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

February 28th, 2009
Re-zoning goes back to council

For more about the March 3 San Marcos City Council meeting, tune in “City Beat.”

By ED MIHALKANIN
News Reporter 

A little noticed city charter provision is the path back to the San Marcos City Council for a proposed zoning change near Hunter Road and Wonder World Drive.

By a 4-2 vote, the council rejected a plan to change a 22.5-acre tract from commercial to mixed use zoning at its Feb. 17 meeting. According to the charter provision, however, the mere fact that the proposed Planned Development District (PDD) was not approved is not tantamount to the proposal being denied.

City charter Section 3.10 (b), the charter provision in question, states, “Four or more council members shall constitute a quorum but no action of the council shall be of any force or effect unless it is adopted by the favorable votes of four or more of the council members.”

Because the city council didn’t vote specifically to deny the proposal, City Manager Rick Menchaca placed the matter back on the agenda for March 3, with the approval of Mayor Susan Narvaiz.

Immediately after the motion to approve the rezoning and PDD failed on Feb. 17, Narvaiz called a recess. No member of the city staff pointed out during that meeting that the council’s refusal to approve didn’t amount to a final disposition of the item.

The city’s land development code states that if a proposed rezoning is denied by the city council, then the same zoning application cannot be brought back for a year unless both the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) and the city council determine that there has been a substantial change in the conditions surrounding the property and the rezoning is approved by a three-fourths vote of the council.

Although an exhaustive list has not been compiled, the San Marcos City Council has brought back a rezoning proposal after a motion to approve had failed and no motion to deny and been made three times since 1987. It is not known how many times such a motion to approve had failed without such an issue being placed on a future council agenda.

Larry Peel, President of Larry Peel & Company, developer of the land and the applicant for the rezoning, said in a Feb. 20 letter to the city manager, “This letter is to formally request the placement of our applications for the approval of a Planned development District – a zoning change to MF-18 and a Future Land Use Map amendment to High Density Residential – on the 22.5 acres near Wonder World Drive and Hunter Road.”

Opponents of the rezoning have complained that a multi-family facility will generate more traffic than the main streets in the area can accommodate. The developers suggested alterations to the original plan in communications with the city since the Feb. 17 meeting.

On behalf of the project, Ed Theriot of ETR Development Consulting, wrote to the city on Feb. 23 that  “We are proposing a turn lane and a deceleration lane be constructed in connection with this access point to the property,” but he did not say what entity would pay for the construction of such lanes.

A second modification Theriot discussed dealt with a Dutton Drive Access. Said Theriot, “The Concept Plan … is being modified to reflect an additional entrance/exit onto Dutton Drive near the northeast corner of the project. This additional drive is expected to provide the preferred access point for up to 30 (percent) of the trips generated by the project.”

The posted agenda for the March 3 city council meeting does not provide a public hearing specifically to address the re-zoning proposal. However, those interested in commenting on the matter can sign in for the 30-minute citizen comment period at the start of the meeting.

The council will convene at 6 p.m. and adjourn, as is its custom, into executive session. Following the executive session, the council will hear citizens’ comments on any subject.

Opponents of the change say they are concerned, in part, about the speed with which the city council has taken action on the matter.

The Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) approved the rezoning and PDD on Feb. 10. The council acted on the issue on Feb. 17, and the agenda for the March 3 meeting was posted on Feb. 25 at 7:30 p.m.

Usually, at least two weeks pass between a P&Z action and that issue going on a city council agenda. Further, in two out of the three times that the council has brought back a rezoning after voting against approval, the rezoning was brought back not to the next meeting, but three meetings after the meeting in which the motion to approve failed.

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0 thoughts on “Re-zoning goes back to council

  1. What the hell is going on here? The mayor is brilliant, she can find a loop hole no matter how little or inconspicuous. Theatre!

  2. The animal ordinance and now the rezoning issue. March 3rd is going to be one hell of a city council meeting.

  3. It’s no wonder you see everyone in the city planning department leaving the city. If I were being forced to push crap, ignore adopted plans and have my professional opinions blown off, I’d be leaving too! Make no mistake people–the professionalism of the San Marcos staff is quickly disappearing, and one need look no further than the Mayor (who apparently thinks San Marcos is a strong mayor form of government) and her lapdog City Manager. I’ve heard from a number of former planning staff that they get lambasted any time they so much as question a development proposal.

    Do you realize that there are no planners left on the San Marcos staff that were here 18 months ago? Chance Sparks, the most recent departure, should be a red flag! He was well-liked and respected by the neighborhoods, environmentalists and developers for his balanced approach and ability to find compromises. The fact that the City Manager let a talented young planner, respected by many in the region and state, escape tells me that he is not an effective manager and doesn’t care about attracting and maintaining a professional staff. I remember him talking to my class once and mentioning that his reason for coming to San Marcos was love for the city and ability to make a positive impact, not simply money. I have to wonder what happened? Maybe he got sick of an administration that trusts what a developer says more than it trusts its own staff.

    San Marcos has a serious leadership problem, and it is time for the elected folks to start taking it seriously. You’ve got a city manager that filters information from the Council on a routine basis because it doesn’t match the answer the mayor wants. I don’t care what side of the political line it comes from; this city needs elected leaders to step up, stop grinding their own axes and start listening to the citizens of San Marcos (not just the special interests) and its professional staff.

  4. Just as a refresher and to point out that this project may not be the devil incarnate…

    Those interested may wish to go to the city’s web site, Council Agendas, Feb 17, Exhibit 2 Purgatory Creek PDD before forming a hard opinion on this project. Here’s a link in case these type links are allowed.

    http://www.ci.san-marcos.tx.us/publicagenda/ItemAttachments.aspx?itemid=2248&meetingid=187

    The restrictions in the PDD make this project much less impactful than the uses allowed by right under General Commercial.

    I wonder if this process could have been used to get developer participation on the construction of a proper bridge over Purgatory Creek for Hunter Rd? It’s embarrasing that any time it floods this low water crossing on a major thoroughfare is at risk of flooding. There’s so much opportunity to participate with the (well-funded) developer on this project through the PDD process it’s frustrating to have it immediately rejected without open-minded consideration.

  5. The main question that should be considered, legally, is whether San Marcos has a shortage of MF-18 zoning. If so, then maybe this re-zoning should be approved or additional MF-18 zoning be opened up elsewhere. If we have plenty of vacant land with multi-family zoning, then following the Master Plan is the right thing to do.

  6. Who decides what constitutes a shortage of MF-18? What if someone decided San Marcos had too many attorneys?

  7. The people have spoken and expressed that they don’t want a zone change from general commercial, community commercial and open space to a PDD with an underlay zoning of MF-18. Apartments do not change with the needs of the community as commercial properties do; apartments only devalue and degrade over time. We have seen an example of this all over San Marcos. This proposed zoning change will set precedence for the remaining undeveloped land in that area to be rezoned MF-18. I live on Hopkins and know that we will always have traffic, but traffic brining in tax revenue for the city is much easier to ignore. I have a feeling that after the next council and mayor elections we will see some new leaders in our community. It is ridiculous that this is still an issue because of a technicality.

  8. The community gets to decide what it wants. The developer and WC Carson are not “entitled” to a re-zoning.

  9. This is part of the problem. The ONLY role Carson has in this deal is in selling flood plain to Peel which he is then going to GIVE to the city as parkland and a developed greenbelt. If a big retail project goes in there is no requirement for them to dedicate ANY parkland. As for a grocery, there’s NO chance a grocery will go in with a CVS on the corner. The developers threw in the towel on a grocery when they sold to CVS.

    Unfortunately what we have here is a knee-jerk reaction to two things; multi-family and the perception that this is the dreaded “Carson Tract”.

    Conspicuously absent is the hue and cry (or the blessing)from the Greenbelt Alliance.

  10. I would argue that 10 years of citizen input, city staff planning, and city council approvals to change this zoning TO commercial is not a knee-jerk reaction, rather the complete abandonment of these plans for a piecemeal zoning change is.

  11. Pingback: Bill Peterson’s Blog: Swinging times for swing votes : Newstreamz San Marcos

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