need for a P&Z or at least all we would be there for is to rubber stamp everything that staff says.

  48. downtown parking issues aside, NO planning commissioner should be contacting an applicant before a scheduled public hearing to inform him/her how many supporting votes they have and specifically which commissioners are supporting/opposing the request. How can anyone argue that that is legal. Ah, lets see – perhaps because the concho commons agent is hunting buddies with the city attorney AND the former assistant director of the planning department – So there’s the elephant in the room y’all. C’mon folks – make the connection here. There is a real story involved with the approval of this underparked, illegally approved zoning case. Everyone keeps saying how the staff dropped the ball and postponed the case – tell us all how? In what way? Anyone who has the time to investigate will see where the applicant’s agent postponed the case. I hear the staff did one/two on the applicant by advising them to apply for a PDD in a preapplication conference because the project was so unique, then ruling out everything that was proposed under the PDD once the application was submitted. Plus, under the PDD the staff applied standard textbook suburban parking requirements to an obviously downtown centered project. BUT – tell me how you can defend the basic issue here: the commissioner advised the applicant of very sensitive information that the applicant would not otherwise had in their possession but for the transfer of that information by illegal conduct. What ethics law allows that to occur? C’mon Newstreamz -look into this and get the zoning approval, the commissioner, the applicant agent and property owner called into question. You might be suprised what you find.

  49. Bang,

    Can you provide facts to back up your claim that Thomason “contacted an applicant before a scheduled public hearing to inform him/her how many supporting votes they have and specifically which commissioners are supporting/opposing the request”? Are you Thomason or the applicant? Spouting off conspiracy theories against a respected member of the community without any evidence is just slander.

  50. Thanks Curtis. The article didn’t really specify the usage in the PDD (commercial, office, residential, ect..)
    but does mention ‘the businesses’ and gives no mention of any residential. Maybe it was just wishful thinking on my part!
    I know better, though. I should have called PADS and gotten the specifics before posting on the parking issue.
    It’s a shame there is no residential included.
    Anyway, thanks for setting me straight.

  51. Hey BangBang,

    Here’s a conspiracy theory for you…I think you’re really the same guy that posted as “web” and you’re using different aliases on here to throw us all off.

    Or wait…maybe you’re the applicant’s AGENT…I mean how would you really know all of that insider information otherwise. As the applicant’s agent you would know all about Carol Barrett since you’re the “former assistant director of planning” AND “hunting buddies” with the city’s attorney. And you were the one involved with the case so it HAS to be you…

    Hold it…I know…you’re the APPLICANT and you’ve suddenly grown a guilty conscious over the fact that you won and this is going to be such a horrible development for the City that you want to report YOURSELF.

    Imagine this one…you’re the City’s ATTORNEY and you’ve suddenly realized that being hunting buddies with someone means you’ve done something illegal and…oh.wait…nevermind. That doesn’t incriminate you for jack squat.

    Wait…hey Newstreamz…you should investigate this one…Bang’s actually the long lost childhood friend of one of the former planning commissioners who got removed during this process and little did his long lost friend know but he’s also…ready for this…the second coming of CAROL BARRETT whose superpower is being the all knowing, omniscient conscious of the planning world and he is here to fix all of San Marcos’s problems.

    Hold on…I was just contacted by the Headus Crackius from the planet Moronus Muchas and they told the voices in my head you’re really a former employee that couldn’t cut it working in San Marcos and now you’re unemployed because you really just didn’t know what you were doing and nobody wants to hire you…and that’s why Carol Barrett let you go…

    Have we all had enough or should I keep going…

    The truth of the matter, Bang, is you’re a NOBODY who has nothing but a bunch of baseless claims that you call “facts” and a lot of slander against a lot of respectable individuals who are just trying to earn a living or are doing their civic duty and VOLUNTEERING for an UNPAID position on a city body. Are you strong enough to put yourself in that type of position. I seriously doubt it since you continue to hide behind your anonymous names and your unfactually based “facts”.

    So unless you’re going to grow a set, get some guts and come out from underneath that pile of cow manure you’re hiding behind and produce these so called “facts” you have that will incriminate everyone involved in this case (including the city’s attorney…still trying to figure out his involvement) maybe you should just let it go, stop spewing your hate, and realize this is going to happen and nobody cares about your worthless claims.

    Bang…we all know you’re full of it. Why don’t you just go crawl back into your parent’s basement and keep surfing the internet, posting on blogs about something you have no clue about and watching your dirty kiddie videos. Better yet…put your tinfoil hat on, talk to your people and have them beam you back up to wherever it is you came from…

  52. Chris and Dog…

    This project COULD have been so much more and COULD have been ten times better for the City than what we’re getting. Residential was NEEDED here and should have been a part of this project as was originally envisioned years ago.

    The University keeps tearing down housing for classroom space. Now, I’m all for adding students and growing our beloved university, but where are we going to stick the kids. In more apartments along IH 35 north of Aquarena, 5 miles from campus. That’s worthless…it’s worthless planning, it’s worthless placement, it’s a worthless use of land. Sending busses clear across the City wasting gas, polluting the air, adding to congestion, increasing the cost of going to school here and forcing students to live outside of the downtown area is moronic at best. The downtown will NEVER thrive without the student population staying in San Marcos and will NEVER be what the downtown master plan envisions unless we make it a destination spot.

    That starts with KEEPING THE STUDENTS HERE.

    We all hate the traffic and we all notice the difference when the students leave town for the summer. But we also all should recognize that without the student population and the University, San Marcos would be nothing more than a pit stop on the highway north to Austin. Or better yet, a pit stop on the way to Cabela’s in Buda…

    Who do you think works all the stores in the outlet mall at minimum wage jobs? Who do you think spends their money here 9 months out of the year supporting local businesses? Who do you think is living in those apartments and keeping them at a +90% occupancy rate? (courtesy the US Census -www.census.gov) Who do you think is therefore adding significant amounts of sales tax and property tax revenue to the City.

    Want to argue about that property tax revenue? Consider this…without them, the apartments wouldn’t exist. Without the apartments, all of those properties would be valued much less than they are today.

    Every Thursday and Friday night thousands of students living in San Marcos drive themselves up IH 35 to Austin and go party on 6th Street or any number of other places that stay open until 2 or 3 in the morning. Nonetheless, they’re leaving San Marcos. Then, after a wonderful, eventful adrenaline filled night, they drive themselves back to San Marcos to go pass out in their apartments to do it all again the next day.

    I’m not condoning the actions of the students, but considering the fact that a 30 minute drive back to San Marcos is enough time for the adrenaline to wear off and the tiredness to set in while the intoxication is still there, I’d rather have them being in San Marcos and WALKING home from downtown than getting on IH 35 and DRIVING home. More housing, like the Sanctuary Lofts, adjacent to the University is EXACTLY what this City needs.

    The residents of this City should stop hating the students and accept the fact they exist and work together with them to co-exist.

    Consider this…the population of San Marcos is approximately 50,000 people. The student population of the University is 30,000 people. If the students all registered to vote (which they’re elgible to do), they could run this City and there wouldn’t be anything any of us could do about it.

    As a graduate of Southwest Texas State University (still can’t get over the name change), it disgusts me to see the lack of cooperation between the residents of this city and the student population.

    We don’t have to like each other but we should respect each other…We all bring SOMETHING to this city and like it or not, residents and students alike NEED each other.

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