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

April 30th, 2010
San Marcos council to consider Buie changes


The San Marcos Planning and Zoning Commission approved several zoning changes to the Buie Tract earlier this month. Photo by Andy Sevilla.

Associate Editor

The San Marcos City Council will take up proposed changes to the controversial Buie Tract project next Tuesday after the city’s Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission gave the green light earlier this month despite much public outcry.

If the P&Z meeting is any indication of how next Tuesday’s council meeting will play out, a standing-room only chamber will witness possible action on the zoning and land use modifications for the proposed project after a public hearing that is expected to be greatly in dissent.

The P&Z approved almost all the zoning and land use amendments unanimously on April 13. However, a land use amendment that would change 33.20 acres located north of Craddock Avenue and east of the future Wonder World Drive extension from Very Low Density Residential (VLDR) to Medium Density Residential (MDR) received “no” votes, from P&Z Chairman Sherwood Bishop and commissioner Randy Bryan.

Bishop and Bryan also voted against a zoning change of 30.97 acres located at 1314 Franklin Street from Future Development (FD) to Multi-Family (MF-12). Bishop went on to oppose a zoning change from Single-Family (SF-6) to Multi-Family (MF-12) on 5.64 acres located west of the future Craddock Avenue extension.

Eventually, Craddock Avenue Partners, LLC, which owns the Buie Tract, received approval for all the changes requested. One of the partners, Gordon Muir, took in with a jovial hand-holding moment with former Councilmember Pam Couch.

Couch spoke fondly of the owners and the proposed project during the public hearing of the modifications to the land. Couch said Craddock Avenue Partners have gone the extra-mile to address area residents’ concerns.

“Thank you Buie Tract people … for coming into our community, investing money and providing a great development,” Couch said during the public hearing.

Pam Couch’s husband, Bucky Couch, recently was elected onto the P&Z just after Pam Couch’s term on the council expired. In the same set of appointments, newly elected Councilmember Thomason, who took over Couch’s council seat after a grueling election, saw another familiar face on the P&Z, as his business partner, Chris Wood, gained an appointment. Jude Prather, who ran an unsuccessful bid for council against incumbent Gaylord Bose in 2007 and was considering a 2009 run before returning to Iraq for military service, also was appointed to the P&Z.

Couch’s sentiment expressed during the public hearing resounded with a minority of those in attendance. Aside from Pam Couch and anyone connected to the proposed project, all comments received were in opposition.

“If you go along with (approval) tonight, you’re going against the hard work of many citizens working to protect the (Edwards) aquifer,” said Dianne Wassenich, Director of the San Marcos River Foundation.

Joe Schneider, who would be directly affected by the development, as he lives on Franklin Street, submitted a signed petition against some of the zoning changes because of inconsistencies with the city’s Horizons Master Plan regarding “proper buffer” between the neighborhoods and generated traffic. Fourteen Franklin Street homeowners signed the petition, though the Franklin Street Homeowners Association has endorsed the proposed development. The endorsement came after the homeowners association was able to secure a gift of five acres from the developers to be used as a private park for those who live on Franklin Street.

Several residents commenting during the public hearing alluded to alleged deceit from the developers to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and to the city.

When the city council approved a development agreement for the proposed project in December, Mayor Susan Narvaiz touted the Buie Tract owners’ diligent work in having documents in order and submitting of an Exception Request with TCEQ, a claim Baker-Aiklen and Associates, who are representing the Buie Tract developers, didn’t deny. The Exception Request by the developers however, had been pulled before the December meeting, and apparently city officials weren’t notified of the change.

Steve Ramsey of Baker-Aiklen and Associates said the request was pulled after TCEQ sent the developers a letter demanding answers to the omission of at least two caves on their request.

After addressing the glitches in the original request, another Exception Request was submitted to TCEQ in February. Upon final review of extra necessary material submitted on March 25, March 30, and April 7, TCEQ granted the request, establishing protection to sensitive features outlined in a geological assessment.

Community activist Chris North, who lives in the Westover neighborhood adjacent to the Buie Tract, has been a strong voice of opposition to the project. North has questioned the legality of the development agreement with the city and has detailed what she called “utter lies” from the developers reaching as far back as 2007.

According to an investigation report from the TCEQ in 2007 looking into possible violations because of bulldozed land clearing on agriculture exempt property over the Edwards Aquifer, Rick Coleman, who is part owner of the Buie Tract, said a housing development was not planned for the property and that the clearing was intended to encourage the growth of native grasses for his cattle.

An unnamed resident in the report called to file a complaint because the Buie Tract property was being cleared with a bulldozer, which could have potentially constituted a violation of the Edwards Aquifer rules.

Also during this time, the city was venturing into a possible business deal with Avenue Craddock Partners. The city was looking to purchase approximately 28 acres in order to extend Wonder World Drive and connect it to Craddock Avenue. San Marcos later did purchase the property.

“I (Investigator Russ Alexander) asked if (Coleman) had any plans for a subdivision and (Coleman) stated that he has no intention of developing a subdivision and the land clearing is only for cattle,” stated the 2007 investigation report. “I (Alexander) told (Coleman) that if a development is planned, a Water Pollution Abatement Plan must be filed with TCEQ. Mr. Coleman reiterated that the property will be left as ranch land.”

Less than three years later, the property that was cleared for ranch land is now in the process of being developed for proposed mixed use.

“We do want a responsible development here,” Muir said during the public hearing. “We have a high stake in it.”

Muir said he plans to wed his fiancé and move into the Buie Tract.

“We’re going to do everything we can to make it a great development,” Coleman said after the P&Z approved the changes.

If the city council passes the zoning and land use changes on first reading next Tuesday, it will take the matter up again May 18 for a second and final reading.

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0 thoughts on “San Marcos council to consider Buie changes

  1. Am I missing something here or does anything really matter when big money and players are involved? Why does council make it seem that citizens input and opposition to these things matter. All we need to see are the Carson and Gilmore names dropped in here and well there you have it . What a crock.

    “One of the partners, Gordon Muir, took in with a jovial hand-holding moment with former Councilmember Pam Couch.
    Pam Couch’s husband, Bucky Couch, recently was elected onto the P&Z just after Pam Couch’s term on the council expired.
    Mr. Coleman reiterated that the property will be left as ranch land. Less than three years later, the property that was cleared for ranch land is now in the process of being developed for proposed mixed use.
    When the city council approved a development agreement for the proposed project in December, Mayor Susan Narvaiz touted the Buie Tract owners’ diligent work in having documents in order.”

  2. Not only does this fly in the face of San Marcos Horizons (the City’s master plan), it does not comply with the updated land use plan, either:

    “The environmental sensitivity of the area and other negative impacts of higher density development in this area warrant the designation as Very Low Density Residential” (quote from the Land Use Plan adopted January 14, 2002).

    It looks like the P&Z is going to need to step up to the plate now and start the process of updating the master plan. As noted in State of Texas online guideline documents:

    “In the event that zoning changes are made, it may be necessary to modify the comprehensive plan. This is true particularly if any of the changes being made are contrary to the land uses recommended in the land use plan.”

  3. Thanks for getting this article out, Andy. Well written.

    Again, I hope the opposition is comparing notes, practicing for clear concise three minute speeches, getting the cameras in from Austin, and coordinating their attack. (I like Steve’s comment on the failure to adhere to our golden “master plan” that seems to only apply to downtown development…this would be a good point to hammer home…)

  4. Good article with many salient points covered. SMRF continues to work on TCEQ. We think TCEQ approved this Geological Assessment without looking at previous geologic surveys done on this property, to see which faults, caves and recharge features were left out by the developer. And we are also concerned that while this development is being discussed at P&Z and Council right now, the city has already bulldozed through the Buie Tract to create the Craddock Extension, which is NOT covered in the city’s biological opinion for Wonder World Drive, which is on file at USFWS. SMRF will be filing a letter Monday to ask TCEQ to reconsider their approval, for multiple reasons. SMRF has also alerted USFWS about the Craddock Extension being cut through the tract. The recharge zone of the aquifer is not the place to drop 450 apartments.

    On a separate, non-geological, non-SMRF issue: an item that was not mentioned in this article is what the neighborhood will face if the 450 apartments are built as planned. 3 or 4 story retail business associated with the apartments will have its back facing the front yards of single family homes, and these neighbors expressed worries at the P&Z meeting about dumpsters and other such problems that will affect their property values, not to speak of the use of their own homes and yards. And 3 or 4 story apartments will be looking down on single family homes right across the street and next door. Right now Pennington’s Funeral Home suffers from a constant onslaught of garbage thrown down from Sanctuary Lofts, including rotting watermelons, cigarette butts and shattered glass beer bottles. Calls to Sanctuary management have been useless. There is no security there to prevent that kind of neighborhood abuse.

    Also neighbors expressed concern to the P&Z Commissioners that the traffic from these apartments will flow through previously quiet, single-family neighborhoods. This traffic pattern is not sensible planning. These apartments like the other apartments in town (now making up approximately 75% of living units in San Marcos) are rented predominately by University students. Their nocturnal habits mean that neighborhoods with working residents have traffic with racing cars, roaring motorcycle engines and loud music disturbing their sleep all night long. This is now a nightly problem along N. LBJ because of Craddock and Sagewood developments. And then there is the yelling, the crowd problems, occasional riots against police cars, and frequent fireworks that the N. LBJ residents have called in to the police for years. Just last week some young men tried to roll off a trailer, on foot, filled with jet skis belonging to a neighbor on N. LBJ. When called, the police did not want to file a report on this. This kind of constant wear and tear on residents adds up to a flight from town, because of lowered property values and poor quality of life. Neighbors feel that their homes are not safe and secure, so they leave.

    These neighbors who commented on the 450 apartments plopped in the middle of their neighborhood are just warning P&Z and Council that projects like this destroy neighborhoods and damage the community. You will not attract people who want to live in town when you consistently damage neighborhoods that were once suitable to raise families in. I can’t imagine what former Council member Pam Couch is wanting for San Marcos. Perhaps she just doesn’t understand the reality of what this apartment complex will do to the neighborhoods surrounding these apartments on all sides. The private park deal was made with just 3 or 4 residents, but hundreds of houses will be affected. These kinds of deals are not how San Marcos should develop, and we certainly should not encourage more apartments, in my personal view. We are already WAY over the recommended percentage of apartments for the most dense kind of city envisioned in the plans of Envision Central Texas.

  5. Crafty move by the developers to appease enough of the neighbors with some “private parks” and it will be too late when they start to realize what they invited into their homes.

  6. private parks? well that is just great. so discrimination will rear it’s ugly head again? no matter how much things change it always stays the same…..sad but true.

  7. I want to thank Commissioner’s Bishop and Bryan. They are the only members on this Commission who are trying to understand the complex nature of the situation, as well as actually listening to and respecting the concerns of the citizens.
    We need three more like them.

  8. Note well, our city leaders aren’t calling it the Buie Tract on Tuesday night’s agenda, as they did on the agenda for the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting two weeks ago, or the City Council meeting in December (when Council approved a Development Agreement/Annexation Plan, which was placed on the Consent Agenda, no public hearing…) – it is now identified as the Thomas J. Chambers Survey…

    This is wrong on so many fronts – neighborhood issues, property value issues, environmental issues, and more politics working against the citizens of San Marcos. Citizens saved Spring Lake, citizens prevented developer bailouts (Springtown Mall), and this is another bad deal certain people are attempting to foist upon us. What rubes we must seem to the people who want to push this through.

    We need to show our strong opposition to this, so everyone opposed needs to call, email, or attend the City Council meeting.

  9. This is just one more example of the City of San Marcos engaging in government by secrecy. You can observe all the legal elements of the Open Meetings Act and still keep things a secret from the average citizen. All you need do is use terms on the agenda which are not readily understandable by the public. Putting items on the consent agenda so they pass right on through with out the public knowing what is happening. There is way too many closed meetings where the Open Meeting law is honored legally but the intent of the law is totally disregarded.

    Please read my more extensive post on the use of non informational names of projects or agenda items. Go to Opinions>What’s next for Springtown Center>post #7.

    Charles Sims

  10. What is the occupation rate of existing apt complexes during spring and fall semesters? (Re: D. Wassenich letter)

  11. I hope enough people call, email, and show up this evening so the Mayor and City Council members can understand how important this is to the community for them to decline the P&Z recommendations in this matter.

  12. Since the land is subject (once again) to a “prior development agreement” involving the City, one might wonder if the plan for developing over the recharge area has ever been reviewed by the Edwards Aquifer Authority staff. I’m sure they would be interested to know that at least two caves among the “caves, sinkholes, fractures, outcrops, and photolineaments” were “overlooked” in the meticulous Environmental Impact Study that was conducted. Wonder if any of the multiple EIS’s done for the route of the proposed northern section of the San Marcos Parkway Loop, SH110, might have been of use, considering the issue of our drinking water and the River.

  13. Have you seen the city website? Promoting a “National Train Day”?? What, honoring the worst citizen we have? Do city leaders not realize how much time and gas is wasted EVERY day by the inconsiderate train engineers who stupidly block intersections when they could have stopped prior? And now that gas is edging back up (yes, folks, get ready for $4 gallon by end of summer) WHY do we honor the selfish train companies??? What a joke and what an out of touch city government!!!

  14. Did anyone find it odd, that the mayor and Mrs. Porterfield appeared to have prepared statements ready at the end of the discussion? How open to citizen input or any discussion can you be, if you have already written out your position before the discussion even takes place?

  15. The whole thing was odd. Thanks to Chris Jones, John Thomaides, and Gaylord Bose for voting no to the zoning changes. The good folks of San Marcos have work to do. Who wants to run?

  16. It is very disappointing that all the Buie tract requests passed 1st reading tonight. A lot of citizens stepped forward to bring up some very important points, but it seems like our concerns fell on deaf ears (of those who voted yes). Why do we have the Horizons Master Plan if we aren’t going to follow it? Are we really serious about protecting our natural resources for future generations? Can’t we have smart growth instead of “anything we can get” growth? What about the exisiting neighborhoods and citizens that would be negatively impacted by this development? Many thanks to Council members Thomaides, Jones, and Bose, who listened to what we had to say and are trying to protect our future. I wonder what further steps we can take to prevent a possibly tragic mistake from taking place here.

  17. Also, if City Council and the police would just get (and keep) things under control in places like Sagewood and the Sanctuary Lofts (where they throw pumpkins off their balconies, all over the Pennington Funeral Home property), then maybe people wouldn’t be so afraid of the same things happening in their neighborhoods.

    If you want support for future projects, clean up the problems with the existing examples. If there weren’t so many failed experiments to point to, people would be more receptive.

  18. To Jackson re trains. I understand how you feel about the trains – I live next to the tracks and live daily with the backed-up traffic and have many sleepless nights due to the overly-enthusiastic whistle blowing. But you should remember that without the trains – San Marcos would have never developed into the city it is today. In their day, they brought commerce and prosperity. And the towns fo Kyle and Buda were established specifically because of the trains (as well as literally hundreds of other towns in Texas). Although most people only consider them a nuisance today, they have had their place in our history. I find that embracing them – rather than hating them – is the best way to go. Besides, think of the gas they are saving and the number of big trucks they keep off the road.

  19. The specter raised of imminent tax increases if this development (and others like it) are not approved, is FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real). We’d do much better to learn to live within our means as a city. In the midst of the nationwide (and worldwide) economic woes and uncertainty, why have our city leaders more than doubled our long term debt (obligations) during the past several years? Most businesses and families I know have done some belt-tightening recently. Where is the leadership by our city on that front?

    Others try to frame this as a classic growth versus no-growth battle. That is not true at all. We all know San Marcos is in the middle of the fastest growing corridor in the nation. We want to preserve and enrich the unique charm that is the community of San Marcos. Intelligent growth, thoughtful, respectful of present citizens and the environment, watchful for future generations, that is what we desire. Were there other motives at play when “neighborhood integrity” was recently removed from the City Charter?

    I also consider it grossly irresponsible that our city leaders want to push this through as fast as possible, when significant legitimate concerns have been raised regarding the facts that many aspects of environmental impact (for this massive development bulldozing and cementing over the recharge zone and many fragile ecosystem features) have not been properly documented, understood, and considered. It seems like our city leaders want to prioritize “whatever we can get” growth regardless of the potential negative impact on current citizens and irreplaceable environmental quality.

  20. Ted, Good observation about the prepared comments.
    Steve, Thank you for your articulate framing of the issues involved in this travesty. And for your ardent support of our San Marcos.
    Gaylord, John, and Chris, Thank you for listening to your conscience and your constituents.

    Our council is too easily swayed by the glitzy promises of developers and dreams of increased property taxes. They forget that people living in single-family homes are the backbone of our community in both a fiscal and participatory sense. WE are the volunteers the mayor so persistently seeks. WE are the cultural memory of this city. And we are the people who will still live here (hopefully) when this council is no longer. But we will be living with the results and costs of many wrong decisions.

  21. I thought the guy who said that these developments always get voted down and the guy who said there is nothing to do in San Marcos were particularly funny. I am not sure what alternate San Marcos reality they are living in. There isn’t enough time in the day to hit all the cool activities in San Marcos.

  22. There is an element that gets lost in this “Live Work Play,” “Smart” development. The element is public transportation. This development is too far to walk to the Central Business District or for many students to get to and from campus. People could ride there bikes, but the city has failed to make small changes in road construction to make us feel safe. People could ride on the CARTS bus, but it only comes around every hour. Many student residents living in areas this far from campus ride the bus and in this case there are no bus routes to and from campus in this area. Has the city even asked the University if they can afford to take on another route at this size? So the future will hold at least 2000 more car trips down Bishop and Craddock everyday towards downtown which holds the real elements of a new urbanism.

  23. Actually, according to our city engineers, the average household makes ten trips per day, so you can double your estimate.

  24. Ted, I spoke with the youg couple, Pam Couch’s son and his friend, that stated that their is nothing to do in San Marcos. It was eye opening for me to realize that this is their feelings towards our little town. I’ve only heard that statement from 18 yr. old college kids from big cities when they first arrive. A friend of mine asked them kindly if they ever go to city parks such as the ones along the river. Her answer was, and I quote “I would never take my kids to those parks” with a look of disgust.

  25. Sin Nombre, I am curious what this development would add for young people to do, over and above the movie theaters, bowling alley, activity center, library, river, tennis courts, frisbee golf, golf, pizza places, burger places, skate park…


  26. Ted, I have no idea what they’re thinking this development will bring. Did you even read what I posted, or do you think that we’re always in disagreement? What I was conveying is that these people that were speaking for the buie tract would never take their kids to the river and they don’t think there’s anything to do in this town. Obviously they’re idea of being alive is different than that of mine. I “Live work and play” all over this town and it’s either free or cheap. Most of the kids that I know do the same.

  27. I did read your post and I was again expressing my disbelief that they would think there is nothing to do.

    Swimming pools, tracks, athletic fields, record store, sandwich shops, unicycle football, NCAA division 1 baseball, softball, basketball and football (1AA), mountain biking, comic book shop, bombing hills on a long board…

  28. Again, I have no idea. I will say that I can’t imagine anyone being disgusted with the water in the San Marcos River, so what are they disgusted by……… ? They want private parks. They live in gated communities. What is it that disgust them about our town?

  29. Live music (available to all ages at some venues), homemade ice cream, basketball courts, volleyball courts, movies in the park, racquetball, martial arts, juggling lessons, youth sports leagues, music lessons, Nature Center Wild Wednesdays, Outdoor Kids Camp, swimming lessons, hiking…

  30. Bingo.

    “Come to find out there’s only one war, the one going on between the rich and the poor.” -Utah Phillips

  31. Yes,…nothing to do!

    “Live music (available to all ages at some venues), homemade ice cream, basketball courts, volleyball courts, movies in the park, racquetball, martial arts, juggling lessons, youth sports leagues, music lessons, Nature Center Wild Wednesdays, Outdoor Kids Camp, swimming lessons, hiking…”

    Maybe it is a reflection on the priorities and values of,….and teachings by,…. the parents !?

  32. Post 19 & 21….I learned back in the 80s that the “Citizen Input” time is just for show. The council has already had their own private meeting and votes have already been made. They then walk out onto the raised platform, have a seat, and look down upon the lowly citizen. Our council (maybe all politicians?) adhere to the theory that since the public trusted them enough to vote them in, then the citizen should trust the decisions they make.

    I believe our city council does not believe the average citizen is capable of understanding “complex” issues.

    That’s why civil disobedience is often the best option. And get major news outlets out to cover you. Hold big simple signs that point out the corruption of our city council. A little embarrassment can go a long way…

  33. The war at the river has nothing to do with the rich and the poor. It’s the civilized against the uncivilized. I wouldn’t take my kids there.

  34. The river parks are terribly overcrowded on the weekends and many of the people there have absolutely no consideration for anyone around them. For starters, you’re only likely to be able to carve out about five square feet for your “camp” because of the crowd. Then, when you factor in the family with ten kids who doesn’t bother to exert an iota of control over any of them or the drunk college students loudly cursing and talking trash for all to hear (just to name two examples), the odds of having a truly fun family experience at the river these days are incredibly slim.

    Even if you take the human element completely out of it, the river itself is fairly dangerous for anyone who isn’t a strong swimmer because of the fast current and numerous obstacles (rice, rocks, etc.)

  35. Bob, you may be right, although I have never seen anything particularly noteworthy. If the parks are that bad, then maybe some of the incentive money being doled out to Target and Alamo Drafthouse would be put to better use addressing the issues that keep you out of the parks. Either way, I am not sure how the Buie development will address the “nothing to do in San Marcos” issue.

  36. Dano, if the river is too dangerous for swimming, then there are plenty of places in the parks, where you can stake out about as much space as you would ever need.

  37. And those kids will grow up well rounded, with an appreciation for nature, and an understanding of their fellow man. Civilized.

    I won’t defend all of the behaviour at the river, but there’s terrible behaviour on the highways and I bet you take your kids on those. But they must all be civilized rolling around on concrete at 70 mph to jobs 30 miles away from their homes. Civilized.

  38. On the topic of nothing to do, kids have been saying that forever. It has nothing to do with whether or not there really is nothing to do. A state of discontent is the seed of invention.

  39. I agree. I just found it comical that someone cited “nothing to do” as the reason someone working in San Antonio allegedly chose to live in New Braunfels, instead of San Marcos. Not the lack of jobs. Not the poor schools. Not the problems with noise, speeding and drunk driving in neighborhoods. “Nothing to do,” which an apartment complex in the middle of an established neighborhood would somehow fix.

    I’d love to see someone look at the public, with a straight face, and say “I’m voting for this, because it is exactly the sort of development I wish we had in Willow Creek.”

    I work in San Antonio. I live in San Marcos, because I think New Braunfels is kind of ugly and I don’t find there to be nearly as much to do as there is in San Marcos.

    You know why I would live in New Braunfels? To shave 20 minutes off my commute. If there were more good jobs in San Marcos, I could shave 50 minutes off the commute.

  40. And Sin, not sure how far out of San Marcos you range but things aren’t like that at Deep Eddy Pool, Little Stacey, Schlitterbahn, Pedernales, McKinney Falls, Northwest Pool, Kyle City Pool or any of a dozen other places where we do take our kids. The behavior at Rio Vista, Lions Club and even Sewell Park (to a lesser extent) is inexcusable. Vulgarity, fighting, police presence, littering, intimidation, lack of parking. You couldn’t drag me there. I have out of town friends who suggest it and I have to diplomatically suggest alternatives.

  41. Bob,

    I reluctantly venture outside of San Marcos on a regular basis, but it’s becoming less frequent. Maybe your right. Maybe I’m in a bubble. With that said, If more people with “civilized” behaviour visited our river an example of how to act would be omnipresent. Maybe I go to the river at different times and places but I only notice the police presence and the trash. I pick up the trash, but I haven’t figured out what to do about the police. Lack of parking? Well, you know driving to the river is kinda like poopin in the river.

  42. Can someone clarify the police presence issue? Is it a lack of police? That’s what it sounds like, but I want to be sure I understand.

  43. Too many police for my taste. It’s not that they’re there, but that they’re needed. It’s intimidating to have them wandering around – a reminder that there might be trouble just under the surface and that I shouldn’t let my kids roam too far afield. I do appreciate the city allocating that resource and I’m not suggesting they do otherwise, but it does distract from the overall tranquility. It’s a trade-off of course because how tranquil would it be without them. I have seen them go out onto the rock peninsulas to resolve a territorial dispute. All in all, too rough and tumble for this guerro.

  44. That’s an interesting dilemma, if the police presence contributes to a feeling that the parks are not safe and at the same time, behavior of people at the park (which the police presence should curb), creates more of the same feeling.

    I am not sure how that would be addressed. Often times, a problem persists because the envisioned solution is limited (or absent). A vision of a park with enough police to handle whatever issues arise, yields a very different plan of attack than a vision of family-friendly parks that are the envy of our neighbors. One is narrow in focus and reactive. The other is broader and proactive.

    Narrow and reactive is generally our approach to most of our challenges here. Rather than envisioning what Sagewood would look like, if it were the model rental community, how people would interact with each other and their neighbors and the city, etc, we look at the individual symptoms (loud parties and trash) and apply narrow countermeasures to the worst of those symptoms. Of course, the community doesn’t change, because there is no vision for a what that would look like and really, no goal for changing it, so once the countermeasures are removed, the symptoms return. Hence, your feeling that there is trouble just under the surface. Because, there probably is.

    Recently, the city has taken a bigger-picture view of Sagewood and made some improvements which appear to have had a little more staying power, but there is still no broad vision for what we would like that neighborhood to be and so the problems still aren’t completely solved, they are just mitigated, to a degree. It sounds like the same problem exists in the parks. That’s not all that surprising. It is the same problem we have had, historically, with economic development and the growth of San Marcos, although we have started to take more of a big-picture look in those regards, as well.

    The trick is to identify the parks which exemplify what you are looking for, identify the qualities that draw you to those parks and convince the city that it is important to bring those qualities to our parks.

  45. How about a river without the feel of a public pool? It is easy to envision, because it was like that just a few short years ago. Now we have the fake boulder, the artificial damn and the pseudo beach, and the closest I will get with my family is driving by on the way to Herberts.

  46. One solution would be to create more (and more attractive) parks closer to the people who are using Rio Vista. There is parkland at the end of Alabama that could be improved, Barrio Pescado could use a really nice park with multiple tables, grills and playground equipment and I’m sure you could find 3 or 4 other locations to provide an alternative to Rio Vista. Beyond that, the behavior in our parks is a reflection of our under-educated, low-wage demographic and ain’t gonna change anytime soon.

  47. The education and wages may not change soon, unless there is a vision for that change. So far, that has only barely started to materialize. If the problems with the parks are a symptom of a larger problem with our city, then merely addressing the parks still falls short, as the problems will still manifest themselves elsewhere.

    I just don’t hear a strong vision from City Hall about where we are going and what that will look like. That’s why we get conflicting interpretations of things like “work, live, play” and “smart growth” and “green” and “sustainable.” Even fairly concrete ideas like dense, mixed-use development are interpreted differently, by different people, especially when one side sees the mixed-use apartment complex they envisioned for downtown, sprout up in their quiet neighborhood, on the outskirts of town. One side believes the intent of the plan was to promote this sort of development. The other side believes the intent was to concentrate development in the center of the city. Neither is right, or wrong, until a clearer vision is agreed upon, communicated and stuck to.

    To get us back on topic, sort of…

  48. For the record, I am not agreeing that the problem with the parks is a reflection of under-educated, low-wage demographic, but I would like to see both of those problems addressed, as well as a stronger sense of community for all of our residents. Shifting from “us and them”, to “us and them and them” is not a step in the right direction.

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