San Marcos City Councilmember Fred Terry struggled with the matter of why city residents should be allowed an extra day per week for watering their lawns. Photo by Andy Sevilla.
By ANDY SEVILLA
San Marcos residents now have more flexibility when it comes to watering their lawns after the question once again went before the city council Tuesday night.
Last month, the city turned away a proposal giving residents optional watering days as an alternative to the one day per week allowed under Stage 2 drought restrictions. But Councilmembers Fred Terry and Pam Couch requested last week that the item be brought back for consideration, and San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz approved placing it on the agenda as an action item.
Finally Tuesday night, councilmembers voted, 6-1, to approve an optional watering day, provided that residents seeking the option through the variance process stick to that one day for a year. But the road was neither smooth nor short.
Council took up the matter for the fourth time in two months Tuesday before reaching a conclusion. In June, the council voted, 5-2, to give residents freedom to water on a weekend day if they missed their designated weekdays under Stage 2 measures. However, council then tabled the second reading. On July 7, the council voted on second reading to turn back such options by a 4-3 vote.
Terry, who voted on the prevailing side in the July 7 vote, said he wanted to reconsider the watering option because, he said, the July vote confused him.
“I was totally confused (during the last vote on water conservation),” Terry said. “I voted ‘no’ to anything and everything because I was so confused.”
Confusion reigned once again Tuesday night. Terry had to be walked through the process of amending the ordinance and providing his intent by Narvaiz after three motions and several amendments were offered by different councilmembers.
Frustration loomed deep in the councilmembers’ faces, specifically igniting Councilmember John Thomaides, who has filed his candidacy for re-election of the Place 6 seat. Thomaides has insisted throughout the process that residents should be held to one watering day per week.
“We have gone through this over and over again,” Thomaides said. “This is the third time, but every time it has failed … I don’t think it’s good policy to keep re-evaluating what has already been settled.”
Narvaiz said Terry requested that the matter be brought back, but he was for the most part unable to articulate his intent, often taking implicit cues and being spoon fed by Narvaiz. Couch exhibited similar confusion, often repeating Narvaiz’ assertions as she attempted to understand Terry’s intent.
San Marcos Director of Public Services Tom Taggart explained that a variance process does exist under the pre-existing ordinance, but cautioned that granting a variance is “unlikely.” Taggart said that under the working measure a variance can only be granted if a public safety and health concern is posed.
“I appreciate Mr. Terry bringing (water conservation) back,” Couch said. “We have to remember this is flexibility for our property owners.”
Said Porterfield, “I think our citizens deserve the flexibility. But they need to choose only one day.”
Other councilmembers expressed concern that residents would abuse optional watering days by using both their optional days and the days assigned under Stage 2 drought restrictions.
Under Stage 2 restrictions, residents are allowed one watering day per week, based on street address number. Thus, residents whose house numbers end with 0 or 1 water on Monday, those ending in 2 or 3 water on Tuesday, and so on.
However, the council began considering options in June, just when critical water levels were in decline. Opponents argued that unscrupulous types could easily use the optional day as an extra day. Thus, Thomaides motioned on July 7 that variance applicants seeking an alternate day be held to watering only on that alternate day. But Thomaides’ measure fell by a 4-3 vote.
Councilmember Chris Jones said Tuesday that he opposes allowing options to residents for watering, and made clear his position that changes to the pre-existing ordinance aren’t necessary. Jones insisted a section be added to the pre-existing ordinance allowing residents to submit a variance changing their scheduled watering day to a specific alternative and making the change permanent, allowing for only one watering day during the week.
Ultimately, the council decided to vote on first reading to permit residents a variance on their watering schedule, making the move permanent for a whole year. The measure does not allow for an optional watering day, but provides the applicant with only one watering day. That day would be catered to the applicant’s request. The measure passed with a 6-1 vote as Councilmember Gaylord Bose was the lone dissenter.
“It’s not exactly what I would want,” Terry said. “But to get this moving forward, I will accept it.”
Said Thomaides, “I thought it was a good compromise. It allows our citizens to have flexibility, but they still only have one watering day, which was my main concern.”
The city has received at least three dozen complaints this year regarding water waste, daytime sprinkling, or watering on a non-scheduled day.Email | Print