By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
The developers of an ill-fated residential project on the north end of San Marcos are going to try their luck on the south end.
Carma Texas went before the San Marcos Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) Tuesday night with an introduction to Paso Robles, which would place 3,427 homes on 1,338.5 acres, mostly outside the present city limits. The development would be bounded on the east by 5,500 feet of frontage on Hunter Road, which would be bisected by Centerpoint Road west of Interstate-35.
Carma also is the developer of Blanco Vista, located just west of I-35 between Stagecoach Road and Yarrintgon Road. Planned for 2,000 homes, the Blanco Vista development is off to an inauspicious start due to the present unfavorable conditions in the housing market.
Though it lies within the San Marcos city limits, the Blanco Vista development is within the Hays CISD. Anticipating a flood of students in the area, the Hays school district went so far this year as to open an elementary school, called Blanco Vista Elementary School, on land within the school district donated by Carma.
However, only 55 homes have been built so far in Blanco Vista, and Carma Texas General Manager Shaun Cranston said about 30 families live there. Cranston said the developers also have service to 150 lots in the first phase, as well as service to another 100 lots adjacent to the new elementary school.
Against that backdrop, Cranston has come back to San Marcos with an even larger and more ambitious project, which includes an 18-hole golf course and 339.3 acres of parks and open space.
“Carma has a much further vision than the next three to six months,” Cranston said after showing the concept to the P&Z. “We’re in for the long haul. We think, overall, the fundamentals are in place for growth in San Marcos and Central Texas.”
Cranston told the P&Z that the first homes probably wouldn’t go on the market until Spring of 2011. In addition to residences, the Paso Robles project would include a 48.4-acre commercial portion across Hunter Road and bordered on the north by Centerpoint Road.
P&Z commissioners generally supported the project, though the details will take some untangling. Carma wants approval for a Planned Development District (PDD), along with hook-ups to the city’s water and wastewater services. Cranston said he is hoping to irrigate the golf course by tapping into the city’s treated effluent lines running near the outlet malls.
About 900 acres of the proposed development site are outside the city limits. Carma said it would voluntarily annex to the city along a time frame roughly corresponding with the availability of city services.
The development calls for the utilization of “smart growth” principles, including clustered residential developments with homes on relatively small lots so more open space can be made available. P&Z Chairman Sherwood Bishop praised the concept of clustering homes, but P&Z Commissioners Ryan Thomason and Cecil Pounds advised Cranston that the market in San Marcos would more likely respond to larger lot sizes.
Within the proposed Paso Robles development are two small parcels that will not be part of the project – a five-acre piece for the Barnes family and a nine-acre piece for the Lowman family. Carma bought most of the land from those two families, who wished to retain pieces. Cranston said those two pieces will not voluntarily annex to the city.
In writing and in person, citizens expressed a batch of concerns from traffic safety to water availability to worries that the land might include cemeteries and archaeological treasure. Cranston said the developers are following the city’s road plans, that arrangements are being made for water from the city, that an archaeological study has found nothing of interest and that he knows of no cemeteries on the property.
Cranston said the PDD designation would allow the development enough flexibility to build homes in the clusters, as designed. The Paso Robles project is likely to feature a higher end home, as Cranston said it is targeted to families with at least one permanent resident who is 55 or older.
Despite today’s dire conditions in the housing market, Cranston told the P&Z that he has no qualms about Carma’s $35-40 million investment in the San Marcos area because he still expects the Austin-San Antonio corridor to develop along the same lines as the Metroplex. Cranston went so far as to mention that San Marcos is analogous to the location of a new Dallas Cowboys stadium that will open next fall in Arlington.
“You are smack dab in the middle of the biggest economic generator in Texas over the next 25 years, and Texas is going to be the biggest economic generator in the United States,” Cranston said.Email | Print