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

August 5th, 2009
Downtown gas station could make comeback

There are a lot of cars at this filling station at Pat Garrison and Guadalupe Streets, but there’s no action. That could change if the city reverses a prohibition against convenience stores in the central business district selling gasoline. Staff photo.

News Reporter

An abandoned Exxon Station at Pat Garrison and Guadalupe Streets could be coming back to life, but the San Marcos Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) must make new allowances for convenience stores to sell gasoline.

The Exxon station populated by derelict cars is a stunning contrast with the bustling 7-11 across Pat Garrison, in part because the old gas station is in the city’s Central Business Area (CBA) and the 7-11 is not. Thus, the 7-Eleven can operate as a convenience store that sells gasoline, but the abandoned gas station can’t.

The status of the Exxon station came before the P&Z last week because an investor wishes to re-open the facility. However, the city changed its permitted uses in the CBA since the station shut down years ago, so the station couldn’t re-open in its former form without a change in the CBA regulations.

The CBA allows grocery stores, but not convenience stores, to sell gas. P&Z commissioners expressed puzzlement about the distinction, with Commissioner Cecil Pounds going so far as to ask city staff how the inconsistency could have been included in the codes.

Assistant Planning Director Matthew Lewis, himself new to the job, said that he did not know why gas sales had not been allowed, and another staff member indicated that no one on the city planning staff was around when such a change took place. The city planning staff has been through several key personnel changes in the last year.

Thus, commissioners and staff agreed that the prohibition against convenience stores in the CBA selling gasoline probably is an oversight that just hasn’t been tested.

The perplexity among commissioners deepened upon their agreement that convenience stores create better parking arrangements than grocery stores because of smaller lots and higher turnover.

San Marcos resident and Baker-Aiklen employee Steve Ramsey, speaking on behalf of the Exxon owner and a developer wishing to restore the facility, asked the commission for action. The P&Z told Ramsey that the item would first have to go on the agenda as an action item, which would have to wait until the next P&Z meeting.

However, the P&Z apparently has no objections to allowing convenience stores within the CBA to sell gasoline, so the matter could be settled by a final city council action before the end of August.

Ramsey was happy about the proactive response from the P&Z, saying “the city is showing that they are business friendly and that they are wanting development to occur.”

Ramsey said the owner of the Exxon station shut down the business to take care of his ailing wife some years ago and the site has since been used for a mechanic service. Ramsey said the owner and new developer believe the reinstatement of the convenience store with gas sales would be an improvement in the CBA, and would be more visually pleasing as well.

Commissioner Jim Stark questioned a provision in the zoning code defining convenience stores as approximately 2,500 square feet large.

“We’re not just talking about the university Exxon,” Stark said. “We’re talking about convenience stores in the downtown area.”

Commissioners agreed that the size limitation is arbitrary, and Lewis said the definition would be brought before the P&Z for revision at a future meeting.

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0 thoughts on “Downtown gas station could make comeback

  1. WOW! Makes one wonder what/who was behind the original passage of an ordinance prohibiting the sale of gasoline in the CBD? Have the servants outlawed any other products in their town?

    Just proves my point. What the king grants, the king can also take away… or vice versa.

    “Any excuse is a good one for a tyrant.” Aesop

  2. I’m just kind of bothered by the notion that we have no records of these sorts of decisions, or if we do, nobody knows where to find them.

    This is not the first time in recent memory that an ordinance or regulation has come up for discussion and nobody seemed to anything about why things are the way they are.

    It’s kind of like the metered parking issue. Every time it comes up for discussion, I ask if anyone knows anything about the last time we tried it and I just get shoulder shrugs.

  3. The reason there os no record of the decision is probably because it was made a long time ago for reasons no one now remembers. There is not a city in the country that doesn’t have some sort of silly rule like this on the books.

    As for parking meters. I have been told there were parking meters downtown until some time in the 70s or 80s. By that time they had gotten so old replacement part could not be found for them. The Downtown merchants, there were still a few at that time, did not want them replaced because they thought it discouraged people from coming downtown to shop.

  4. I’m not sure how people forgetting why a decision was made would be an explanation for not having any record.

    This comes up more often than it should and it comes up with decisions that are not all that old.

  5. Every decision made by government is and has always been a permanent record. We seem to be tolerating Child-like excuses from adults who have the awesome responsibility to protect our rights!

    Perhaps the servants who are currently sitting above the people should be required to spend a few months reading and sorting through the History of past council decisions, and start the dubious task of explaining to the ‘residents’ the rationale behind every single ordinance in effect today!

    After wards, we could have the city council vote out all but about 10 ordinances, each of which will be the ONLY ordinances allowed because they protect everyone’s freedom and rights, and LIMIT what the ‘few’ can do to the many in the future!

    Perhaps this would be a GREAT start at changing the city charter to specifically spell out and limit the duties of city government.

    After all, isn’t preserving our RIGHTS and our FREEDOM the whole purpose of government?

  6. I am afraid the people on this thred don’t expect good government, they expect perfect government, which they will never get.

  7. Keeping records and reviewing them when earlier decisions come up for reconsideration is not my idea of perfection.

  8. I would think an attorney, of all people, would understand the value of understanding earlier decisions.

  9. The decision not to allow convience store to sell gas in the CBA was not made in a city council meeting. It was made by the staff and citizens who helped develop the the development code, and yes I was one of those citizens.

    If I had to render a guess now, my guess would be it was because of a fear that someone like Sac-N-Pac would see it as a green light to tear dwon an existing structure in the CBA to build a nes store. No one at the time objected, if they had, there would have been a record of that. The city council voted on the whole package, and I’m sure nver concidered this provision.

    Meticulous records are kept in a court of law because you are talking about taking away a person feedom or property. Plus these decisions must be open to appeal. At the time the decision was made not to allow convience store selling gas in the CBA there was no one with this use in the CBA, and no one wanted this use in the CBA. No ones rights were being affected. If the city were to decide for instance that it did not want convience storsa anywhere near downtown, and that therefore 7-11 and the Yellow store had to shut down, belive me there would be ample records ofthat battle, both in city council and in the law suity that I’m sure would follow. Because that decsion would be taking away someone rights.

  10. Dictating how property can be developed certainly impacts their rights.

    That being said, any significant decision should be well documented, so that in the future we can see if the expected outcome of that decision was realized and so that when others follow behind us, they can understand what we were trying to accomplish and make a reasoned decision as to whether those goals are still valid and still supported by the original decision.

    Meticulous records of these sorts of decisions are commonplace in most businesses. We do it all the time here. It is critical to evaluating the outcome of our decisions and to helping us make the best choices in the future. It is not unreasonable for the city to do the same.

    Are you saying that there were no notes, or minutes or other documentation during the process of establishing the development code?

  11. The mere fact that this aspect of the development code is being revisited and one of the people who was involved in the initial planning is only able to “guess” at why the group he worked with included this restriction in the first place is ample evidence that we ought to be documenting how we arrived at these decisions to begin with.

  12. But that is the point, it was not concidered a significant decsion at the time because no one was being told they could not use there land in a way that the wished. No one wanted this use in the CBA.

  13. Or, do we just pull random restrictions out of thin air, to add a little extra heft to our development code?

  14. “This section here needs something. Hey, you know what? I noticed today that there are no tie shops on the square. How about we check with a few people and make sure nobody is thinking about opening a tie shop. If there are no objections, we’ll make a restriction against tie shops on the square.”

    “That’ll work. All in favor?”

    “Aye. Aye. Aye. Aye. Aye.”

    “The Ayes have it. Should we offer any explanation for the restriction?”

    “Nah. It’s not really a significant restriction.”

  15. What is the difference between having rights removed in a court of law or by ‘staff and citizens’ when no laws have been violated… aren’t the results the same – loss of liberty?

    Perfection? Hardly. My idea of perfection is FAR removed from what we have…which is nothing more than a group of ‘concerned’ citizens and ‘staff’ getting together to decide how THEY want things in THEIR town. This is nothing more than ‘perfect’ mob rule.

    I repeat… The sole purpose and primary, meaning first AND LAST, consideration of government is to protect the rights of the people- ALL of the rights, ALL of the people, not just the few gathering in secret, or otherwise out of the purview of the ALL the people … ALL of them. That is why it is UNACCEPTABLE for a few people to get together in a room in an effort to PREVENT people from doing things that are LEGAL! Just look at all the laws, codes and ordinances that stretch tentacles beyond the sole and original purpose of government! Our elected servants need to clean house, and explain how each and every remaining ordinance serves to protect our rights. Any ordinance that does not should be HISTORY.

  16. Ted I’ll say it again………you need to run for council! We need a person like you there. Really!

  17. Thanks, but it really isn’t possible. It’s a full-time commitment and I wouldn’t be able to give the position the attention it deserves.

  18. Do you people really think there is any organization which keeps written documentation of every decision it makes. And I do mean ANY ORGANIZATION. As for the rights of the people, for the first time someone has expressed and interest in opening a convinence store in the CBD, and more than likely changes will be made and he will be allowed to open his store and his rights will be addressed. To expect anything more is to expect perfection.

    Your seem to forget that a city government is run by people, as imperfect as we may be. What seems unimportant one day may become improtant another. As long as there is a way of addressing this, the peoples rights are being protected.

    Those of you who constantly complain about every flaw about how this city is run, no matter how minor, run for office, sit on a board, get involved in a neighborhood organization, see how the real world works. Until then quit complaining.

  19. I am on a board. I am involved in neighborhood organizations.

    There are minutes for EVERY meeting that the TAB holds. If anyone wants to know how we arrive at our recommendations, it is not difficult.

    As for organizations documenting every decision, no. Documenting major strategic decisions, comparable to the adoption of a development code, yes. That’s how it works in the real world, because in the real world, we are beholden to investors and board members and it would never occur to us to tell them that we really can’t recall why we decided to take the company in a certain direction.

    In fact, I would be surprised if there were no minutes from your meetings, even if you are not aware of them. All I am asking is for P&Z to do a little digging and see if there is an explanation for the restriction, before granting a variance. This is not expecting perfection. It is expecting to understand the reason for the restriction, so that a reasoned decision can be made.

    Perhaps there should not be a variance. Perhaps there should. Perhaps the restriction should be lifted altogether. It is hard to say, without knowing what it was intended to achieve.

  20. Most likely, this restriciton was in the draft Land Development Code that an out of town consultant was paid a lot of money to come up with new ways to restrict development. Our Planning Director at the time was all in favor of any restrictions that could be put in there so most likely things like this were never challenged.

    You should have see some of the other things that were in there until they were challenged and removed! If you did not get involved in the LDC BEFORE it became law, then shame on you for sitting on your ass and letting it pass as is.

    I was not on any board or commission, yet I read the whole darn thing from cover to cover. Of course, I was mostly interested in the areas that impact the industry that I am in so that is what I focused on. There were a bunch of things I helped get taken out that would really surprise you.

  21. The decision was made before it got to P&A or city council. It was open for all to see, as posted above COS read the whole thing. No on complained, now some one is, and it is being fixed. You are making a mountain out of a mole hill.

  22. My involvement in the development code is immaterial to this discussion. As are your anonymous claims to have helped shape the city.

    I’m neither supporting nor opposing the variance. I am asking that when these decisions come up for reconsideration, some effort is made to uderstand the thought process behind the current ordinance, what it was meant to accomplish, whether it was successful and whether those goals are still valid.

    Since neither of you has argued against this point, I will assume that you agree and are just starving for a fight, so you are putting up straw men.

    I’ll let you bicker amongst yourselves. I’ve got plenty of other things to do.

  23. I should correct myself.

    My original position was that P&Z asked a valid question when they asked why this restriction was in place. Having asked similar questions on other matters and having seen City Council ask these sorts of questions, it is always a little troubling when the answer is shoulder shrugs.

    Yes, in some cases there may be no record, but in most cases, there should be something. In this case, it sounds like there is, at a minimum, an original proposal and probably some meeting minutes.

    As for the levels of participation of various citizens, I have to wonder how it is that COS was able to influence the development code, without being in elected office or on a board. Could it be that, as a concerned citizen, s/he made some noise about things s/he thought were wrong?

    If so, then why do you say that others, who are doing the same thing, need to “put their money where their mouths are” and run for office? Is your level of participation not valid for other citizens?

  24. I was able to influence the development of the LDC because I made a hell of a lot of noise on certain issues that affect my industry.

    Also, where did I suggest anything about running for office as it relates to this issue? I was specifically saying in another thread that those who just sit back and constantly bitch and moan about our elected officials should put there money where there mouth is and run themselves.

    The bottom line is to get involved. Not just come on a blog and bitch and moan incessantly. I applaud you, Ted, for going to Council meetings. You are doing a lot more than most that post on here.

  25. I just drove past the station on my way to the post office today. While it may not be selling gas, it is most certainly still active as a repair shop. That is, if the cars up on lifts in the two repair bays are any indication. In any event, it’s hardly an “abandoned gas station” as the story states.

    Also, I’m only going from memory here, but a former co-worker of mine and the owner of the Exxon (I won’t name him because the author chose not to and I assume there is a reason for that) were friends, and I could swear that I remember buying gas there back in the early part of this decade….are we talking about this change as a recent issue?

  26. I just want to know what the author of this story has against cars in need of repair?

    It would be nice to be able to buy a new car every year. However, it is more cost effective for me to have my 2003 “derelict” car repaired. I guess we all need to be writing editorials so we can make enough money to buy new cars.

    Also, I would like to thank the “capitalist gods” for miracles because this alleged “abandoned” station always seems to be open when my car requires a lube job.

    Retraction? Nah. Editorials are about opinions, and I’m just glad I stopped laughing long enough to write this.

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