San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

February 4th, 2009
San Marcos council carves up 'host' proposal

Associate Editor

A spirited debate took center stage at Tuesday’s San Marcos City Council meeting, where citizens and councilmembers voiced so much opposition to a revised “host responsibility” ordinance that it never went to a vote.

Indeed, the council majority found little to recommend in the proposal to address noisy gatherings and residential bulk waste in one sweeping act of legislation, objecting not merely to its contents, but to its structure. Thus, the council decided to break the proposal in two, tabling the noisy gathering portion until later this month and leaving aside the bulk waste portion for a much later date.

Council will return to the noisy gathering side on Feb. 17. Mayor Susan Narvaiz requested that Police Chief Howard Williams meet with Texas State’s student government and the media in efforts to educate the public and receive input.

Williams presented the ordinance revision, which replaces references to “unlawful level of noise” with “excessive level of noise,” while adding measures by which the San Marcos Police Department (SMPD) can deal with “unruly gatherings.” Williams said the revisions would enable SMPD to better do its job.

“We’ve been working on this since 2007, trying to find solutions,” Williams said.

However, councilmembers took exception to the possibility of arbitrary enforcement, noting that the guidelines for “excessive noise” and “unruly gatherings” lack specificity. Meanwhile, citizens complained about possible new penalties for property owners and managers.

The proposal would expand host responsibilities with respect to trash, alcohol, parking, and unruly gatherings while also widening the responsibilities of party goers. It would give SMPD more tools for dispersing unruly gatherings and create a fee structure by which property owners would have to pay SMPD for responding to repeat complaints about their properties.

“I’m in favor of protecting our values,” Don Garrett of San Marcos said during the citizens comment period. “But I am concerned our city is trying to transfer responsibility from a perpetrator to a landlord.”

The proposal warrants a written notice to property owners/managers after police are called out to a property for noise violations. On receiving the notice, the landlord is given ten days to contact SMPD and agree on strategies to prevent further violations. If SMPD is called to that property for a related complaint within 90 days of that agreement, the landlord would be billed $100 for each call to that property for six months.

“I feel like it’s a slippery slope,” Rick Skiles of San Marcos said to the council. “I prefer the council not accept things that transfer responsibility from one person to the other.”

SMPD Assistant Chief Lisa Dvorak told councilmembers that “this is ordinance is intended to alleviate problems in repeat locations,” while City Attorney Michael Cosentino said the ordinance goes beyond the state statute and “makes it clear what unreasonable noise is.”

The council majority was even more dismissive of the residential bulk waste provisions, despite passionate defenses from Councilmembers John Thomaides and Gaylord Bose.

Echoing Council of Neighborhood Associations (CONA) President Camille Phillips, Thomaides said residential bulk waste is “a problem” for San Marcos.

“This really reflects really poorly on our community,” Thomaides said. “This really hurts our community, to appear this way.”

The ordinance requires arrangements for special collections of bulky waste to be made in advance of placing said items at the curb. An infraction could result in a penalty not to exceed $2,000.

“I think its fine as it is,” Councilmember Kim Porterfield said. “This (revision) is unreasonable.”

Porterfield presented a hypothetical situation of an elderly person only being able to remove bulk waste when “a grandson comes to visit,” or having to alter cleaning plans to synchronize them with pick up times. Narvaiz echoed Porterfield, adding that residents “are probably not aware of what to do.”

The council debated the issue and ultimately decided to table it in efforts to educate the public and encourage participation and dialogue, which got off to a roaring start at the dias.

“If you have to throw stuff out, you have to call and be responsible,” Thomaides said.

Said Narvaiz, “We haven’t said it very clear. We haven’t advertised how to get your bulky waste picked up.”

Councilmember Chris Jones said multi-family homes presented a different challenge, particularly as they “turn” while students move out.  Jones said such instances could not be tested under the same guidelines as single-family housing. But Councilmember Gaylord Bose said said the matter should be simple.

“It’s our responsibility to keep our city neat and clean,” Bose said. “Either be responsible or pay the consequences.”

For now, anyway, the consequences won’t involve fines of up to $2,000.

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0 thoughts on “San Marcos council carves up 'host' proposal

  1. Although it seems reasonable to clarify what unreasonable noise is, we have to be careful not too allow government to over extend its arm of the law. Im sure several SM officers would easily and quickly take advantage of any new privileges, especially when it comes to dealing with students. Also, the trash ordinance is a great idea, and I completely agree with John Thomaides, however Susan Narvaiz has the right implementation plan in sight, educate the public efficiently first, and be open to public opinion. If for nothing else, to prevent the outcry we’ve seen with the passage of a new ordinance that has several citizens upset.

  2. The law is already based on what a “reasonable person” would think is too much noise and it goes largely unenforced. The problem is not that the police are too heavy-handed when they have that much leeway; it is that they often do nothing.

    Also, please move on from the anti-student conspiracy. It is such a lazy way to reply to anything the town wants to do.

  3. I’m a bit surprised that nothing is being reported on the plan to pay people (professors) $5,000 apiece to move to San Marcos and buy houses. This was also discussed at the same meeting.

    Has anyone gotten a group of these professors together and asked them why they don’t want to own homes here? Is it because they are coming up $5,000 short on their down payments? Unlikely, since many of them are buying homes in more expensive areas. Is it because of the noise and the trash and the drunk driving? Is it because of the quality of our schools?

    Why not spend that money identifying and fixing the problems, rather than paying people to ignore them?

  4. I assure you Im not one of those anti-student conspiracy theorists, but I’ve seen firsthand the arrogance in which SM Officers address students in our city. Our students are part of the trive in the community, they are citizes of SM as well, yet they sometimes retain a second-class citizen outlook from some of our officials. Lets not fool ourselves, this ordinance is specifically targeted at them, and will, in theory, encompass all citizens, but in reality we know who the victims of it will be – the students and those who rent to students.
    I do agree with you however Ted, that city government could and should invest that amount of money allocated towards professors’ downpayment into specific programs that will address and alleviate the very reasons why professors wont move here. We have a beautiful city, anyone would be crazy not to jump on board and move here, I guess there are far more negative resources offered in SM (be it schools, jobs, etc.) than our beautiful rivers, culture,environment and hill country.

  5. Of, the professors I know in the Biology department about half of them live out of town. Some just want to live in the country. The others who don’t live in town, choose to commute for two reasons generally:

    1. The schools in town, especially the high school, consistently underperform compared to state and national averages of graduation and continuation to college. It’s for a variety of reasons. Teaching to standardized tests; No Child Left Behind; lack of administration support for teachers; lack of community support; outside of the University, much of the community is economically disadvantaged….. the list could go on, and there’s no easy or quick solution to any of it. Why does a town with one of the larger universities in the state have underperforming schools? We should have some of the best. You are not going to get educated people to send their kids to sub-standard schools. The teachers at the high school are trying. They are great people. The problem isn’t the teachers, or at least not the ones I know. The entire chemistry program at the high school gets $2000 for supplies each year. That is for 3 teachers (at least) and about 500 students. Additionally, parents need to step up and demand that their children perform, and stop blaming the teacher first. The reason your darling little devil is failing, is because they aren’t trying, and they’ve been allowed to not try for years. Take their video games away. Take their phone away. Take their iPod away. Why would a professor want to send their child to such a distracting environment?

    2. San Marcos doesn’t have the job opportunities for the spouses/significant-others of professors. I know a number of professors who commute from Austin because their spouse can get a (better) paying job there.

    I have not heard one say that it is because of noise, trash, drunk driving, etc. While those are very real quality of life issues for all of us, most of the professors have lived in at least 2-3 college towns, and know what that is like. Our problems, as real as they are, are not unique. Improve the schools , and improve the job market for educated professionals, and I think you’d get many more living in town.

  6. It is hard for me to envision anyone who is having parties at 4 in the morning, with a live band in the back yard and a dozen neighbors within a few hundred feet (in their neighborhood and outside their neighborhood) as “victims” of the noise ordinance.

    Their student neighbors are the victims of the current ordinance/enforcement situation and complain regularly.

    I’ve seen plenty of non-students mistreated by the police. The fact that some students are as well, has little to do with anything more than the officers involved.

  7. Jesse, if it isn’t the quieter, cleaner setting, what is it about the country that attracts those professors?

    Just curious.

  8. Having worked with many professors who have relocated to this area, I can tell you a bit about their impression of San Marcos. Believe me, I don’t intend to speak for all of them, but here goes on some of the comments we’ve had:

    1. Political Climate – San Marcos is too liberal a town to successfully raise a productive family in. I agree. The constant whining and lack of motivation and leadership here undermine what the United States is all about. Having lost 2 daughters to San Marcos High School, I can identify.

    2. Lack of suitable development areas – Aside from Willow Creek, there aren’t any areas here that they feel will improve in value as quickly New Braunfels and northwest Hays County. San Marcos is trashy, there are no plans here to develop anything into something usable, and people here seem satisfied to accept the giant load of crap that is this town. It’s truly LBJ’s legacy at work here.

    3. The school system sucks. For graduating so many teachers and having a large state university within its limits, this town is the giant black hole for primary education, only rivaled by Austin and some parts of San Antonio. We’re so concerned with giving students any other alternative to get a diploma that 1/3 of the students who do graduate, graduate from an alternative program like Pathfinder, PRIDE High School, and Gary Job Corps. No wonder the kids don’t want to do all 4 years. They don’t need to. Shut that crap down and make them do the work. As an employer, I am utterly astounded that you can go to an alternative program here and graduate in 6 weeks when a kid that’s actually trying to do the right thing would take two more years. And they get the same diploma? Why in the hell? If those alterntative programs are so great, why not make the diploma state the school they graduated from. That way, I could actually look and see they couldn’t cut the traditional school and I wouldn’t waste my time with them. I am extremely offended that they get the same piece of paper that my kids do, and they don’t do the same work for it. And a daycare at the PRIDE campus. Am I really paying for that? Please. I can barely afford daycare for myself. Why am I paying for someone elses? Do you realize that we have over $300,000 in school system infrastructure for each and every student in this town? And that’s a conservative number.

    4. Traffic. With close to 30,000 students attending school here, no wonder we have such traffic problems. The students aren’t the problem. The lack of planning for there needs – is. Any reason why I have a 30 minute variance on when I get to work because of so many trains running right through the middle of town? This is not Jack Hays’ San Marcos, I can assure you.

    5. Over-regulation. This town has to have more regulations per person than anywhere else in the world I’ve ever lived. The new pet rules are a prime example. They didn’t include the public before passing any of these rules, and now that they have, they want to have meeting after meeting explaining the rules that we didn’t want passed in the first place. If you don’t think this is true, I challenge you to go through the application process for a building permit in this town. Furthermore, if you have the stomach for it, I challenge you to actually try to build it once you have the permit for it. You wouldh’t last 6 weeks. Go talk to someone who’s actually done a large remodel for a commercial project or built a home within the city limits and you’ll see what I’m talking about. That anything ever gets built in this town is purely accidental.

    6. Too many apartments and WAY too much crime. The city has killed this town with all of the apartments they’ve allowed within the city limits. Just killed it. This used to be a nice place because we had tenants in single family homes, rather than in apartments. All of the crying and whining about affordable housing is wasted. We have more affordable housing than any normal person can stomach, and the low income people to fill them as a result. Nobody wants to be around that. Ever compared the number of apartment units in New Braunfels to San Marcos. The numbers would astound you. Let’s get these students back out into the community instead of listening to the “Neighborhood Association” and do something positive for this town. I’m a homeowner by the way.

    7. The lack of nice, quality homes. Ever been down to River Chase in New Braunfels? Show me an area like that in San Marcos. It doesn’t exist. There’s too much “affordable housing” and riff raff, not enough decent places to live. This town doesn’t exist on the real estate map for anyone with an IQ higher than 5.

    I know, I know. I’m going to get a load of crap telling me I’m insensitive and not seeing “the big picture.” Spare me. These are the facts, I live with them everyday, and we’re getting our asses handed to us on a daily basis because no one wants to get with the program. And no one understands why?


  9. Ted,
    People that want to live in the country for the long term, aren’t going to want to live in town, no matter how nice the neighborhood. For some San Marcos is too big a town. Believe me, there’s trash in the country too. Dead end roads are broken washing machine storage facilities. People who don’t want to take responsibility for their trash or animals (live or dead) dump their stuff. It’s not without trade-offs. Eventually, I don’t want to live in a town either. I like my neighbors for the most part, but I’d really rather be 1/4 mile away from them (or more) than 100 feet away. I grew up in the country and will eventually return, but being in the country doesn’t fit in with my life right now, so I put up with it. San Marcos is a nice place to be, if you are going to be in town.

    All I ever see you write is how much you hate this town. If that’s the case why don’t you move? Or run for office? As with any place, there are problems, but I truly feel the balance is on San Marcos being a great town. We all want it better. I’m sorry your daughters had trouble at SMHS, but how involved were you? Did you blame the teacher or your daughters first when there was an issue? It’s got problems, but good students do come out of there.
    -“Too liberal to successfully raise a productive family”? That’s a load of crap and you know it. Leave the political name calling out of it. As far as college towns go, it’s well on the conservative side. With that one statement you make me suspect of everything else you say, because because it’s obviously not well thought out. Raising a productive family has to do with the parents expecting their children to perform and giving them the opportunity to do so. It doesn’t have political leanings. You can get driven people or lazy wastes of air on either side.
    -“Too much regulation’? Obviously you haven’t lived in CA, or any major city for that matter.
    -Of course we have more apartments than New Braunfels, we have a university with 30,000 students and our major industry is the outlet malls. Not exactly things that fund home ownership. That and the city has made it very clear that they don’t want students living in single-family zoned areas, which is everything that isn’t an apartment or duplex. Are you for or against the occupancy rules, because you can’t have it both ways?
    -Traditional schools aren’t for some people. I probably would have been fine in a school where I could have blown through the work in 2-3 years. For some of us high school isn’t hard. I was bored, and just lucky that I didn’t get destructive about it. Personally I think kids should be able to drop out and go to trade school at 16. College isn’t for everyone. Just because it’s worked for me, doesn’t mean it will for everyone. Some of the smartest people I know are mechanics.

    A discussion about what can be done to make San Marcos better is needed. A bitch-fest about how horrible it is and how much you hate it here doesn’t do any good.

  10. And people who think that was a bitchfest confuse dreams with reality. These are real problems. They’re documented, proven, and we live with it everyday. If I wanted to run the government, I would. If I wanted to clean house over at the high school, I would. If there are people who want to do that work and we’re paying them to do it, then by God they should do it. I don’t have those problems in my business because I RUN IT. IT DOES NOT RUN ME. Furthermore, if I wanted to live in slack-jawed California, I would. Forgive me, bu the last time I checked, I lived in Texas. Justifying piss poor performance is easy to do I guess. All you ahve to do is find someone worse off than you are. Glad you agree. How involved was I? Overly. In fact, just about everytime I went up to that high school, I rounded up all the other kids I could find out in the parking lot too. See? I’m helping clean this place up. You’re right, San Marcos is a good town, or at least it was until 1996. Sorry I offended you with the “liberal” term. I can’t stomach it either.

  11. Amy,
    So you could solve the problems at the high school, but you aren’t? Out of selfishness? You could run the government, yet you aren’t? I think you are a little too high on yourself. I think you can’t handle people who disagree with you, which is something you’d have to put up with in either of those cases, unlike in your business, where you can just fire dissenters. You must be a dream to work for.

    No one said the problems weren’t real, and I’m not going to get sucked into a CA v. TX argument. It’s stupid, and they are a whole lot more alike than different.

    I don’t mind the term liberal. I’m proud to be one. I don’t like it being thrown around as an insult, especially in a context where politics didn’t belong.

    You admit you’ve been unhappy here for almost 15 years? Move or do something about it. It’s no way to live. Seriously, get help.

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  13. Bulky waste, in my opinion, really isnt a big problem in San Marcos other than in multi-family housing, but that is expected. More than anything else, I see beer cans on the roads everywhere, including (oddly enough) on the square. I think measure should be put in place to facilitate getting rid of bulky waste, instead of just trying to fine people.

  14. I agree. The trash on the side of the road is ridiculous. I don’t understand why trash pickup can’t be a community service option, especially for DWI and PI cases. They get inmates picking up trash on the highway, but we can’t get something similar going on in town?

    The problem with the bulky waste fines is that (as I recall – and it wasn’t that long ago) most renters can’t afford rent on two apartments, so they have their new lease start within days of when the old one is up. They clean the place up when they move out and then they’re gone.

    At the City Council meeting, it was stated that it can take up to 2-3 weeks to get a pickup. So, are the renters supposed to do all of their packing and cleanup a month before the lease runs out, so that they can schedule the bulk pickup and still be around to put things on the curb the night before the pickup? Or, are they supposed to move into a new apartment and keep the lease going on the old apartment for another month, so they can keep the trash inside until the night before bulk pickup? Or, are they supposed to take all that stuff they are throwing out, load it into a U-Haul and take it with them, so they can have it at the new place until the night before bulk pickup?

    I think it would be far better to A) have regular bulk pickups in multi-family areas around the time of “the big turn.” It’s not like it would have to be city-wide, or year-round, but for one month a year, renter-heavy areas could have bulk pickup twice a week or something.


    B) have a place for bulk waste dropoff. I’ve got a truck. I’d go drop the old couch off myself, if there was a place. In fact, I would very much prefer that. Who wants to spend all weekend trimming trees, or pulling the old carpet out of the house, or whatever, just to have to look at that crap for 2-3 weeks? If there was a place to drop it off, the bulk pickup can hit that one location as often as needed. Less hassle for the residents of San Marcos and less driving around, wasting fuel and polluting the city, for the garbage guys.

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