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September 27th, 2008
Council and Planning & Zoning members explain Concho Commons vote

The following are comments gathered by Newstreamz corespondents Ed Mihalkanin and Andy Sevilla regarding the Concho Commons issue over September 24th and 25th.

Mayor Susan Narvaiz “It was supported by our Planning and Zoning Commission. It is also what our Downtown Master Plan called for. We had just voted on our new Downtown Master Plan and it didn’t seem reasonable to deny the proposal what it was in line with the goals of our Downtown Master Plan. It has the type of density called for in the plan. The parking ratios in it [Concho Commons project] were in line with parking ratios in towns with healthy downtowns. Further, the original proposal envisioned a six to seven story building so the owners have worked to meet some of the city concerns.”

Place 5 Councilmember Pam Couch “I believe that it is a new kind of urban development that we are trying to go towards. The whole thing is that it’s walkable. They wouldn’t be building something there unless they were confident that their customers will be able to reach the businesses. This is a major investment and the company has a lot at stake. It would not propose a project that would put their company at risk. We want to encourage higher density in our downtown and this project is an example of that. We need to think outside the box.”
Place 4 Councilmember Chris Jones “The main reason I voted for the PDD was because it was a good project. It fell in line with our Downtown Master Plan. I didn’t feel that parking should be the one issue that should stop the project. The Downtown Master Plan calls for the council to develop a parking strategy. Since we just approved the Downtown Master Plan the same night that we approved the PDD, the council obviously hasn’t developed such a strategy. I feel confident that the parking strategy to be developed by the council in the near future will deal with the parking issues of this project.”

Place 1 Councilmember Kim Porterfield “I voted for Concho Commons in part because the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval. Second, it’s a fantastic project. It represents a significant investment. It is next to the university so it is next to an area of high density. Also, the planned businesses in Concho Commons are designed to cater to faculty, staff and students so they will be geared to pedestrian traffic. 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. Establishing a parking plan needs to be the council’s first order of business.”
Place 6 Councilmember John Thomaides “This project reflects what I think our downtown 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. The council could have waited to approve the project until the council agreed to a parking plan for our downtown but such a plan is a ways off. This project is a reflection of how cities are developing. We need to have people working and living downtown.”

Planning & Zoning Chair Sherwood Bishop “I 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 inaccurate. The impervious cover issue was a minor problem because of the lot size.”

Planning & Zoning Commissioner Allen Shy “I don’t see any difference between the PDD and all the current businesses in the area. What they were requesting was feasible. It fits well with the new Downtown Master Plan. I don’t think staff took into consideration the percentage of walk up businesses for Concho Commons. I think the drainage they were going to put in satisfies the drainage requirements.”

Planning & Zoning Commissioner Ryan Thomason “It was a good project. It didn’t appear to have a legitimate parking issue when it is compared to the sites and businesses around it. Everything over in that area exceeds the current impervious cover standards. The PDD we approved has considerably less impervious cover than what is currently on that site.”

Planning & Zoning Commissioner Bill DeSoto “As staff pointed out, the drainage proposal could have been improved. The parking issue should have been better addressed. I did not want the project to be stopped but it should have been thought through a little more.”
Planning & Zoning Commissioner Bill Taylor “I believe that it’s a good project. Parking was the big issue as far as I was concerned. Parking was the major issue for most people. The Concho Commons consultants presented it to us as a pedestrian project. I didn’t want the P&Z Commission to kill the project. It’s a good project for our city but the parking problem needs to be addressed. I thought council was the place to work on the parking issue, not the P&Z Commission. The drainage issue is a concern to me also. I hope the council will address that issue too.”
Chair Kyle Maysel, San Marcos Downtown Parking Advisory Board (PAD)

“The PAD received no notice through official channels about the PDD. It’s discouraging that a representative of a developer can have unlimited time in which to promote their project while a representative of an official city board only gets three minutes during the citizen comment period. It’s a general principle of the San Marcos Downtown Parking Advisory Board (PAD) that the city shouldn’t be granting this type of massive parking variance. This inflicts problems on existing businesses. The city is creating a perfect storm by giving variances where there is an already existing parking problem.

The city government also is discussing implementing a fee in lieu system which would permit payment of a fee instead of providing adequate parking and reinstalling metered parking which people consider a punishment for coming downtown. Unless you have a development district or a dedicated fund, fee in lieu revenues would go into the General Fund and not towards eliminating the parking problem.”

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