By SEAN WARDWELL
The San Marcos Downtown Association held an emergency meeting Friday morning to discuss the implications of a pending series of interest-free long term loans equaling $5 million to developers seeking to turn Springtown Center into a multi-purpose entertainment complex.
The San Marcos City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to grant the loans, which would be paid off through 20 years. Out of that $5 million, $3.2 million would be advanced concurrently with the developer’s purchase of the building that formerly housed Target. The developer is also requesting an additional $1.8 million for construction and installation of fixtures, furniture and equipment for an Alamo Draft House cinema if the lease is executed. The city would have the first lein on this equipment.
Many downtown business owners reacted with shock and outrage to the proposal.
“The city is taking our money, our tax dollars that we generate in this city, or potentially want to generate in this city, and using it against us,” said Allen Shy, owner of Harper’s Public House. “(They’ll) turn their back on a $220,000 master plan they just adopted for downtown that inspired a lot of us to reinvest more money and more money”
The master plan, adopted in 2008, does not specifically designate downtown as the city’s only entertainment district. However, it does say,”the City should promote the local, specialty retail, restaurant, and entertainment businesses, and encourage the establishment or more ‘third places’ businesses Downtown.”
Among the businesses being considered for a re-developed Springtown is a Dave & Busters, an establishment that Shy referred to as, “the WalMart of bars.” However, the concern expressed was not that establishments might come in to compete, but that they shouldn’t do so using public tax dollars.
“This is bad planning,” Shy said. “It’s not the taxpayer’s responsibility. If those guys (developers) go over there and do that, good for them. It’s the free-market, economic way of things, but not with our money, loading in a bullet and shooting it back at us.”
Those at the meeting were also surprised that two city councilmembers, Kim Porterfield and Pam Couch, who were supposed to attend and answer questions, were dissuaded from doing so by San Marcos City Attorney Michael Cosentino.
“It’s called a rolling quorum,” explained Shy. “You’re not allowed to talk to the majority of city council members about any one topic. Otherwise its a violation of the open meetings act – the city council members could get sued.”
City officials could not be reached for comment. However, many business leaders were outraged that their elected officials could not be contacted en masse on the issue.
“Where’s our representation?” asked Ed Tarbutton, owner of Dillingers.
The downtown business owners said they will avail themselves of the three-minute citizen comment period at the July 7 council meeting to make their feelings known. The council has the loans as an action item on its agenda.
For more information on the plans for Springtown, read this previous story.
Newstreamz also has taken a position on the matter in this editorial.Email | Print